Pastor Roger Anghis
November 7, 2010
Discovering America’s Christian Heritage
Part 19 400 Years of Education (Pt 3)
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Public education was instigated by the church. The church believed that the people had to be able to read God’s Word so they would know when civil government was transgressing God’s laws. This philosophy goes all the way back to Martin Luther. He believed that the public needed to know how to read so they could be taught the Word and stop any laws that civil government tired to pass that violated God’s laws. America’s first public education law was passed in 1647 and was called ‘The Old Deluder Satan Law’. The basis of this law was the historical fact that Satan had throughout history tried to keep people ignorant of God’s Word and that was not going to be tolerated in America. At one point in time it was not legal for the common man in Europe to even own a Bible. This is the background of those that ventured from Europe to America. The laws that began to be put in place were designed to keep the public educated so the public could keep civil government in its place.
Once a community attained 50 families that community had to have a school and after 100 families the community had to hire a school teacher. This shows just how important education was to those who settled in America. As we establish the public schools, elementary and higher education, America began to buck the trend that was prevalent in Europe for 200 years.
Prominent American educators founded some of the first schools for women and African Americans which were not allowed in most of Europe. John Witherspoon personally taught African American students at Princeton. Francis Hopkinson who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence also helped develop early African American education. Even Benjamin Franklin who was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution started a series of schools for educating African Americans in both science and the principles of Christianity.
Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, helped establish education for women. From this we see that many of our Founding Fathers were not prejudice against the African American like most of the revisionist historians try to make them out to be. Those that disliked African American’s wanted to keep them uneducated. Most of the Founders did not take to that type of thinking.
By 1690 America was well along in laws against illiteracy. Connecticut was so concerned about there being too many youth that could not read they would actually send inspectors into homes to test children’s ability to read. If they found a child that was old enough to read but couldn’t, the family was fined $25.00, which was a very large amount in 1690. This law was in place because the community was very concerned that if a person could not read, they would not know the laws of God and they would not be able to judge civil laws against God’s laws. This scenario caused great trouble in Europe and they were determined to not repeat that history.
Higher education was birthed in the church. One of the most successful universities is Harvard. Harvard was started by the Puritan minister John Harvard. Yale was started by 10 Congregationalist ministers. Episcopal minister William Blair founded William and Mary. Princeton was founded by Presbyterian minister William Tennant. Dartmouth was founded by Congregationalist minister Eleazar Wheelock. By 1860 95% of our colleges and universities were under the direction of the church. To see these universities today you would never know that they were established by ministers. Today, most of their faculty are liberal, anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-religious.
There was no problem with the church being involved in the education process in the early years of America. In 1838 Congress passed a law that did two things. It required the army to have a chaplain on all army posts, forts, etc. and that chaplain would be the school master as well. By 1884 America had 370 universities and 83% were under the direction of a denomination. With the education system that we had America rose above all other nations and it is obvious that it was not a secular education system that achieved that level of academia. It was an education system that incorporated God’s Word and God’s principles into the lives of the students.
Many of the educators were also the men that fought for independence. They knew that the only way the American concept would continue beyond their generation was to instill into the next generation the values and principles they lived by. That is why those that participated in the revolution also became involved in starting universities, writing educational plans and authoring textbooks.
Dr. Benjamin Rush was one of the most active of the educational leaders. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, served under three presidents, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, helped found five colleges, three of which are still in operation today, he was a university professor, textbook author, and was the first Founding Father to propose nationwide public schools and is considered the Father of Public Schools. One of his educational policy papers, ‘A Defense of the Use of the Bible As A School Book’, he had listed 12 reasons why the Bible should remain as the principle school book and in conclusion he stated: “In contemplating the political institutions of the United States I lament that if we remove the Bible from schools we waste so much time and money punishing crime and it would take so little pain to prevent them. This divine book above all others favors that equality among mankind that respects just laws and those sober and frugal virtues which constitutes the soul of our government.” His point that if we take the Bible out of the schools we will spend much in time and treasure in trying to stop crime. Look at our society today and see if that was not a prophetic statement.
Our public schools in the early days never taught the Bible for 6 hours a day. But they did incorporate the principles of scripture morality, honesty, even the reverential fear of God. By not allowing schools to reference anything religious, i.e. Christianity, we are not allowed to talk about some of the most important people in history and what made them important, which was their faith in God. We do see the school system allow teaching about religion but not Christianity. They do allow Islam to be talked about, teaching children to memorize muslim prayers, take on Muslim names, etc. They allow the ‘celebration’ of the winter solstice, Halloween, which is a satanic high holy day. But nothing is allowed in reference to Christianity. Not even a picture of Jesus can hang in the hallway. There are even fights about teaching honesty, integrity and character in schools because honesty, integrity and character is considered ‘religious’ issues. George Washington stated: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” Benjamin Rush who is considered the Father of Education under the Constitution, stated that the absence of religion in education does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind. I would like to reiterate at this point that whenever our Founding Fathers referenced the term ‘religion’ it was specifically directed towards Christianity so when Dr. Rush stated the absence of religion, he was speaking specifically of Christianity.
Another educator in early America was Noah Webster. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, a legislator and a judge, and helped with the wording of the Constitution. He helped found Amherst College and authored many textbooks as well as the dictionary that still bears his name. His impact was so influential that he is referred to as The Schoolmaster to America. His first school book was entitled ‘The Elementary Spelling Book’ and was introduced in 1783 and used as a speller for 150 years. Webster used Bible verses to help with his teaching and in the pages that are normally blank in today’s books Webster printed Bible verses. Webster’s philosophy for education was simple. He often stated: “The Christian religion is the most important. It is what all children under a free government ought to be instructed in.
No truth is more evident in my mind that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” His textbooks contained not just lessons on whatever the subject matter was, as he wrote texts of many different subjects, but there were moral and religious lessons in them as well. Webster never hesitated to teach the importance that Christianity played in the establishing of our government and in one of his texts, The History of the United States, he states: “The brief exposition of the Constitution of the United Sates will unfold to young persons the principles of a republican government and our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible particularly the New Testament for the Christian religion. . . . The moral principles and precepts contained in the scripture ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All of the misery and evils that men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war proceed from them despising or neglecting the principles and precepts of the Bible.”
When you remove the moral teaching of the Christian religion, you remove absolute rights and wrongs and that brings about the attitude that the only thing that matters is ‘me’. This produces self-centeredness, greed and attitudes that it doesn’t matter who gets hurt as long as I get what I want. John Adams stated: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is of no value to any other.”
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If we have no self-governing of our personal selves, our Constitution will not work. This is why our Founders were so adamant about religion being taught in schools. Without that atmosphere of the Christian religion within our education system, our society will not flourish. We are seeing the results of having removed any vestiges of religion from the schools and the results are not conducive.
© 2010 Roger Anghis - All Rights Reserved
Pastor Roger Anghis is the Founder of RestoreFreeSpeech.org, an organization designed to draw attention to the need of returning free speech rights to churches that was restricted in 1954.
President of The Damascus Project, TheDamascusProject.org, which has a stated purpose of teaching pastors and lay people the need of the churches involvement in the political arena and to teach the historical role of Christianity in the politics of the United States. Married-37 years, 3 children, three grandchildren.
Web site: RestoreFreeSpeech.org