American Education: A Mixed Blessing

I subscribe to, a daily source of brief quotations from a wide variety of books. Today’s selection is from The End of American Childhood by Paula S. Fass (Princeton, 2006). America, Fass noted, invested very heavily in expanding the number and quality of high schools across the country. she writes,

“American schools pulled away quickly and decisively from schools in other Western nations. The American faith in education was nowhere more pointedly ad­vertised than in the creation of the high school. The White House Conference on Child Health and Protection put this faith in ringing terms in 1934: ‘The school is the embodiment of the most profound faith of the American people, a faith that if the rising generation can be sufficiently educated, the ills of society will disappear. The con­stantly lengthening period of school attendance, the constantly en­larging contributions of money for the maintenance of the school, the rising standards of preparation of the teachers . . . these and many other evidences attest the faith of the people in their schools.'”
Because of the new standard of a high school education for everyone, America made great strides in becoming the leader of the free world. But there was a worm in the teacher’s apple: Faith was becoming displaced from the Creator to whom we are all accountable to education itself. Education became an idol.
Now, a century later, we see some of the problems with such idolatry. One of those problems is that we have burdened our schools with too many expectations. As families have weakened or failed, for example, schools have had to fill the gap by teaching students the basic responsibilities of human society and citizenship.
Atheism has been empowered but is very clearly accomplishing nothing to humanize our culture. It does not and cannot have a positive moral effect. Atheism lacks an absolutely essential factor in social cohesion: a sense of accountability to the Lord of justice. Western civilization is still coasting on the momentum of a Christian-shaped culture developed over the centuries. But the momentum is almost gone and the signs get more gruesome every day.
I do not blame the atheists but the church. We have been thoughtless, self-centered, stuck in the 19th century, more devoted to jargon than to a living faith, and unable to comprehend what the Bible means when it says that “love covers a multitude of sins.” Or that “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Or that all God’s expectations of us can be “summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
We cannot seem to grasp — or even bother trying to understand– the words of Jesus: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
People are rejecting the church — not without reason — and erroneously thinking that therefore they are rejecting God. And it is our own fault.

About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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