With the past week's revelations of communications between then-Governor Mitch Daniels and then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett (whom I thought was better either as a singer or as head men's basketball coach at University of Wisconsin), a lot of people have discussed the state of education both in Indiana and in the United States.
Discussion of public affairs is good, but also can be scary.
I fear for our educational system because of several elements. First is that reflected by one of the Osmonds who is a member of the Utah state legislature. He has suggested public education be eliminated. A couple of years ago, at a rally at the state House, I made a similar suggestion---but as a joke. One of the factors that led to the United States advancement as a society between the mid-1800s and the late Twentieth Century was universal, compulsory public education. On "Civil Discourse Now" on July 13, one of the panelists suggested this country does not compete well with other countries in the education of our people. That statement was made in the course of a discussion in which it was suggested that the concept of public education was to blame. Presumably, the argument would go, if we bring in more vouchers and privatize schools, we will compete more effectively with those other countries. The #1 school system in the World at present is that of Finland. According to an educational official from Finland who visited the United States, there are no private schools in Finland. The United States model has become a bastardized form in which religion once again has ripped control and seeks to infuse the minds of our young with dogma. As Cardinal Newman once said, give me a boy at the age of five, and he is mine forever.
Religion has no place in public education. The most obvious reason is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. We should not spend public monies on catechism of our youth. Faith-based education should be taught, if parents choose, on the particular day of worship of those parents or that parent in the church, tabernacle, mosque, or whatever the appropriate term for the house of worship of the religion in question. One definition of "faith" is "belief which is not based on truth." That is at odds with science and other means by which knowledge is pursued and taught.
The Osmonds are entitled to teach their children at home (shudder) or at the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) of their choice. Mainstream public education in the United States has its faults. To go back in time and allow religion to program our children will mean we shall continue to fall behind other countries.
Mitch Daniels attended and graduated from Princeton. I am confident Howard Zinn's books were taught in at least a couple of classes there. Perhaps Mitch skipped lecture on those particular days, hungover from an acid trip (he was busted for sale of LSD as an undergrad; for which I do not criticize him except to say, amongst other things, he was a hypocrite to enforce harsh drug laws as Governor). It's tough to concentrate when little squiggly shapes appear in the surface of the chalkboard and sounds others might not hear whisper sweet songs that remind one of the Grateful Dead. He was bad as a financial adviser to President George W. Bush in the first term (and brought upon us all that debt). He was bad as Governor of Indiana (during which time he put us in the "black," temporarily by peddling off State capital assets for decades and pennies on the dollar. He helped drive out unions and replaced those jobs with jobs that pay less and provide few bennies. Work at Wal-Mart? Taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart because many employees earn so little they must seek public assistance.
The last thing we should do is abandon public education for bastardized models that rely upon religion. The second best thing organized religion did for education a coupe of hundred years ago was to foster it. The best thing organized religion did was to get out of education.