It's Time to Separate School & State!
By Marshall Fritz
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #42, 2001.
Alliance for the Separation of School & State founder Marshall Fritz makes a passionate case for getting government out of the education business altogether.
Mark Taylor was shot seven times and left for dead in the Columbine High School library.
I had dinner with Mark and his mother, Donna, just days after the second anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Former member of the Colorado State School Board, Patty Johnston, completed the foursome.
Mark told us that he didn't want to go back to Columbine after getting out of the hospital. He's been on home study, but he told us of the several ways he has been pressured to return to Columbine.
I can understand the school administrators' desire for unity-of-return, but I was appalled when I heard of the extremes they have gone to in trying to get Mark to return. Perhaps the worst was a school authority telling Mark, "If your mom is the problem, money can be found to hire a lawyer to sue her so you can return."
Can you imagine such audacity by anyone other than a government official? Would McDonalds sue vegetarian parents to force them to feed their children Big Macs? Impossible!
Sabotaging Parents is not the Exception - it's the Essence of Government Schooling
Mark's case is just another example of how public school authorities undermine parents. In fact, four years earlier I came to this startling realization:
Government schooling is set up for one primary purpose: To enable the politically strong to impose their will on the politically weak by convincing their children that the current leaders are good people with good ideas.
The politically weak change every few decades. Just a century ago, government schools in America systematically undermined blacks, Catholics, and Native Americans. Now, government schools demonize conservatives, creationists, and Christians. They ridicule moms who stay at home and parents who are politically incorrect or who teach chastity and traditional family values.
Schools Alienate Children From Their Parents
I could relate scores of examples of undermining. I know one girl (in the same school district as Columbine) whose beloved high school counselor insisted she get an abortion in defiance of her own religious beliefs and her parents' too. She withstood the pressure and a few months later gave birth to a strapping little boy, Alexander.
Most homeschooling parents are acute observers and have witnessed the undermining, perhaps in their families, certainly in others. For many, freedom to pass on to their children their explanation of life is a major part of their decision to avoid the undermining done by government institutions.
The undermining of parental values by teachers and texts creates hostility between parents and children, fosters pervasive moral confusion and immorality in children, and can lead to a simmering hatred of life and culture that can explode into the violence of Columbine, Springfield, Santee, etc.
I'm convinced that our only hope to improve education, strengthen the family, and restore respect for morality is to separate school from state.
School Liberation - the Separation of SCHOOL and State
I believe that in order to turn around this failing American culture we must end government indoctrination of children. We wouldn't trust the government to tell us the truth if they owned the newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV stations. Why do we trust them to tell our children the truth in schools?
In January, 1994, I founded a new non-profit grass-roots organization, The Alliance for the Separation of School & State.
Why do we take such a radical position-that schools must be liberated from state, federal, and local involvement? Why do leaders from D. James Kennedy to Tim LaHaye, from PRACTICAL HOMESCHOOLING publisher Mary Pride to Cathy Duffy, from Rabbi Daniel Lapin to the late Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ, endorse the end of government involvement in education?
I can tell you my reason, and I think they agree: American society is falling like a streamlined brick into the sewer. Parent weakness is the root of the problem. Ending government involvement in schooling can reverse the collapse because it's the only education policy proposal that addresses our underlying societal weakness, parent irresponsibility.
American families must reassume the responsibility of paying for and determining their children's education. Nothing gets parents' attention to education as much as paying for it.
As many a Christian homeschooling parent can attest, assuming their duty to their children (Deut. 6) activates Malachi 4:6: "Fathers, turn your hearts toward your children."
Can't We Just Reform the Government Schools?
Many ask, "Can't the schools be reformed? They were OK when I was a child. I turned out OK!"
First of all, no indoctrination system succeeds with all its subjects. Look at the leakage from Cuba, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Congratulations are in order to all who escaped, but a quick glance around American culture tells you most of your classmates did not escape unscathed.
Second, "public" schools are not broken. They are doing the job they were designed to do, undermine politically weak parents. In the 1840s, that meant the newly arrived Irish Catholics. Although many religious leaders spoke out against public schools (Presbyterians R.L. Dabney and A.A. Hodge come to mind), their prophetic voices were not heard. You cannot fix something that is not broken.
Unfortunately, starting six generations ago, Americans used government schools to gradually infect our culture with four toxins:
- Socialism, the idea that government should own and administer the means of production (e.g., schooling).
- Welfare, the notion that you're entitled to your neighbor's money for your children's education.
- Compartmentalism, the notion that it's OK to dis-integrate academics and religion by keeping them in separate compartments called school, family, and church. This leads to lack of integrity in the individual.
- Paternalism, the idea that the statehouse should make family decisions such as how early a child should start school and long he should stay there.
Government schooling in America can't be fixed any more than government farms could be fixed in the Soviet Union. Conservatives who try to fix government schools are saying, in essence, "socialism can work in schooling if we get the right people in charge."
Some Say Liberating Schools From Government Is Impossible, So Why Try?
One of my great disappointments as a Christian is the number of Christians who profess that Christ is King, yet on the education issue think that Satan and his earthly buddies are too strong for us to ever wrest the schools away from the government.
When my Christian response - despair is a sin against the virtue of hope - fails, I revert to statistics:
- Four national polls show that 25 percent of Americans now say they're ready to end tax-financing of schools. Another 25 percent say YES if they thought there'd be enough private scholarships for the poor to go to better schools than today.
- Homeschooling has increased from under 50,000 in 1980 to over 1.75 million children today, and continues to grow from 10 to 15 percent per year (doubling every 7 years!).
- The idea is being widely discussed. For example, an Internet search on April 11, 2001, identified 2,740 websites that use the phrase "separation of school and state," which we virtually pioneered. As the idea becomes more widely discussed, those millions mentioned above will see that they are not out there by themselves.
Why Should Homeschoolers Promote "School Liberation"?
Homeschoolers have taken the most important step by rescuing their own children from the dangers of government schooling. The next step is to remove from our minds the idea that those schools can someday, somehow, be fixed.
Government schools drag down - morally, spiritually, and academically - 47 million children. These are the voters and neighbors, even pastors, that your children will contend with for the rest of their lives.
If we want to turn around this failing culture, we need more parents to return to parental responsibility. In other words, to protect and enlarge what they have already done as pioneers in resuming parental responsibility, homeschoolers need to promote the idea that "no child should be left behind" in a government school.
What Can Homeschoolers Do?
The first step is for you and your spouse (and older children) to add your names to the growing list who have endorsed the "Public Proclamation for the Separation of School and State" at www.SepSchool.org.
If you're not quite ready, then study, ponder, and pray. Easy ways to get started are to visit our website or call toll-free for an information kit (1-888-338-1776).
After signing the Proclamation, then you can get five more signatures. You can make copies of this article for your homeschooling friends; you can discuss it at church and in the family; you can get additional tools from the Alliance that make it easy for you to introduce this idea to others.
What Does the Alliance Do?
To accomplish School Liberation, much political work will be necessary, including the repeal of the thousands of pages of "ed code" in the 50 states, and the repeal of the $300 billion in taxes that are financing government schools.
Politicians are masters at finding a parade and getting out in front and saying, "Follow ME!" We don't do the political work. Our job is to create the parade. I can't predict the hour, but sometime when we have reached 1 million, or 5 million, or 10 million signatures on the Public Proclamation, plenty of politicians will be ready to lead us into School Liberation.
Here are some of the ways the Alliance is creating this parade:
- Creating information cards oriented to special groups, such as Christian Home Educators, Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Blacks, Mormons, Hispanics, Conservatives, School Teachers, and many other groups.
- Keep improving and promoting our website. We got 1,500 signatures via the website in 2000. The improvements we're making now can drive this to 25,000 next year.
- Get stories on School Liberation into magazines, newsletters, small town papers, and, eventually, in every major newspaper in America.
- Get people together for an annual conference. All of us improve our thinking, and tapes become available to those who can't attend. Maybe you can join the 300 other expected attendees from all over the country at SepCon2001, to be held in Arlington, Va. Nov. 16-18, the weekend before Thanksgiving.
- We've started recruiting a national network of Volunteer Special Representatives who build support for School Liberation in their profession, avocation, church, or local area.
There are millions of youngsters like Mark Taylor who desperately need a viable alternative to government schools and secular indoctrination. These youths deserve to go to school without being shot or hearing their parents insulted.
Two centuries ago, Americans ended government undermining of parents by removing government involvement in Sunday School. Now we need to do the same with Monday school, Tuesday school, Wednesday school, etc.
Politics and education don't mix. You can help speed the liberation of schools from politics by joining our parade.