The Truth: For Our Nation, Our Children, and Our Future
26 April, 2011
Every morning millions of parents in the United States send their beloved children off to school. When those children come home these caring parents ask what was learned that day at school. Imagine a child coming home from a middle school science class one day, and telling its parents they learned that washing hands was harmful to health. These parents would certainly have to be concerned with the educational integrity of the schools. Even if the child explained that washing hands transmits germs when the sink, soap dispenser and faucet are touched, and also that it weakens the immune system, a parent would still understand that though these may in fact, be true, the benefits of hand washing FAR outweigh these minor consequences. It is therefore my question to ask why parents are not concerned when a child comes home and regurgitates what was taught in a history or social studies class when it is this same case: Small truths that manipulate the real truth. Truth, as the author will be concerned in this paper, is defined as things as they really were, as they really are, and as they really will be.
It is time our children be taught the truth. A national public education system which will only teach what it feels is needful; therefore distorting the real truth, influences the lives of children. If it is not truth, it is propaganda. An education system with this basis seems to the author one which many fascist or totalitarian regimes would approve of. “Teach them what we want, for our good,” has never been the American way; manipulation is not freedom. If education does not teach truth, it must be manipulating; manipulating the minds of children with the “partial-truths”—a politically correct term for lying.
I am speaking of the fact that religion has been taken completely out of our schools. In this paper the need for religion will be discussed, then the misunderstandings that have led to its near “lawful” ban, followed by the evidence that it is being omitted. Before my audience dismisses me as just another right wing zealot with his own agenda to get into heaven, let me explain what I mean by “religion.” Religion for the purpose of this paper is not Christianity, as most readers may assume, nor is it any form of worship at all. I am simply proposing that history be taught as it happened. We cannot gain a full understating without knowing why; therefore, to truly understand history we must know why its figures acted as they did. The great majority of times, history was played out because of the beliefs and figures of religion. Because this paper is concerned with our nation’s school system, the history of our nation will be the majority of history discussed. As such, “religion” for the uses of this essay, is simply whatever the belief of historical figures was, not organized Christianity. In fact, to illustrate this point let me state this: It is easy to find ample evidence that Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin were not even Christians (they did not believe the historical figure known as Jesus Christ to be the literal son of God, as is the definition of Christian) (Meacham 8 and 21). Whether or not George Washington was a Christian is, at best, foggy.
So with the subject of religion clearly defined, and not endorsing or exempting any belief, faith, faction, or sect, the subject of truth—the real purpose of this essay—can now be discussed. There is a need for the truth of history, which largely centers on religion, in our public schools. In an analysis that was composed of 11 separate studies William Jeyens found:
That increased Bible knowledge is associated with higher levels of student academic achievement and positive behavioral patterns. The analysis indicates that the relationship, as measured by degree of statistical significance, between Bible knowledge and academic outcomes is stronger than it is between Bible knowledge and behavioral outcomes (Abstract).
This study shows the long held theory of many that religious knowledge means a child is more likely to go to college, and less likely to go to prison. Religious knowledge, not necessarily beliefs, amount to more successful academic lives, and less destructive social lives. One may argue that a pathway to prison is inevitable because it is the choice of an individual to walk down that path, and no influence can forcibly alter that path. True, yet this does not make teaching religion any less important. Teaching religion instills morals, which, if impressed early, can help lead a child away from crime and other harmful social behaviors. Thomas Jefferson once stated that “the moral sense is as much a part of our Constitution as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing; as a wise Creator must have seen to be necessary in an animal destined to live in society” (qtd. in Meacham 29). Jefferson was not alone in feeling that the very life of our Constitution was based on the morality of the people (Meacham 21 and 28). If those who framed our government believed that it could only function to its fullest intent if it governed a moral people, then it is of great import that a rising generation know not only this opinion, but also know the Bible; therefore, as shown they are more likely to be a moral people.
The second reason religion in school is important can be illustrated in the old proverb that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. How can our children learn without the whole truth? They must have the whole truth to truly understand why things happened as they did. Our nation’s youth must learn of religion, in history and in culture in order to understand the world. If religion is not taught religious tolerance will not be found (Passe and Willox 102). Take for instance post-9/11 Americans who showed prejudice, and often borderline persecution of Islam, Hindus and Sikhs (Passe and Willox 104). These Americans can hardly be blamed for their actions, wrong though they were, because they were never taught the difference between the three religions, and many legitimately believed that the teachings of Islam were violent and hateful. Had there been religious instruction in schools this certainly would have been avoided almost entirely. Our failure to teach our children these things is unacceptable in our ever diversifying world and nation. Teaching religions, and therefore morality, will not guarantee we never repeat passed mistakes; one only need to look no further than 9/11 or the crusades and inquisitions to see the atrocities that can be committed in the name of a God. However, I have observed that many, if not all of the antagonists of history were not religious in any way, while many, if not all of the protagonists of history were deeply religious. It is no coincidence that the men we revere and praise held religion, and therefore morality in high esteem, while just the opposite is known of the world’s oppressive dictatorships, regimes, and empires. The Supreme Court has even opined in the case of Abington v. Schempp that without a study of the Bible it “might well be said one’s education is not complete” (qtd. in Hutton 39).
There is still yet a third, and much more concrete reason to have religious teaching in our social studies and history curricula. It is that “the home school movement has become closely linked to a conservative antipathy of the Court’s having ‘taken God out of the [public] schools’” (Davis 46). In fact, homeschooling has risen dramatically in recent years, increasing 74% between 1999 and 2007 (Davis 46). A survey of the parents of 1.5 million homeschooled children showed that 57% of these were homeschooled for either lack of religion or lack of morality in public schools (Davis 47). These 1.5 million children will never have the social, athletic, academic, or developmental opportunities that public schools can provide simply because religion is not included in our curriculum.
The reason religion is left out of our school systems is simple: It is due to a misunderstanding of the religion clause in the First Amendment which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (qtd. in Barlow 65). The author sees no statement in there that requires all religion be censored from the classroom. This misunderstanding can be attributed to the term “Wall of separation” between church and state, which was penned by Thomas Jefferson. It must be noted, this is a statement found nowhere in our Constitution. This term comes from a letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut, making an attempt to convince them that he himself was not opposed to God in any way (Meacham 104). It is also an important note that this letter was not penned until some 13 years after the language for the First Amendment was voted in by Congress (Evans 30). This being fact, any court making a ruling based on a “wall of separation” is ruling entirely outside the Constitution. The establishment clause in the First Amendment is in no way opposed to religion, considering the fact that at least three states held state endorsed religions for years after the Bill of Rights was ratified (Evans 29). The “wall of separation” simply meant Congress could not outlaw one religion, or establish one as the national religion. In the words of James Madison, the man who penned the original words that later were voted into the First Amendment, stated his purpose in these words: “that Congress shall not establish a religion and enforce the legal observation of it by law, not compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their own conscience” (qtd. in Evans 28). The aim of an establishment clause in the First Amendment was to leave the topic of religion up to the states. Furthermore, it was for the purpose that Congress could not rule one way or another on religion (Evans 30).
Religion began to be excluded from public education following a series of Supreme Court rulings which made unconstitutional the practice of prayer, preaching, Bible recitation, and Ten Commandment posters in classrooms (see Barlow 65-67 and Davis 33-41). The Court constructed what is known as a Lemon test, used “to strike down [a] statute as having been enacted with no secular purpose” (Davis 35). Aside from failing the Lemon test, many of these were deemed unconstitutional because of “the coercive nature of permitting religious activities a) led by adult role models, b) before impressionable children, c) when a possible result was that non-believers would feel like outsiders” (Davis 42). Many cases were also struck down because of a religious motivation behind the statute. This, Justice Scalia notes is illogical. Bills passed on civil rights, abortion, immigration, stem cell research, and so on could not be struck down simply because they were created from religious thinking (Davis 40).
All of these rulings add up to our classrooms lacking in complete truth. There are countless pieces of evidence which can be found that our nation was formed on, and because of, religion. Here, I will offer only a select few I see as important. Christopher Columbus was inspired to sail westward. In fact, he felt himself an agent of the Holy Spirit. The idea to sail west was not his own, it came to him while reading Holy texts (Stewart and Stewart 33). Had it not been for religion, Columbus might never have found the Americas, and our history would undoubtedly be altered. General Washington, though possibly not even Christian himself, felt the Revolutionary War could not be won if his army did not live as good Christians (Meacham 77). Many of the members of the party which framed our Constitution in Philadelphia believed the document was largely influenced by the hand of God (Meacham 21 and Stewart and Stewart 143). Prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and consequently the start of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress called for a day of nationwide prayer (Meacham 59). In the early stages of the Civil War, President Lincoln stated his purpose for the war was the preservation of the Union. It was not until after the battle of Antietam that slavery took a leading role: “When the Rebel army was at Fredrick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation…. I said nothing to anyone, but I made a promise to myself, and (hesitating a little) to my Maker” (qtd. in Meacham 117, see also Stewart and Stewart 184). When Lincoln’s cabinet strongly opposed the release of such a document without Union momentum in the war, Lincoln did so anyhow, keeping his deal with his God. This brought upheaval and rage from many in the North, and Lincoln feared the collapse of the union. Knowing the North needed a victory, and believing only his God could save the union Lincoln prayed desperately. During this particular prayer he was re-assured of a victory at Gettysburg, allowing him the courage and morale to carry on (Stewart and Stewart 190-191). There are a large number of instances which allow a student to gain a true understanding of history and why it unfolded as it has. Even modern politics, wars, and campaigns have been shaped and influenced by a believer’s God; for instance, the only public statement issued on D-Day by President Roosevelt was the reading of a prayer he penned himself (Meacham 14).
This is the truth of which I speak, and which must be included in our history curricula in order for us to provide the complete picture for students to truly understand history. I fully agree with and sustain the decisions of the Supreme Court to ban prayer and preaching. A school should never endorse a particular religion, and any teacher found doing so needs to be heavily reprimanded. In fact, it is interpreted by many that the ban of religious practices is heavily supported by the public, because there is no major outcry by a majority (Passe and Willox 103). This truth is no endorsement. Telling what historical figures believed is far different from telling a student what to believe. What I am calling for is not a radical change in any policy; it is simply an inclusion of the full truth to more fully educate our children. This change can be made, and “this idea has a great deal to commend it; but it’s easy to do badly; and getting it right entails some costs and pitfalls the [school] board should approach with eyes open” (Hutton 39).
It only seems consistent that if students are required an art education, they also ought to be required a religious education. In essence, a school board is telling students that “you must be able to look at a painting and interpret its meaning and significance to be considered well-rounded and educated; however, it is not important that you are informed of world cultures and the religions that shape them. Knowing that does not help an education.” Such an attitude only breeds intolerance and ignorance, such that led to the hatred and ignorance following 9/11 previously mentioned. Moreover, until the last 50 years or so, everything in the world has revolved around religion. Most of the modern world even measures time from the birth of a prominent religious figure, yet our students cannot even be told what was so important about the man called Jesus of Nazareth. With all the turmoil in the Middle East, our children cannot be taught the causes of much of the hatred, which stem all the way back to Abraham of the Bible, Torah, and Koran, and his first son whom he banished. They cannot be taught of the Council of Nicaea, the Catholic Church shaping western society, and the resulting Protestant reformation of Martin Luther. With technology making our planet smaller and smaller each day, our rising generation must be prepared to face difficulties or misunderstandings which can arise if there is not at least a basic cultural and religious knowledge. We must send them into the world equipped with the tools to succeed. Teaching what each religion believes and practices is in no way coercive, and it certainly passes the Lemon test; moreover, it is no violation of the establishment clause (Passe and Willox 103).
In the words of Passe and Willox, teaching religion,
“is instrumental in reaching one of the main goals of American schools: the development of active citizens. Without studying religion, how can a student possibly understand such topics as the Crusades; religious persecution; the formation of India and Pakistan; and the election of John F. Kennedy, America’s first Catholic president—not to mention more recent events and controversies, such as 9/11; the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; the edicts of Pope Benedict; and the positions of the Christian right on abortion, gay rights, and stem cell research?” (102).
We must put religion in our public schools. Truth is the right way to teach, and our children as well as our nation deserve the brightest future possible. If these changes can be made, imagine the dinner table conversation children may have with their parents. Rather than the child spewing nonsense about the dangers of hand washing, the child could talk about why at times in history the religion of Christianity has influenced atrocities such as the crusades or the Inquisition, and even been a justification for slavery; while at other times the influence Christianity has born such angelic and sublime causes as the Protestant Reformation, Dr. King’s civil rights movement, as well as the emancipation of the slaves in the Confederacy. The future of this nation is in the hands of its children; which of these two educations would be of greater benefit for the future of our nation?
Barlow, Dudley. “The Teacher’s lounge.” Education Digest 74.4 (2009): 65. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 Mar. 2011
Davis, Michael J. “Religion, Democracy and The Public Schools.” Journal of Law & Reigion 25.1 (2009): 33-56. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 13 Mar. 2011
Evans, M. Stanton. “The True Wall of Separation.” American Spectator. 26. American spectator, 2007. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 Mar. 2011
Hutton, Thomas. “Teaching and the Bible.” American School Board Journal 195.6 (2008): 38-41. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.
Jeyens, William. “The Relationship Between Bible Literacy and Behavioral and Academic Outcomes in Urban Areas: A Meta-Analysis.” Education & Urban Society. 42.5 (2010): 522-544 Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12 Mar. 2011
Meacham, John. American Gospel—God, the Founding Fathers, and The Making of a Nation. New York: Random House. 2006. Print.
Passe, Jeff, and Lara Willox. “Teaching religion in America’s Public Schools: A Necessary Disruption.” Social Studies. 100.3 (2009): 102-106. ERIC. EBSCO. Web. 15 Mar. 2011
Stewart Chris, and Ted Stewart. Seven Miracles That Saved America—Why They Matter and Why We Should Have Hope. Indiana: Shadow Mountain. 2009. Print.
Posted on August 27, 2011, in Education, Patriotslog Articles, Religion and tagged America, Ben Franklin, Benjamin Franklin, children, Congress, Constitution, Edit | Quick Edit | Delete | View Truth, education, Freedom, George Washington, Religion, school, Thomas Jefferson, USA. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.