Religion directs and controls our lives. It is not a question of whether people are religious, it is only a matter of which religion a person serves. This religious orientation is often not acknowledged in our day, yet God's creatures cannot escape this fundamental truth of their nature. They may worship false gods, or they may worship the true God, but they will worship someone or something. Someone's religion controls every school. Every religion vies for power and control of our culture.
One of the most useful tools in the quest for this power over the lives of men is found in the educational system. Kenneth Galbraith regards it as the successor to land and capital as the most important determinant of who controls whom. George Orwell observed in his novel, 1984, "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Understanding that whoever has power over the mind has power over the culture, Orwell had one of his characters declare, "The Party is not interested in the overt act: The thought is all we care about. We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them." This is an excellent explanation for the increased centralization of government education. By the time the Roman Empire ended, its extensive system of local public schools was firmly under the control of the emperors. In our day we see the control of education being placed more and more into the hands of the government.
It was the purpose, from the beginning, for the government schools in the United Stated to be a moral and social force. One of the founders of compulsory public schools was Horace Mann. He saw the goals of public education as promoting the socialization of diverse peoples. Mann made the following prediction concerning the future of public education:
The common school [public school] is the institution which can receive and train up children in the elements of all good knowledge and of virtue before they are subjected to the alienating competitions of life. This institution is the greatest discovery ever made by man: we repeat it, the common school is the greatest discovery ever made by man. In two grand , characteristic attributes, it is supereminent over all others: first in its universality, for it is capacious enough to receive and cherish in its paternal bosom every child that comes into the world: and second, in the timeliness of the aid it proffers, - its early, seasonable supplies of counsel and guidance making security antedate danger. Other social organizations are curative and remedial: this is a preventative and an antidote. They come to deal diseases and wounds; this, to make the physical and moral frame invulnerable to them. Let the common school be expanded to its capabilities, let it be worked with the efficiency of which it is susceptible, and nine-tenths of the crimes in the penal code would become obsolete; the long catalogue of human ills would be abridged; men would walk more safely by day; every pillow would be more inviolable by night; property, life, and character held by stronger tenure; all rational hopes respecting the future brightened. [Common School Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan., 1841, p. 15.]
The perfectibility of men by way of universal and compulsory government education promised the naive a utopian future. "Give us your children and we will repair the world." This clearly proclaims the religious goals of modern humanism and the government schools.
Even though the most enthusiastic opposition to any blending of religion and education comes from the supporters of government schools, no school of any kind can maintain such separation. Value-free education is a contradiction of terms, and any hierarchy of values constitutes a religious system. John Dewy, another public school guru from the past, supported public schools as "religious in substance" but in a way that did not come "at the expense of a state-consciousness." He recognized that Christianity placed limits on the loyalty that one could have towards the state, but that the new religion of the schools did not.
Author Herbert Schlossberg observes that education is a series of religious acts partly because the power of assumption is so great. Assumptions are even more powerful than assertions because they bypass a persons critical faculty and thereby create prejudice. Government education assumes God to be irrelevant to the educational process when, in fact, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). Such false assumptions by the government schools can then be combined with arguments that prove the truth of what is false. These false assumptions are particularly beguiling because they appeal to one of our worst instincts - the desire to be fashionable or at least to avoid being associated with the unfashionable or unpopular (Idols for Destruction, 1983, p. 210).
The assumptions of modern government education concerning the nature of man, the function of the state, the nature of truth, and so on, are such as to inculcate a set of presuppositions into our children that cannot escape being called religious. As Christians, we cannot allow our children to be sacrificed to this modern-day Molech we call public schools. This is a form of idolatry that many have thoughtlessly entered into. Can you imagine the ancient, faithful Jews taking their children to be taught by the Levites on the Sabbath and then handing those same children over to be educated by Canaanite schools the rest of the week? Remember, it is not a matter of whether our children will be taught religion in school; it is only a matter of which religion they will be taught.