“hey, you got your church in my state”

I just came across this post on the intersection of church and state in the American public school system at the Empire Wilderness site and felt compelled to steal a paragraph for your enjoyment. If you like it, go read the whole post. It’s good stuff… I don’t steal crap.

The U.S. has a long history of strict separation of church and state. For public education, this has meant a commitment to secular common schools. They have served as sites of assimilation in the effort to instill norms of membership through successive waves of immigration and over a vast, often sparsely populated landscape. Yet, the public school system is under continual and increasing criticism that it is no longer capable of addressing the myriad of interests represented in an increasingly diverse and heterogeneous public. Nowhere is this more visible then in criticism from fundamentalist Christians. The attacks have become so strong that just this past summer, Baptist newsletter publisher T.C. Pinckney sponsored a resolution at the Southern Baptist national convention recommending parents remove their children from “godless” and “anti-Christian” public schools. Under pressure, public schools have had to respond accordingly. One interesting example is Philadelphia’s school-faith partnership program, in which faith-based partners, most local churches, help in any number of ways – finding members to run for school council positions, offering Saturday sessions for suspended students, staffing parent safety patrols in hallways, and providing crisis intervention if needed. As criticism of public schools persists, and the Christian Right continues to exert and stronger and stronger influence on all aspects of American civil, political, and religious life, it is reasonable to expect that we will see further experiments that blur the line traditionally drawn between church and state.

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3 Comments

  1. Dave Morris
    Posted October 9, 2004 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    I think there should be a mandatory student exchange program put into place. We ship our kids off for 1 year to work in a third world factory for 16 hours a day making basketball shoes and sports jerseys and the kids from the factories will come here to get as much of an education that they can squeeze into that year.

    After, say, 2 or 3 years of schooling with no summer vacation, they will then be required to spend a year on a farm. 2 or 3 more years of school and then a full year working in a service industry job and then a half year working with wards of the state ( the elderly and mentally handicapped.)

    Or the exchange program could work by summer labor programs.

    This could teach the foundation of morality ( empathy ) as well as the practical application of an education. There would be no talk about “God” and no issue of a separation of church and state. Just kids learning the Golden Rule and the 3 R’s. Get rid of all the other bullshit.

  2. mark
    Posted October 10, 2004 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I’d suggest a few additions to the “three Rs” in terms of the formal curriculem, but otherwise I think your ideas are inspired, Dave. Lots of countries have mandatory military service. I think it would be great if we could, instead, have the first mandatory farm and retail service. Maybe I should check with Linette first, but I’m inclined to say that you can sign Clementine up as the first student. (I don’t know about the third world factory rotation though. Can’t we do it with videos or virtual reality instead? Can’t she experience all the peril of a Chinese flip flop factory worker from our living room?)

  3. Dave Morris
    Posted October 10, 2004 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I think that having them do factory work through a temp agency like Kelly Services may be an equivalent. I got my fill of mind numbing minimum wage jobs through them: tape duplicating for CBS/Fox video, palletizing bulk mail for Advo, etc. There are many jobs out there that are the equivalent of what is being done in third world countries. At least there used to be. No one can really live off of minimum wage here without working 16 hours a day 7 days a week.

    I think that empathy is the critical thing and how it is achieved is less important. I don’t believe anyone who takes on a leadership role, business or otherwise, has the right to that position if they have not developed the ability to truely empathize with the people they govern. And I think that in general, the ability to epathize would solve one hell of a lot of social problems.

    The 3 R’s are critical. Every person needs to know how to express themselves in writing and by speaking in order to clearly develop and exchange thoughts and ideas. And Mathematics is the foundation of scientific thinking. Everything else builds off of these.

    I have a couple of cousins that were home schooled. They turned out ok. I think that my aunt and uncle had very legitimate criticisms of the public schools. One was the lack of order in the schools. Both my aunt and uncle went to Catholic Schools and used that as their benchmark. They lived in Detroit at the time because my uncle was a Detroit police officer. I think any reasonable adult would pull their child out if they felt their children were in an environment that was not allowing them to learn at the highest level they were capable of. For instance, what about TAG students that are pulled out of classes and put with other high IQ children?

    I think that nearly all my aunts and uncles, as well as my grandparents and my siblings and a few of my cousins, went to catholic schools. The church was almost always right next to the schools. The priests and nuns strictly enforced discipline ( I got my ass kicked a few times by father Menner and father Donaher.) Many of these schools are closing now, especially in poorer communities, due to lack of operating capital. There is a generation that has this experience which they compare the current public schools to. I can’t blame them for finding fault with the public schools.

    However, I don’t think that public funding should be given to any church or faith based organization for any kind of partnership with the public schools, for the obvious reason. The parochial schools have traditionally been separate and should remain that way. The tutoring programs seem like a great way for the church to get involved with the community without being funded. I’m sure there are others too. I do not see this as a violation of church and state if they are not using public funds and the students use the service b choice.There is also no reason that a church space could not be used by parishioners to offer additional courses that teach classes not offered in the public schools

    I want to say a lot more on this, but I’m getting tired of typing and I suspect that some of my other opinions about public schools may be unpopular here, like on dress codes and the use of switches.

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