Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Religion In Public Education

There’s so many ways religion influences the education process in America, and for good reason. The first schools in Western world to be built after the Christian barbarism that decimated organized educational institutes in antiquity were all run by churches. The organization that used to burn scrolls, topple libraries and disband academies and lyceums began teaching their clergy Christian theology.

All Western education for a thousand years derived directly from this until the Renaissance, when exposure to Islamic and Far Eastern cultures revolutionized our knowledge and understanding, even reintroducing us to the works of our polytheist ancestors. Development of the topics we call “sciences” today began (again) at this time in Europe.

In a sense, religions have been there every step of the way when building our knowledge base up again from scratch. “Atheism” and “secularism” as concepts resembling what we know today were completely foreign to the world before the enlightenment, over two centuries later. In fact, atheism was an intellectual outcropping of religious education.

Religion has never been removed from public education. It has been steadily losing ground since public schools began, and it certainly is no longer a major actor on the stage, but it still has a speaking part.

Three classic examples from history class come to mind. The first is the myth of the pilgrims. What we’re told about these puritans is that they left England to escape religious persecution. In point of fact, this politically motivated religious group had taken over England from 1649-1660 under Oliver Cromwell, who had committed genocide on Catholics in Scotland and Ireland. They left because they had been deposed and no one liked them, like Nazis fleeing Germany for South America.

These “pilgrims” then came to America, where their wretched way of life failed so miserably, there was none who called themselves a “Puritan” a few centuries later. Their very name came to symbolize a repressed and ridiculously austere way of life. They drowned, hanged, and burned witches at the stake. No one misses them.

Before there were pilgrims, there was the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Now, everyone knows Vikings came here first, but they didn’t do much. And yes, obviously the native tribes were here first, too. But that isn’t what I’m concerned with. I hate the myth that Columbus disproved the idea that the Earth was round.

Elementary school history repeats this over and over, without making any mention of real scandals like the injustices suffered by Copernicus or Galileo. In a sense, Columbus is honored for demonstrating something that had been observationally proven since the time of Pythagoras in the 6th century BCE. This knowledge was even known during the European Dark Ages among those with any kind of education (admittedly a small percentage).

I find this nontroversy to be a distraction from the real issues. There was friction between religion and progress at times, but the spherical shape of the Earth was simply not one of them. There were observable proofs based on the angle of shadows cast by the sun at different places in the world, and those who travelled far north or south realized that there were new constellations, which implied a spherical shape.

The true paradigm shift was understanding that the Earth was not the center of the universe and that the sky is not revolving around us, but rather that we are spinning and orbiting the Sun. This disproves the Bible, which quite plainly describes a solid firmament that covers the Earth, and people went to jail and were censored for proposing this.

The third and final idea manipulated by religion that I want to address today is the idea of “Manifest Destiny.” In America, “Manifest Destiny” is introduced to kids as the idea that it was God’s will for America to expand to the Pacific Ocean. It’s basically an explanation for the violent actions later taken against Mexico as we conquered the Southwest and displaced native tribes.

Indeed, “Manifest Destiny” was an idea that was prevalent in the early 19th century. It was coined by John O’Sullivan in an article entitled “Annexation” written for a Democratic Party magazine. He believed “the Anglo-Saxon race” had divine mandate to expand our borders from ocean to ocean. He used the term more than once before it was latched onto by the Contentalist movement.

In point of fact, “Manifest Destiny” might be the root of America’s ills. Besides the racial aspect, which is pervasive in the movement, there is also an irritating idea that America is charged by God with spreading freedom and democracy. It seems like a neat idea, except the realistic end result has been our current mess of American interventionism. It is arguable that this is the moment when we started violently poking our nose where it didn’t really belong.

Plus, we wouldn’t have California or Texas… can you imagine the utopia of it?

I wrote this as sort of a response to a common conservative meme that states that public schools are “liberally biased.”

qFirst off, I notice it’s usually people who are 50 or older who say this, so it’s people who know nothing about what’s actually going on in schools. They haven’t been in one for over 30 years, and their kids are too old to be in one. Yet somehow, they’re so fucking informed on what’s going on in them… you know, from Fox News stories that cherry-pick isolated incidents that match their narrative.

I went to both public and private schools in my life, and I didn’t notice less God in public school. In fact, God was in public school every day in the pledge of allegiance. I remember not mentioning God for days during my time in private “religious” schools. In public school, kids who were different were mocked mercilessly without any supervision, be they Jewish or Sikhs or Muslim or just plain different. In private school… well, they just kick you out if you’re remotely different, so they got that covered.

I just don’t see this “liberal” stuff people are talking about in schools. The public school across the street from me had up, “Christmas Break Ends 1/5” for the last couple weeks. This controversy of religion under assault in schools is completely ridiculous. It has a very cozy place that is in no way endangered.

1 comment:

  1. My school was pretty much like the high school from the MTV show "Daria".

    "What kind of people get parodied on Daria? Tim O'Neill, the squishy New Age emotional teacher. Janet Barch, the man-hating feminist. Incompetent "butterfly" parent Amanda Lane. Helen and Jake Morgendorffer, the ex-hippie radicals who once marched on the Pentagon but now are wedded to The System in a bizarre manner."


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