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Early one August morning, a mother went in to wake up her son. “Wake up, son,” she said. “It's the first day of school, and you don’t want to be late.”
“But, Mom, I don't want to go,” he said.
“Give me two reasons why you don't want to go,” his mother asked.
“Well, the kids make fun of me for one, and the teachers don’t like me either!”
The mother was unconvinced. “That's no reason not to go to school – now get ready!”
Pulling the covers over his head, he said, “Give me two reasons why I should go to school today.” “Well,” his mother began, “for one, you're 52 years old. And for another, you're the principal!”
If you have school-aged kids (or teachers or administrators!) at your house, perhaps you went through some version of the above conversation this week as the school year began once again. The beginning of school can be a traumatic time for everyone involved – kids, parents and school personnel.
At my house, where we have a freshman and a seventh-grader, the end of summer came too soon for us. (Perhaps that is because the “end of summer” is now in the first week of August – what’s up with that?)
We were still enjoying the later nights and later mornings that summer vacation allows. Still, there is a part of me that is glad for the structure of our schedules that comes with each new school year, and our kids were at least looking forward to seeing their friends.
But although much of the back-to-school concern for students centers on the three S’s of supplies, schedules and socializing with friends, I wish more time was spent on the old-fashioned three R’s—reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. (For those of you educated solely in a failing government school, that’s reading, writing and arithmetic. And arithmetic is math.)
There was a time not all that long ago when those “core” subjects, along with geography, science and history, were the primary – if not only – focus of our schools. And there are many excellent teachers who still try to make it so.
Unfortunately, during past years more and more non-academic pursuits have been introduced into our classrooms, often being thrust upon local schools by an ever-more-intrusive federal government. Especially at the national level, socialization into politically correct thought, rather than education, has become the primary goal.
A survey done back in the early 1990s (and reported in the Washington Post) showed that U.S. high-school students received half as many hours of instruction in core curriculum classes than their counterparts in France, Germany and Japan. The results have been both tragic and predictable.
Around the time of the above survey, Al Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers, was quoted as saying that “only six percent of high school seniors can read a newspaper editorial, write a two-page essay and complete a two-step math problem.” And things have only gotten worse since then.
So, as is often the case, the federal government and their corps of “education experts” try to ride in on their white horses to save the day, never acknowledging that they bear the primary responsibility for the collapse of our once-proud educational system in the first place and never being held accountable for the ever-decreasing educational returns from our ever-increasing financial investments.
During the past few decades, many “solutions” have come from the so-called experts in Washington, and although some have been well-meaning, all have given us more bureaucrats and less education.
The most recent of these top-down solutions to our educational woes, the Common Core State Standards Initiative that is currently being debated in the Kentucky statehouse and in statehouses and editorial pages all across the country, is no different.
If approved, Common Core will cost millions and millions of dollars to implement, and the thing we’ll be buying isn’t more teachers or a better education for our kids, but more “edu-crats” and another failed government program.
If you are following the debate about Common Core, you’ll know that part of what some of our state representatives have taken issue with is the renewed emphasis the science portion of Common Core places on teaching the theories of evolution and man-made global warming as facts.
If the far-left Courier Journal is to be believed, these representatives (and other backward thinkers like me) want to take our state back to the Stone Ages and make it impossible for our kids to go to college or to compete in the global marketplace.
These attacks on true science and Christianity (as in the case of the theory of evolution) and on true science and common sense (as in the case of the theory of man-made global warming) should be enough to cause most Kentuckians to approach Common Core with suspicion, at best.
Throw in the incredibly high failure rate of nationalized solutions to local concerns, and the case against instituting the Common Core standards should be an easy one. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and, for Christians at least, we shouldn’t be surprised.
The Bible makes it clear that when God and His word are rejected, people become “darkened in their understanding” and “futile in their thinking” (Romans 1 and Ephesians 4). According to scripture, many today have been “deceived by fine-sounding arguments” (like evolution) and taken captive by “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2).
The Bible, in fact, has a whole book dedicated to the acquisition of wisdom, and that book (Proverbs) tells us that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” There was a time in our country that this simple truth was the basis of our public education system.
As D. James Kennedy pointed out in his excellent book, How Would Jesus Vote?, “For the first two hundred years of this nation’s history, education was explicitly Christian.”
In fact, up until 1830 all education was in the hands of the church and clergy, and the results were nothing short of amazing.
Again, as Kennedy noted, “In the late 1700s, John Adams observed that to find an illiterate man in New England was as rare as a comet.”
He then adds, “How interesting that with the rise of secularism in our educational institutions has come a sharp rise in illiteracy.” Indeed, according to the U.S. Department of Education in information published this year, 19 percent of high school graduates can’t even read.
Contrary to popular opinion today, the founders of our country never intended to take Christianity out of our schools. If you doubt this, consider that the first Congress of the United States passed the Northwest Ordinance, which said, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary for good government, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
In case you missed it, that first Congress said that schools should be established for the purpose of instruction in religion, morality, and knowledge. Since that time, an anti-God minority has succeeded in removing first God, and then morality from our schools.
Should we be surprised that we are also quickly losing ground on knowledge?
Now, I am not naïve enough to believe that the Bible, Christian teaching or even moral instruction ever will regain the place in our public education system that it once held. But I am also not foolish enough to believe that a new government program or more money will do anything to solve the problems in the education system – or in the culture at large.
Those solutions can only come from acknowledging the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2).
Unfortunately, we’re too smart for that.