From the peanut gallery: abolish compulsory education 22

JISHOU, HUNAN — Recently, I wrote a reaction to the Christian rightwing hijacking of the Texas Board of Education, and the anti-public education views of one of its members. A visitor named Joey swung by this week, and left this comment:

That a functioning democracy requires, first, a well-educated, literate public and, second, a public that shares the same knowledge about the history and political philosophy of the nation is the basic thinking of any statist, when public schools are to serve as the chief means to achieve this homogeneity of thinking.

It’s no wonder there are parents and organization already determined to abolish public schools by opting out from compulsory education.

It’s an effective way to fight tyranny, particularly the tyranny of the majority.

You will note that Joey has nothing directly to say about the Texas BOE, but definitely agrees that public education is a Bad Thing.

I don’t, though I am a critic of public education. My reply was this:

Excuse me? You need to read up on some history. One of those “statists” who favored public education was Thomas Jefferson. George Washington also recognized the need for a well educated public. Read his farewell address.

So, by your argument, both these Founding Fathers favored tyranny.

In fact, the Founders recognized the dangers that a “tyranny of the majority” would present to a representative democracy, and built safeguards (”checks and balances”) to prevent it. The USA is also a republic, in which the person who gets the most votes wins the race … and governs everyone.

Moving on, each school district in the USA is supervised by an elected school board. These people have to run for office. If you don’t like your local school’s policies, vote for someone else, or run for a post yourself. You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Compulsory education means everyone has to go to school. State education law do not require everyone to attend public school; they just have to attend school. That school can be in their home, in a church school, or a private school, or even in a different state. So, how is this tyrannical?

Abolishing public schools is the dumbest damn idea I have ever heard. You would sentence a majority of the schoolchildren in this country to no education at all. Contrary to what you believe, an uneducated public paves the road to tyranny.

If you want to see a real tyranny of public education, read up on North Korea. Your imaginary “tyranny of the majority” here in the US is but a shadow of a ghost of a figment compared to the real thing.

Not to be outdone, Joey (his website is here) provided an even lengthier rebuttal. Rather than keep the debate in the comments section, I have chosen to move it here.

Here’s Joey’s most recent remarks.

I don’t deify humans. Jefferson and Washington had character, unlike so many charlatans today in public “service”. But their recognition of the importance of a good education does not imply their support of the State-centric system of coercion that is in place in our nation, that forces the young and the ignorant to lap up all the pablum that passes for “good” teaching in the bureaucrat-infested concentration camps that we call public schools today.

These Founding Fathers encouraged liberty and personal responsibility. You explain to me how that squares with the State dictating universally that all children must receive the kind of education that the State mandates under penalty of removing the child from the home, if the parents refuse to comply.

As to democracy, I’m not into that kind of religion either. I believe in representative government, yes, which is why I support a republican form of government and a democratic process for the selection of representatives. But that’s as far as it goes. I’m not interested in collectivist methods for getting things done. Open collaboration does not require majority ruling. That is to say, Liberty does not require Democracy.

You say the U.S. is a republic? Really? Is that why you refer to it as a democracy first and foremost?

Each school district in the USA is supervised by bureaucrats attached to the state tit for their milk, for the lion’s share of funds comes from the states’ capitals, which means that lobbyists such as teachers unions control the dynamics of the game as pure centralists that they are. They make a whole career of it “for the children”. It’s a naivete of the worst kind to assume that voters will kick the rascals out, when the very same voters have been brainwashed all their lives for generations by the same bunch of bozos to look up to them for enlightenment.

But if you believe in democracy and its ability to change this corruption of its own making…be my guest! Ha!

The baby is a rag doll. So dump it and the water! It’s the only way.

Who is the State to compel all parents to instruct their own children? The State is not a person nor can it love the children better than the parents. The State is a collectivist means by which the elite control the people, using the people’s own weakness to control them. It’s job is small: enforce justice. But it takes on more and more because it loves to grow and be a god walking on earth.

Since you think like a typical statist, you believe that only the State could do a better job than the parents at caring for children that do not belong to it. You suffer from the same arrogance that all so-called educated elitist suffer from, which attempt to arrogate to themselves divinity-like powers to change the life of others who you could care less about, since you don’t even know them all at a personal level nor ever will.

That’s why you can dare say with a straight face that the abolition of government schools would “sentence a majority of the schoolchildren in this country to no education at all.” You don’t understand parental love and responsibility. You only understand State worship.

Get the State off our backs and we will have the means to hire better teachers than those who don’t even know how to compete for their dough, because they’re dependent on tax revenues extorted from working families to pay for their incompetent performance year in, year out.

Tyranny takes many forms. North Korea’s totalitarianism is of the old-fashion kind. But America’s is “fascism with a smile”. Yet it’s still the same thing underneath the facade: State-driven coercion to force the people to adopt beliefs that will keep the State in power at the expense of the little guy.

I get the feeling I’m either debating a rabid libertarian or a Randian objectivist. I have little patience for either, but here I go anyway. I hope others can join in the discussion, too. I’m going to go point by point, because Joey presumes much and argues a lot.

Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were in fact “statists,” to use Joey’s terminology. Both saw popular education as necessary for the continued existence of the United States. Jefferson was an early champion of public education in Virginia, and believed public education should be provided nationally. If government could not make education compulsory, then it should at least make it free, to encourage parents to send their kids to school.

Further, Jefferson wrote James Madison in 1787 a letter in which he says:

“And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government or information to the people. This last is the most certain and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” (Forrest version) ME 6:392

“Educate … the whole mass of the people.” Sounds pretty statist to me.

Washington, in his State of the Union address of 1790, had this to say:

Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness. In one, in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community, as in our's, it is proportionately essential. To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways: By convincing those who are entrusted with the publick administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people: And by teaching the people themselves to know, and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy, but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the Legislature.

Or, to put it more succinctly, educate the people.

Of course, it took another half-century for widespread free public education to take hold in the North, and even longer in the South. Until then, children learned at home, in privately run schools, in church schools, or not at all. The influx of immigrants from all over Europe in the late 19th century provided the impetus for near universal public education, as a way to assimilate all the immigrant kids, especially in the cities.

In the second paragraph, Joey says “all children must receive the kind of education that the State mandates under penalty of removing the child from the home, if the parents refuse to comply.” There is some truth to this statement, but only some. Compulsory education means all children must attend school from ages 6 to their teens — the cutoff date depends on the state they live in. It does not require the child to attend a public school, however, if the child attends a private or religious school.

The laws regarding homeschooling vary widely from state to state, however. Parents must in some way show they are covering the same material as the public school, either by providing lesson plans to a state office or by merely signing an agreement that they will. Some states monitor homeschoolers closely; others not at all.

Now, non-compliance with the state laws means your kids are legally truants, and most state laws permit the state to put your kids in school with or without your permission. If the kids have to removed from the home to make it possible, then that’s what happens.

Is this “statism?” That depends on your definition of the term. Is it statism to require all homeowners to pay property taxes, all drivers to be licensed, all restaurants to be inspected to see if they are sanitary? One function of government is to ensure the safety and welfare of the population, and by extension, the government. That’s why we have laws.

Now Joey delves into political science, which admittedly is not my strong suit. He objects to democracy as a “religion,” yet favors the democratic election of representatives. He favors a republican form of government, and rejects “collectivist” methods for getting things done. “Liberty does not require Democracy,” he says.

All right, let’s take it from the top. The USA is a republic, since it has a chief executive elected by the population. It is also a representative democracy, since the electorate chooses representatives to the legislative body, who act in the public’s stead. The extent to which the United States would be a republic or a democracy was the subject of the Federalist Papers, which I have not read in more than 30 years. Whether liberty requires democracy was one of the issues debated between the time of the Articles of Confederation (massive fail) and the ratification of the Constitution (massive success).

A few blog posts back I offered a mini-lesson in civics. I’ll repeat the main point here. In a republic, especially a representative democracy, there is basically a contract between the electorate and the government. The electorate says, “We will let you run the government, since we have a lot of other things to do, until you fuck up. Then we vote somebody else in. Meanwhile, we will continue to obey the laws and try to be responsible members of the community.” The government says, “Deal. But if you start breaking the laws or being a threat to the commonweal, then we get to come after you.”

The key idea is that the public can’t pick and choose which laws to obey, or which president to follow. If the “wrong” guy wins the election, or crappy laws get enacted, tough. Quit whining. Wait for the next election cycle. If the country seems to be running counter to what you would prefer, tough. Quit whining and deal with it.

And yeah, Joey, I did call the USA a republic, because it is. I did not say it was a “democracy first and foremost.” I said the Founders saw the dangers of a representative democracy. Don’t misquote me.

Ah, the education bureaucracy! Everyone’s favorite whipping post. Let me clarify a few points here, in case some don’t understand how public education works on the state level. Each state as a Department or Board of Education, which the governor usually appoints subject to legislative approval. The Ed Dept. sets the state curriculum (or “scope and sequence” in modern edu-jargon) which all schools in the state have to follow.

(This is where the republican form of government comes into play. The electorate chooses the governor and legislators, who in turn choose the state BOE/DOE. No direct democracy there. Still with me, Joe?)

At the local level, each school district has a popularly elected school board, who hire a school superintendent to be the chief executive. He appoints his staff, and the district office handles the day-to-day operations of the schools. The school board keeps an eye on things, but ideally doesn’t intrude into daily operations (like hiring or firing teachers, approving lesson plans, and such).

Some school districts, especially in big cities, have another player, the teachers’ union. Contrary to what Joey alleges, unions are only influential (or even existent) in the big cities. The American Federation of Teachers is a union. The National Education Association is a “professional organization.” It ain’t a union, at least in the AFL-CIO sense of the word. Most NEA states do not have collective bargaining, for example.

Now, despite Joey’s bluster, it is possible for the electorate to throw the bums out and elect a radically different school board. Conservative Christians have managed to do it in many school districts, with generally disastrous results (see Dover, Pennsylvania, as an example), but it is by no means as impossible as Joey says.

Superintendents have in fact been fired, too. It happened in Louisville, Kentucky, just a few years ago. (OK, technically, the school board did not renew Dr. Stephen Daeschner’s contract. Same difference)

Is the system corrupt? Since it seems to be self-perpetuating, Joey says yes. The federal government (all three branches) is also self-perpetuating. Is it corrupt? It depends on who asks the question, I think.

Joey says he believes in the republican form of government, but at the same time rejects any motion that the State has any authority to enforce the law. Maybe he can explain the apparent contradiction, because I sure can’t.

I’m going to pull this paragraph out.

Who is the State to compel all parents to instruct their own children? The State is not a person nor can it love the children better than the parents. The State is a collectivist means by which the elite control the people, using the people’s own weakness to control them. It’s job is small: enforce justice. But it takes on more and more because it loves to grow and be a god walking on earth.

The State enforces the laws, which the legislators (elected by the people) passed and the governor (elected by the people) signed. One of those laws is the requirement that all kids get educated, somewhere, somehow. Joey makes it sound like the stormtroopers are busting down parents’ doors and hauling the kids off to re-education camps, never to be seen again.

As for my saying abolishing public schools would condemn a majority of student to no education, that does not make me a “Statist.” It makes me a realist. All parents cannot teach their children equally well. Some may have lots of time and money, and skills. Others, not. Jefferson and Washington (and others) recognized this plain fact, and that’s why they encouraged there be public schools. You can’t have a functional democracy (ooo, that dirty word again!) without an educated public. It’s one of those crazy ideas from the Enlightenment, and dare I say, ancient Greek philosophy. More importantly, the public has to get essentially the same education, which means there have to be laws and regulations to ensure that it happens. People are not the most reliable or high-minded of creatures, despite what Ayn Rand and the libertarians would like to believe.

Finally, after his litany of anti-statist complaints, Joey gets around to the second-favorite whipping post of the critics of public education — the teachers.

Never, never, never tell a teacher that teachers in general are “incompetent ” or could not make it in a competitive marketplace, aka “the real world.” It tends to get us really pissed off.

Yes, there are incompetent teachers. Yes, their positions are frequently overprotected, so it’s hard to fire really bad teachers. And yes, a few could probably never do anything other than be teachers. But to paint with a broad brush and imply all teachers are like that is irresponsible and sheer demagoguery. Despite your opinions, Joey, there are thousands of dedicated teachers out there putting in long hours in and out of school planning lessons, grading assignments, worrying whether little Billy is getting enough to eat at home or whether little Sally’s stepfather is getting too touchy-feely with her. They put up with incompetent administrators, crazy (or apathetic) parents, ridiculous demands from state curricula, the NCLB Act and all those flippin’ tests, and criticism from nutjobs who figure they know better than the teachers do.

You try teaching 25-35 students for a day, or better yet, a week. It’s not easy. Walk a mile in our moccasins, then maybe you can dump on teachers. Maybe. Until then, STFU.

So, you want to scrap compulsory public education, Joey. Tell us what would replace it. Give us a system that would simultaneously provide the kind of national identity that Jefferson and Washington clearly wanted (and you apparently don’t) and the kind of education the children need for the 21st century.

I anxiously await your response.

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22 thoughts on “From the peanut gallery: abolish compulsory education

  1. Reply eljefe Sep 11,2009 8:03 pm

    Checks and balances. Two-party system. That’s the short answer.

    Yeah, let’s not get into any polemics about political science. You want to debate political science, but the real question here is education. How about answering my question? What replaces compulsory public education? Provide specifics, if you will.

  2. Reply eljefe Sep 11,2009 11:15 pm

    Let’s review here.

    You posted a comment. I replied. You posted another comment. I replied, and I asked a direct question. And your response?

    Another question, not even related to my question.

    Then I give you a short reply, repeat my question, then you say, “I won’t answer your question until you answer mine.”

    Somehow I get the feeling you’re dodging my question. But, at the risk of being drawn into a pointless debate about political science, I will humor you. Here’s my answers.

    All humans are imperfect. Even Jefferson and Washington were imperfect. Some are reliable and high-minded. Unfortunately, not all them get elected to public office. So, we have to make do with what we’ve got, which is why the American system of government was designed the way it was. I get the sense you are not satisfied with how things have turned out 222 years later.

    Your specific questions:

    1. The voters elected them. Of course, that does not make them automatically better law-givers than me, or you or people like you, but the plurality of voters believe they can suffice for at least one election cycle.
    2. The voters elected them. So, the elected officials represent their constituents, even the ones who didn’t vote for them. That’s part of the unwritten contract of a republic I discussed here and elsewhere. The voters make their choices, with the understanding that the winner will be their representative, even if they didn’t vote for the guy. The unwritten understanding (upon which the Constitution rests) is that all the voters will accept the winner as their representative in the legislator or the government’s chief executive. You apparently want to abrogate the unwritten contract by choosing which representatives to accept and which laws to obey. Therein lies chaos.
    3. You don’t! Did you miss the part about sending them to private or church schools, or home schooling them? No laws force you to send your kids to public school. The laws just force you to send the kids to school. The second part of your question is unclear. Are you questioning whether you should be compelled to teach your children, or compelled to teach these “beliefs?” Rather than wait for you to specify what you meant, I’ll answer it both ways.

    Compulsory education laws, which I presume were enacted by duly elected legislators and governors of each state, require all school-age children to go to school. Now, you and I didn’t vote for those officials, who are long since dead, but someone did. Requiring children to be in school is not really an onerous burden, so I hope you are not questioning the necessity of educating children.

    These beliefs to which you refer are what, exactly? Public schools cannot teach religious belief, though many try, so are we talking about political beliefs or historical interpretations or social agendae, or what? Let’s take American history as an example. As far as I know, every state requires all students to learn American history, no matter what kind of school they attend. Some states have specific requirements; others are more lenient, and leave it to the judgment of the school, parent or teacher. Knowing something about America’s history also does not seem like an onerous burden. If you’re a home schooler, you can use whatever materials you like, from David Barton’s revisionist drivel to original sources. You are not being compelled to teach specific “beliefs” about U.S. history.

    Now, I answered your questions. Your turn.

  3. Reply Joey Sep 11,2009 6:47 pm

    So, let’s focus on essentials first. You say that “People are not the most reliable or high-minded of creatures…” If so, how then can you expect people to make “high-minded” and reliable laws?

    What people then are those that you are referring to, who can generate these superior, enlightened, dependable laws, such as those who compel the, presumably, low-minded, inferior, unenlightened, unreliable mass subjects to surrender their offspring and, thus, their inheritance in life to the instruction of the higher-grade law makers?

    Or are you not talking of people at all when you refer to the high-minded law-givers? Are you speaking of immaterial beings? Ghosts? Spirits that inspire the mind, like Socrates’ daemons of old?

    Let’s not get into a polemic regarding the method of election that ultimately leads to these law makers getting their high and mighty positions. Let’s just focus on your presumptions about their higher caliber of mind and the basis that you have for your gnostic insights about why their laws are any better than anyone else’s.

    What makes them better law-givers than I or those like me? Why should I give in to their laws? Why should I give them my children to indoctrinate (from en- meaning “put in” and doctrine, meaning “teaching”)? By what authority are their beliefs superior to mine that I must be compelled even to teach?

    Last I heard education means to “lead out of darkness”, from ex- meaning “out” and “ducere” meaning “to lead”.

    So, c’mon. Educate us. Lead us out of our darkened understanding and enlightened us, oh high-minded, reliable one!

  4. Reply Joey Sep 11,2009 8:51 pm

    I will answer your question if you answer mine. Don’t divert attention.

    At least we’re in agreement that politics is not the topic of discussion. So don’t throw political terms at me — checks and balances, et. al.

    Speak up! I used your words: “People are not the most reliable or high-minded of creatures…” You can’t possibly mean a universal negative categorical statement of “All people are not reliable or high-minded creatures,” unless you believe in ghosts. Do you? I’ll assume you don’t, so there must be some people who are reliable and high-minded.

    And because only these high-minded people can be relied upon to produce likewise high-minded output, then it stands to reason that only they could produce high-minded laws for lower-minded, unreliable saps to follow.

    Answer my questions!

    1. What makes them better law-givers than I or those like me?

    2. Why should I give in to their laws?

    3. Why should I give them my children to indoctrinate (from en- meaning “put in” and doctrine, meaning “teaching”)? By what authority are their beliefs superior to mine that I must be compelled even to teach?

    Stop it with the red herring. We are talking about education.

  5. Reply eljefe Sep 13,2009 5:05 am

    Somehow I figured religion would also be part of this discussion.

    Joey, you and I will never agree about political science, so I am not even going there anymore. I did answer your question, but clearly you are not accepting my answer. So, let’s just agree to disagree on that point.

    As for your religious arguments, I will bring up just one or two points. Jesus’ witty advice about paying taxes to Rome, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:13-17) was as ambiguous then as it is now. You can interpret it to mean (as you do) everything belongs to God, so give Caesar nothing. Or it can mean, you should follow civil laws as well as religious laws; obey both authorities, giving each its due attention. There is a wide range of opinions about how much one should give either.

    You sound like a Dominionist, one of those folks who believes Scriptural law trumps secular law, including the Constitution. So, let’s just scrap the Constitution and the rest of the federal code. Like it or not, secular law is what holds the country together. Replacing it with religious law will turn the USA into a completely different nation, more akin to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan or to Iran than the nation the Founding Fathers created.

    Let us suppose, for argument’s sake, that we abolish public education and expect all parents to educate their own kids. So, Catholic kids learn one way. Baptist kids another. AoG kids, yet another. And so on. And don’t forget all the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, wiccans, atheists, and whatnot, the socialists, the capitalists, the libertarians, and so on. Each family teaches its kids a different way, tells them different things. The nation’s children would have no common education, no common ground — the very thing that Jefferson and Washington wanted to avoid.

    How then would we still be the United States of America?

  6. Reply Joey Sep 12,2009 10:55 pm

    Based on your chief premise, I asked something very simple. You just won’t address it. So I’ll just state the obvious:

    You believe in a group of high-minded individuals who can make high-minded and reliable laws that others must be compelled to follow. You just won’t tell me what makes them superior.

    I don’t believe you know.

    Their superiority has nothing to do with voters electing them, as illustrated by the quality of elected autocrats Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez, unless you believe them high-minded and reliable, which you must because they were elected. But this is what you keep falling back to — your Pavlovian (ding! ding!) Democracy saves mindset.

    You speak of an unwritten contract that can be abrogated. There is no such thing. There are private contracts between individuals. All else is a private abstraction that some individual or coterie of individuals with enough power to influence or compel others will lay on strangers to manipulate them.

    Then you speak of fear. Now we’re getting somewhere! The fear of certain types of people not doing what the presumed superior, high-minded, reliable individuals “anointed” with the oil of collectivist election have declared necessary to do to keep “society” from chaos.

    So now we’re getting to why you worship Democracy and the abstraction of a social contract and the mandates of a clique of imperfect, elected creatures. You fear anarchy and the chaos it brings. You fear autonomy (from auto = self, nomos = law).

    And yet you still prefer the law of a few imperfect, individuals of your choice rather than the law of every imperfect individual in society, such that this elected coterie, by your intellectual choice (because in practice you can forget ever being able to dislodge them alone from their perch, bud) can be autonomous, while the rest of us (or you, when you’ve not voted for them) must cow-tow under their dictated nomos.

    In short, you believe in the State, friend, as savior of society and champion against anarchy.

    With that in mind, now I know why I should give in to its laws. It’s because, given your fear, I must come to believe like you that the State is my savior from anarchy and chaos. (I’ve learned this to be your rationale not because you’ve told me. It’s because you leave no other reasonable alternative for an answer.)

    We’re ready to speak about why I should have to give the State my children to indoctrinate. And I’m to hand them over to it by authority from… uh…by whose authority was it? Not yours, of course. But whose?

    You see, ElJefe, unlike you I don’t believe in the State as my savior from chaos. I don’t fear societal disorder like you. I know the world is not of my making and Man cannot destroy it. It belongs to someone else, as do I. And the Owner of this world appoints its laws for the physical and metaphysical. Those are the laws I’m to follow; no one else’s. Anything contrary to His laws I refuse to follow.

    The State receive its authority from Him. The People receive its authority from Him. Their attempts to supplant His laws with theirs is an act of usurpation and must be resisted. That’s what compulsory education laws are — a statist act of usurpation.

    What my answer? Here it is:

    Do what the owner of the universe commands. He gives you your children. You’re accountable to Him for them. You raise them. You instruct them as He mandates, not the State. Agree with others to instruct them together to lighten the load. Fine. But don’t hand them to Caesar. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, so that Caesar can do what his Master commands of him. But give God what is God’s, which is everything, because He is Master of all, even of Caesar. And your children belong to God, not to Caesar.

    So Caesar has no authority from God to educate. This is not the State’s job. Period. End of story. No public schools. It’s the parents’ job to educate. Therefore, close down the statist schools, by removing the children — all of them! The rest follows on course.

  7. Reply eljefe Sep 15,2009 2:06 am

    Joey, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t hold up the Founding Fathers as paragons of Christianity, while at the same time claiming Scriptural law replaces all their hard work in drafting, editing and ratifying the Constitution. If, as you say, God’s law completely subsumes all secular law, then we might as well toss out the Constitution like it was last week’s newspaper. If the Founding Fathers wanted Biblical law to be the law of the land, then why didn’t they do back in the 1780s?

    The U.S. Constitution begin, “We, the People.” So, were the framers of the Constitution Democracy-ranters, to use your terminology? They sure were lousy in making the Constitution a religious document. Read it carefully: it mentions “religion” only in the First Amendment, and has no mention at all of Christ, Jesus, God, Christianity, the Cross or the Bible. According to your argument, then, the road to Purgatory must have begun with the Constitution, because it is emphatically the secular foundation of a secular system of laws, devised by men.

    If you are proposing to ditch the Constitution and all the federal law that came after it, good luck with that.

    As for your hero, Patrick Henry, he probably never said the words you quote. An early biographer, William Wirt, apparently got a lot of his information second- or third-hand. Even the famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” line, which Wirt popularized, seems to only have been heard by Wirt’s own dubious sources. An eyewitness taking notes of Henry’s speech says nothing about the famous conclusion. Historians now suspect that the quotation you offer here was actually said by someone other than Henry, and Wirt mistakenly attributed it to Henry.
    Link 1
    Link 2

    Although invited, Henry refused to attend the Constitutional Convention, because originally he opposed the Federalist idea of a chief executive. He did support and lobby for the Bill of Rights, which would necessarily mean he supported the First Amendment, which prevents the establishment of a State Church. Even if he did believe the Bible was worth more than all the books in the world, he did not apparently believe it should be part of the law of the land.

    If you do a little research into Henry’s past, you will find that he favored Virginia levying a tax for churches, allowing tax payers to specify to which church the money should go. The Baptists, Presbyterians and others opposed the measure, and it was ultimately defeated. Their argument was that mixing government with religion would corrupt religion. This was in 1784, BEFORE the ratification of the Constitution, Joey. Sometime between 1784 and 1787, Henry must have changed his mind about government support of churches. Perhaps the Devil made him do it.
    Link 3

    Your argument that all laws are religious is flawed. Perhaps some secularists believe obeying the law is good or moral, and breaking the law is bad, or immoral. But the actual written laws say nothing of the kind. Secular law depends on the written word, as it has since the Magna Carta, or perhaps even longer. It does not depend on what the writers of those laws were thinking at the time. Enacting a law to make murder a crime may be moral, and it may have its root in the Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” but it is also common sense. It’s not conducive to the health of a society to have people going around half-cocked and killing people randomly.

    You say you mistrust people to be arbiters of the law. Then who will administer God’s Laws and judge those who break God’s Law? Ghosts? Angels? Ultimately, flawed human beings are going to interpret Scriptural Law, so we are right back where we started.

    Now, you are probably going to argue that the judges of God’s Laws will be anointed and saintly men and women, the priests of the law, as it were. We’ve had them before; they were called Pharisees in Jesus’ time, and as I recall, Jesus did not care for their nitpicky interpretations of religious law. Since that time, we have had plenty of other flawed judges of Scriptural Law, including the priests of the Holy Inquisition, the Puritans, the Salem witch-hunters, plus many more modern examples. (Televangelists who commit adultery, sodomize boys and men, collect pornography, steal from their churches — pretty poor judgment, if you ask me.)

    I have no misconceptions about your position, nor about the nine points at the Chalcedony Foundation website you linked to. Your position (and Mr Rushdooney’s) derives from an overly narrow, pharaisical interpretation of Scripture, a position that is not shared very widely by other Christians and certainly not by non-Christians. Others who are more learned in theology than I have already refuted those arguments, so there is no point in my reinventing the wheel. And you wouldn’t accept those arguments anyway, since you say you have found the Truth.

    If you want to pull your own kids out of public school, then go ahead, be my guest. No laws are stopping you. It is a free country, you know. [Those kind of freedoms, I might point out, would fly out the window under your kind of theocratic government. Maybe you haven’t thought that part through too well yet. The Founding Fathers did, however.] Teach your kids at home, or in your church schools, and wait for the Rapture, or regeneration, or the Second Coming, or the Papa John’s delivery man, whatever you please. Just leave everybody else and their kids alone.

  8. Reply Joey Sep 14,2009 3:47 pm

    Scriptural Law doesn’t trump secular law, ElJefe, since there is no law apart from Scriptural Law. What the secular calls “law” — ain’t. Only when anything that you call secular law aligns with Scriptural Law could what you call “law” be truly Law.

    Next, even the secularists believe that anyone who breaks a secular “law” is indeed law-breaking; is committing a crime; is doing something wrong. Isn’t that so? So even the secularists believe moralistically that following the secular “law” is good and not following the secular “law” is bad.

    Thus, given that we’re talking about good and evil, then even from your secularist angle, ElJefe, we’re still talking about religion…secularist religion in this case.

    My point: All law is religious.

    This cannot be avoided.

    Furthermore, whoever is the source of the law has the last word in society and is, therefore, the supreme entity or god of that society. Your god is the State or, more conventionally stated in our Democracy-ranting days, “the People”, i.e. Man. You live to worship and advance its interests, inclusive of indoctrinating future generations also to worship and advance its interests. Let’s call that advancing the “kingdom of Man”.

    Well, I’m against you.

    I will advance the Kingdom of God and His Law, because the purpose of God’s Law is to provide government under God, not under men, not the church, nor the State. God’s law is the means to a free and godly community. In surveying Biblical law, we must first recognize its premise.

    Fallen man can only create a sinful society and a tyrannical one. The goal of unregenerate — a crucial term in my thesis — man is a new Tower of Babel, Babylon the Great. It means playing God and controlling all things.

    The goal of regenerate man in Christ is the kingdom of God and the New Jerusalem, a realm wherein righteousness or justice dwells (2 Peter 3:13). Fallen man cannot build a just social order because he is in revolt against the God of all justice or righteousness and His Law, which is justice.

    God’s Law is ‘the perfect law of liberty’ (James 1:25), and it is a law hated by all who are in sin, which is slavery (John 8:31-36).

    The premise of Biblical Law is the building of a just social order, which is something that unregenerate man cannot achieve, ElJefe. That includes anyone arrayed against Christ or, in your words, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, wiccans, atheists, and whatnot, the socialists, the capitalists, the libertarians, etc.

    Our Christian Founding Fathers understood this better than any of their offspring generations later have retained. (“The Bible is worth all the other books which have ever been printed.” –Patrick Henry)

    And the God of the Bible is the only one who can bring all people, through regeneration, together under submission to His Law — those who love them to blessedness and those who hate Him to destruction. It’s irresistible, ElJefe. It won’t stop. Christianity will never go away no matter what you witness in your short existence on this earth. It will outlive you, it will outlive me, and it will cover the whole Earth, because the Kingdom of God, as Jesus said long ago, is here, and His authority to reign in it is not of this world, as He told Pilate.

    It’s here to stay and He shall remove, through unrelenting regeneration, all opposition.

    So those kids are going to leave the statist schools, ElJefe, no matter what you think, feel or fear. They’re going to pick up their crayons and walk right out, even if it takes God striking down statist Pharaoh again with plagues and drowning his minions behind them, as they chase after the children to enslave them again.

    For America and the West a generation will die in Egypt in bondage and another might be lost in the wilderness. But there is always a Remnant that will arrive to the Promised Land, bringing down walls, establishing His Law, and removing every Canaanite barbarian, this time with the sword of Truth, just as I’m doing.

    Weep and mourn for your Babylon, because her days are numbered.

    Lastly, before you launch any response, go read up on regeneration to come to know that it is not forced upon anyone through statist means, which is the only means you understand and the prism you look at the world through. Regeneration is of God not the State. This is not kingdom by the power of Man or Man’s politics. It is kingdom by the power of the Spirit of God.

    There are a good 9 misconceptions about my position that you’d be wise to refrain from rehashing without first understanding why they’re misconceptions. So if you want to continue this dialogue, then first go get thoroughly familiarized with them and the truth. Then we can continue.

  9. Reply eljefe Sep 16,2009 1:00 am

    Yes, Joey, that is exactly what I am telling you. There is sacred law and secular law. There are duties to God and duties to Caesar. And, yes, Joey the Obtuse, I am sure the Founding Fathers had that in mind when they designed our governmental system.

    Revisionist history? Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black? I offer evidence from primary sources that the Founding Fathers were not as theocratic as you believe they were, and you ignore the evidence and stick to the same old arguments and misquotes.

    Consider this. If the Founding Fathers had intended to run the nation on Biblical principles, why didn’t they? They had the opportunity, after all. Instead, they devised the Articles of Cnfederation, which practically speaking, were an utter failure. Then they devised the Constitution, which has been so far pretty successful as a practical way to run a country.

    Neither invoked Scriptural Law. Neither placed a church or religious leader as head of the country. They were both secular in nature.

    So, if the Founding Fathers really wanted to create a Christian Nation in the sense you clearly desire, why didn’t they?

    Here’s one possible answer. Because it is a really, really bad idea. That’s why. How many truly theocratic states have been successful for very long? How many guarantee their people freedom of expression, of worship, of a free press? Name one. I challenge you.

    Yes, I brought up politics — actually political science, there’s a difference — because suggesting we toss out the Constitution with the trash is a political statement. You may have religious principles guiding your arguments, but the statement itself is political. And I chose only to address the political aspects of your argument, not the religious ones. Since I am one of the “unregenerate,” you would probably discount everything I say, anyway. So why waste my breath?

    Meanwhile, how about addressing my points, which you have so far avoided doing?

    • If majority rule is Tyranny, then how is theocratic rule any better? A tyrant tells everyone to do things his way, or else. Sounds like what you’re proposing, actually.
    • Did Patrick Henry really say the Bible is worth all other books combined? What’s your source for this information?
    • Did he actually intend Christianity to be the foundation of our legal system and government?
    • If the Founding Fathers wanted a Christian Nation, why didn’t they do it? Why bother designing a secular government?
    • If we replace secular law with Scriptural Law, who does the judging? People will have to get involved sometime, so how would we escape the problem of imperfect humans setting themselves above other imperfect humans to interpret the law?
    • Were Jefferson and Washington just pulling everyone’s legs when they said the government has a responsibility to educate the people?
    • Where does it say the State forces you to have your kids educated in public schools?
    • What do we do with all the kids whose parents are not your flavor of Christian? That’s a lot of kids, you know. Convert them all? That could get really messy.

    All you have done to address these questions is to thump on your pulpit, accuse me and others of being unregenerate Christians, and wax eloquently about this wonderful future time of the Kingdom on the Hill where every child gets a full and complete education from his perfect and wise parents … as long as they all become your version of a regenerate Christian.

    I don’t have a Utopia, Joey, and I never said I did. It’s a messy, inefficient, rambunctious governmental system that has neverthless worked remarkably for more than two centuries, despite a civil war, several awful presidents, countless corrupt congressmen/women, dodgy Supreme Court justices, several economic crises, and threats from other world superpowers. You may not like it, but it works.

    Meanwhile, your vision of His Kingdom in the temporal world is a Utopia. It depends on everyone unwaveringly following His Law to the letter, and that is very difficult, if not impossible. “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those that find it.” Even Jesus knew following his instructions would be hard. You, on the other hand, believe we imperfect humans can all act perfectly, according to “God’s Law” (a rather imperfectly defined term, by the way). So, like I said before, good luck with that idea.

    If you reject the State, then sever all your connections to it. And I mean all. No car (you need a drivers license to use public roadways). No public utilities (State regulated). No cable or satellite TV (ditto). No radio (ditto). No bought food (ditto). No bought clothes (sales tax). No bank accounts. No Social Security, Medicare, VA benefits, unemployment insurance, workers comp — you’ll have to quit your job and do … what? No Internet (it originated partly as a defense-related government network). When you manage to do all this, send me a letter … oh, right, you couldn’t. You’d have to buy a government-approved postage stamp.

  10. Reply Joey Sep 15,2009 4:32 pm

    So you’re telling me that the Constitution of the United States supercedes the Word of God and that this is what our Founding Fathers believed.

    Can’t you see how plainly foolish this stance truly is?

    Nothing supercedes the Word of God, least of all sinful Man’s word. All that adheres to God’s Word is sound, sane, straight. Whatever has made the Constitution of any lasting value is only that which aligns to God’s Word. Apart from that, it is just a useless, yellow-stained piece of decaying paper to join all other human relics in the dust bin of history and be forgotten in eternity.

    I’m not interested in your revisionist history. I’m with the Anti Federalists and still believe that the Bill of Rights did not cover all that was necessary to keep tyranny from rising in due time in the land, just as it’s happened and they warned. But I thought we’d not get into politics, ElJefe. You’re breaking your commitment. You just can’t let it go, can you? Politics is fundamental to your Man-centric, State-driven worldview, because it’s all about Man’s power and the churning of the masses like a tossing sea for you, isn’t it?

    You twist all I say, and then address nothing — the mark of an unregenerate soul, who steals from my epistemological wood pile to build his own hut only to claim that he built his own house with his own non-existent wood.

    But you’d not be so adamant about “just leave everybody else and their kids alone” were it not because you thought that there is a possibility that my ideas and that of people like me could move mountains. After all, it was Rushdoony and Sayers who are most responsible for initiating the homeschool movement of the last 25 years, which has proven that there is no need to depend on the State for education.

    Our goal is to continue calling true Christians — the regenerate — to obedience to their Christ until the State is reduced to its rightful place and size, and people like you grow into an insignificant hush that the wind will blow away like so much ash. The rock that is Christ has hit your statue’s feet of clay and iron mix, and brought it down to nought, ElJefe. Now and for the last 2,000 years it grows and spreads across the face of this earth to cover it all.

    Your Utopia has no future. But His Kingdom last forever.

    In the grand scheme of things, the U.S. is only one country. We’re after disciples the world over generation after generation to join the Christian generations that preceded them, “For it is written, ‘As I live’, saith the Lord, ‘Every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God’.” (Romans 14:11)

    That includes yours.

  11. Reply eljefe Sep 16,2009 7:27 am

    Awww, Joey’s mad, and he’s taking his marbles and going home …

    Nice move. You complain that I haven’t addressed your questions. Then when I call you out for dodging my questions, and even repeating them, you get all huffy and complain, “Well, you don’t understand! I don’t wanna talk to you anymore. I’m going home!”

    You’re too predictable, Joey. Like a lot of other faith-based reformers, you don’t really want to address reality, or the logical objections to your plan, or the potential problems caused by your vision of the future. You just want to exhort us all to Believe!

    I will give you credit, though. You are perceptive. Maybe I do think like a “statist.” I do see Christian theocracy as another version of an Islamist state. And I do speak like an atheist, because I am one.

    As for due diligence, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, son. I have studied Christian history from the days of Jesus and the apostles, through the early Christian fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, Henry VIII, the Puritan Revolution, the Great Awakening, right up to the present day. Meanwhile, I have been a student of the Revolution for more than 30 years. I had ancestors who fought in it, and were prisoners of war. So you will excuse me if I get a little huffy when people like you say we fought the British to create a Christian State. I can’t imagine either my Quaker or my Baptist forebears would have agreed to that premise.

    No amount of inductive thinking will overcome what is easily deduced from the premises laid down by the behavior of our Founding Father’s forefathers.

    And no amount of your handwaving arguments, misattributed quotations, or Biblical exhortations will convince me that I and two centuries of American history are wrong and somehow you’re right. I will read the stuff on your links, but I suspect I will still remain a pig, as you so eloquently suggest. I wouldn’t want to waste your pearls.

  12. Reply Joey Sep 16,2009 5:48 am

    Like I told you before repeatedly: REGENERATION!!

    Go study it carefully. You keep thinking like a statist, seeing theocracy like a Muslim, and speaking like an atheist.

    There is no hope for you in understanding me without regeneration. So if you care enough, you will do your due diligence. If you don’t care, then all this exchange between us is pointless.

    No need to waste pearls on pigs, as Jesus said.

    As to the Founding Fathers, see this.

    No amount of inductive thinking will overcome what is easily deduced from the premises laid down by the behavior of our Founding Father’s forefathers.

  13. Reply Joey Sep 16,2009 4:54 pm

    Yes, they’re pearls not marbles. And it’s Jesus who calls you dog and swine, not I: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Matthew 7:6) And I’m not childish. I’m direct.

    But I’ll turn the other cheek on this once more, and ask you, again, have you done your reading on regeneration yet? It stands contrary to your belief in salvation by democratic revolution.

    Ah! And spare me the faith-is-fantasy pronouncements. There is nothing more real than God. Although God is incomprehensible, what He reveals to man of Himself isn’t, particularly Logic. To wit:

    1. The Word of God is True (John 17:17)
    2. God is one who teaches man His Word (Psalm 119:102-104)
    3. God is one who teaches man Truth

    Because God teaches man Truth, He can teach man Knowledge.

    1. If God is one who teaches man Knowledge, then man’s knowledge is identical to some of God’s Knowledge.
    2. God is one who teaches man Knowledge (Psalm 119:102)
    3. Man’s knowledge is identical to some of God’s Knowledge

    So man receives both Truth and Knowledge from God. How?

    1. If God teaches man His Word, and if God’s Word is true, then language is adequate to communicate Truth.
    2. God is one who teaches man His Word. (Psalm 119:102-104)
    3. Language is adequate to communicate Truth

    And language is what I’ve been using to communicate to you logically God’s Knowledge and Truth, the only supreme Knowledge and Truth there is.

    What you fail to accept, and you rightly say so, is the premise of God not being you, for you want to be God. And nothing could logicallybe more ridiculous than the false premise to which you adhere.

    It is illogical that you measure the world according to yourself (“I and two centuries of American history…”), when you can’t even command a cloud of mosquitoes to fly in formation.

    Why then should we bow down to your understandings, experiences and pronouncements, when you’re merely a creature and one standing in defiance against your Creator?

    But sin is not logical. It is madness and cannot be penetrated by understanding.

    Read up on regeneration.

    There might be some hope left for you, Jefe de Nada.

  14. Reply eljefe Sep 17,2009 7:26 am

    Thanks for today’s Bible lesson. Now, are you going to get around to answering my questions – the ones that are still lingering in the air? Or do I have to jump through more hoops before you will deign to answer them?

    It makes me wonder whether you can answer the questions at all.

    Meanwhile, I never said anything about “salvation by democratic revolution.” You are putting words in my mouth, incorrectly contrasting my observations about American political history with your beliefs about Christian salvation.

    Nor did I ever say I wanted to be God. Where did you get that from? Thin air?

    How is this statement remotely logical: “It is illogical that you measure the world according to yourself (”I and two centuries of American history…”), when you can’t even command a cloud of mosquitoes to fly in formation.” The two clauses have nothing at all to do with each other. I am not measuring the world according to myself. I am pointing out that 200+ years have passed since the Constitution was ratified. My inability to command mosquitoes to fly in formation has no bearing on a well accepted historical fact.

    Then you challenge me with this: “Why then should we bow down to your understandings, experiences and pronouncements, when you’re merely a creature and one standing in defiance against your Creator?”

    Well, then, why should I listen to you? You are merely a creature, too. You are setting yourself up as someone superior to me, which as I recall is one of your objections to having representatives passing laws controlling me and you. You of course believe I am in defiance of God, and you are not. But you have not addressed one of my questions, and it is a critical one.

    Your neat little syllogisms hang on a flawed presumption, that humans can truly and reliably understand the Word of God. You mention the adequacy of language to communicate Truth, but you should know that Christians have spent 2,000 years debating (and coming to bloodshed over) different interpretations of the same sections of Scripture. There are dozens of different English translations of the Bible, each with subtle differences in interpretation of the original languages. You do remember Babel, right?

    As I pointed out before, some person or persons has to interpret the Law, whether its Scriptural or secular. Given the imperfection of humans, how can we be sure his interpretation is the right one? The Catholics took care of that dilemma by simply declaring the Pope infallible. Very efficient, but Protestants rejected that idea. Just count how many different Protestant sects there are, as a result.

    To put it diagrammatically,

    God –> Truth –> Word(s) –> Person A reading words –> A’s understanding of God’s Truth
    God –> Truth –> Word(s) –> Person B reading words –> B’s understanding of God’s Truth

    Suppose further that both A and B are regenerate Christians. How do A and B decide who’s interpretation is correct. Do they ask C, who may have yet another understanding? Do they take it to a council to settle the issue? They could prayerfully consider their differences, but if A is not very humble, he may well decide he’s right anyway.

    Religious wars get started this way. Congregations split apart. New sects start up. To avoid total anarchy, someone has to exercise some temporal authority to keep the flock from scattering all over hill and dale. That means some person or persons has be the final arbiter.

    And do not pull out the regeneration card again, Joey. You know as well as I that all born-again Christians do not think alike. They are not cut from the same cloth. If it were so, there would be fewer sects, not too many to count. Your version of a Christian Utopia is an old one, and it has yet to come to fruition. Humans are an unruly, contentious lot, and if I were God (which I am not), I would be pretty tired of us by now. We really cannot seem to agree on anything.

    I’ve enjoyed our discussion here, but I have thrown out a lot of questions that you have simply not answered. I am trying to respond to your objections to my arguments as best as I can. You just throw Bible verses at me, and duck my questions. If you post again, use some space to directly address my questions and my misgivings about your Grand Plan. Otherwise I am not going to guarantee your comments will leave the comments queue.

  15. Reply eljefe Sep 18,2009 11:51 pm

    Well, you sort of answered one of my questions, but once again evaded directly answering several others. Now, you have opened another issue, whether the states have the authority to impose religion on their citizens. I refuse to walk down that path, though I am prepared to argue the premise, because it is just a diversion away from the questions I would still like answered.

    I think you are saying that if all people were regenerate Christians they would all agree on the same understanding of God’s Law. Thus, there would be no strife or disagreement, and everyone would teach their kids essentially the same things.

    And you chastise me for imagining a utopia (which I actually never did). You yourself have a utopian vision. Given the history of Christianity (and every other religion), and the nature of human beings, I doubt your utopia would last longer than a generation.

  16. Reply Joey Sep 18,2009 4:39 pm

    “…My inability to command mosquitoes to fly in formation has no bearing on a well accepted historical fact.”

    Again, you’re missing my point. Facts by themselves neither prove nor refute anything. Everything is determined by the interpretation of the facts. You can produce a list of facts ad infinitum and I will accept none of them as an argument in itself, merely by your spouting them at me. I’m studying your theories, your interpretations of the facts first and foremost, once I come to accept those facts that are indeed true.

    The fact is, as you said, that your experience and your arbitrary selection of historical facts woven together by your interpretation of these personal experiences and observations of yours determine the breadth and depth of what constitutes, what I’d refer to as, “the supreme standard” by which you measure what is true and acceptable and what is not true and acceptable to you. All of it follows from what you said.

    The fundamental presupposition that you make in speaking like this is that your mind is the final arbiter of all. It’s Gnosticism plain and simple.

    For my part, I gave you my presupposition: God is who He is. He is arbiter of all. And He sure isn’t me or you, or any other creature, no matter the conflict among us to play at being Him, about which you refer when you speak of religious wars. Look at my syllogisms. They all presuppose God as first cause, not man. They all appeal to submission to and dependence on Him.

    Now, I’m tired of telling you to read up on regeneration — the only point in our gap where from we might build a bridge of understanding between us. So I’m going to summarize it for you here.

    Regeneration is the fact of re-birth as revealed in a teaching by God to man through His own manifestation of Himself in the flesh, namely Jesus. He taught of a complete metamorphosis that brings to life a new creature from the condition in which man is first born, that of a zombie-like, “walking dead”, sinning human — materially (flesh) animated but immaterially (spirit) dead. Call that the state of degeneration, separation from God and death. The rescue from it is an act of Grace from God and not of our own doing. Through His life-giving Spirit, He purifies and transforms at will whom He chooses for regeneration.

    The result?

    In the words of J.I. Packer: What occurs is a renovation of “the heart, the core of a personâ��s being, by implanting a new principle of desire, purpose, and action, a dispositional dynamic that finds expression in positive response to the gospel.” And what is the gospel? It is the news that the Lord of the universal manor has returned to take what belongs to Him and thereby advance His kingdom, as I told you earlier. Christians are citizens of this kingdom and required to herald its advancement and work toward its fulfillment. It’s the advancement of victory over death (Life), Peace and Prosperity. That’s the gospel. And Christians — true Christians — fulfill it out of love for God, for His Word, for Him we call Father.

    What is the significance of all this in our discussion about abolishing compulsory education and public school?

    It is that without regeneration man cannot self-govern.

    Government begins with the self. Each of us must be able to govern our own person before venturing to govern anything or anyone else. And self-government begins with submission to God — an impossible thing to do without His act of regeneration to the heart of man.

    Call this that I’m telling you philosophy. Call it a worldview. Heck! Call it religion! Whatever you choose to call it, it is fundamental to understanding what drives a true believer in all he does. Willful, glad submission to a rescuing, loving God is the only way for man to govern and be governed.

    Our Founding Fathers knew this only too well.

    Let me attempt to answer most of your questions and remove the scourge of your accusations of subterfuge, in striking at the misconception that secularism was at the heart of the Constitution when it comes to religion and state, by looking at Jefferson, who you quoted when our exchange first began days ago. We all know he was no preacher. He was a child of the Enlightenment era. So we won’t disagree that his tendencies were certainly secular rather than religious.

    Indeed he spoke in his Danbury letter to the separatists about the importance of separation of church and state. Those were his words. In fact, that was his precise phraseology, as we all know. But what was his intent? Was it to remove the church from the state and vice versa?

    On the contrary, his intent was precise in asserting that it was to limit the national government and keep it from establishing a national denomination — a Christian denomination at that! No more, no less.

    In a letter to Samuel Miller dated January 23, 1808, Jefferson amplified his view on the subject, saying: “Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority,” which clearly means that he favored to the extent that was humanly possible the prescription of religious exercise by the states, if they so wished to apply their authority in religious discipline. And he opposed in like manner the delegation of this authority to the general (i.e. central) government assembly.

    The Supreme Court in the 20th-Century erred in the Everson v. Board of Education case that quotes Jefferson’s words as the normative guideline to interpret the First Amendment, which clearly was written to restrict the government and not the people. When you consider that this amendment was written 12 times to convey its intent clearly and that, except for three states, all other states in the Union invoke the name of Almighty God in the preambles to their constitutions, then per the Constitution of the United States of America the states and not the central government could and did indeed establish religion — Christianity, for that is the Almighty God they referred to — in their domains and with the full support of Thomas Jefferson.

    Your historical understanding of the relationship between church and state as our Founding Fathers saw it is flawed.

    But this is no more than a theoretical exercise if de jure I were right and de facto you removed Christianity from the public schools, for instance. So I’m trying to even out this inconsistency, by adhering to the historical de jure condition and returning to a de facto state of being. To accomplish that, we Christians must remove all Christian children from public schools, bringing consequently the system to a collapse, to reinstitute what the Founding Fathers favored, including Jefferson.

    We call all regenerates to this task. It is Christian and it is American.

  17. Reply Joey Sep 20,2009 10:46 pm

    Yes, ElJefe, the states constitutionally have the authority to establish (not impose) religion. Big difference. So said your hero Jefferson.

    And…if all people were regenerate (Note: saying Christian regenerates is redundant), then we’d have heaven on earth. Not gonna HA-pen!!

    Historically the stance of the Church on earth is that of contra mundum — against the world — until the return of Christ. This is an on-going struggle. But this is an advancing church — the Church Militant or Ecclesia Militant) — a congregation of believers who struggles forward like, to paint a picture, soldiers do into battle who, upon death, join the ranks of the Church Triumphant or Ecclesia Triumphans — a triumph over sin, i.e. over lawlessness. But in the meantime, we advance. And we do so for the glory of Almighty God — the God of the Bible.

    And we take our kids with us in this advance, which is why they ought be out of statist schools, that will then irremediably fall into oblivion as a result of this exodus. But we’re not called to establish heaven on earth — the Christian Utopia that you referred to. You’ve spoken of things you’ve not understood. But I hope you understand now.

    So, how about I give you in a manner that you’d understand the following to address the rest of your skepticism about how you could keep your statist system from falling completely apart, i.e. how to keep it from getting abolished. The following is from the Afterword in Charlotte Iserbyt’s “The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.” She was Senior Policy Advisor at the Dept. of Education. (My emphasis is added.)

    "Elected officials at the local level have the authority to re-establish public education
    according to the wishes of the taxpayers in each local community. Teachers with degrees
    in specific subject matter could be hired without requiring that they have state or national
    which subjects them to seemingly ruinous training courses which do not deal
    with academic material.

    "However, the funding of the schools must remain local if citizens wish to re-create truly academic institutions. There can be no tuition tax credits, vouchers, charter schools, or laundered state tax monies (monies co-mingled with federal money) if citizens wish to be 100% in charge of the education philosophy; i.e., curriculum, hiring of teachers, teaching methods, etc.

    "Americans forget too easily the old saying, 'He who pays the piper calls the tune.' For those who find such a solution unworkable due to the discrepancies in local community tax bases, I say refer to the beginning of this book regarding the ability to educate on a shoestring. Education costs little: brainwashing and social services are very, very expensive."

    No tuition tax credits? No vouchers? No charter schools? No laundered state tax monies? Citizens 100% in charge of the educational philosophy? And states constitutionally approved to establish religion in accordance to citizen wishes per our Founding Fathers? Man! Frankly, it all sounds like the abolition of the public school as we know it, ElJefe.

    So check it out. Let’s get the Christians — the REAL ones, the ones who obey their God — start out on this.

    Think of it as a Christian Education Manifesto in action.


  18. Reply eljefe Sep 29,2009 11:06 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this “unschooling” movement some recently. As a former longtime physics teacher, I honestly cannot see how most parents would be equipped to teach decent science (or math) to their kids. It took me several years of studying physics and science pedagogy in general before I was comfortable enough to actually teach the subject. (For the record, I taught up to the Advanced Placement calculus-based level.) Meanwhile, I can muddle my way through chemistry passably well, and do an adequate, but not spectacular job teaching biology. I’ve taught algebra and precalculus, too, but never geometry.

    Now, I’ve been teaching for 25 years. I know my limitations. No doubt many homeschooler/unschooler parents do, too. Many, but not all. There is a significant number of parents weak in math and science who would do a crappy job teaching those subjects to their children. From the standpoint of educational equity, that presents a real problem. We already have equity problems with our decentralized public school system supported by property taxes. Further decentralizing it with homeschools seems to be a step in the wrong direction, especially if parents, like Joey, reject any kind of government regulation of education.

    As I keep reiterating, and Joey keeps ignoring, in an ideal world parents could in fact give their kids an adequate education, but the real world, it would never happen, not for everyone, anyway. Joey, with his faith-inspired libertarianism, does not see that as a valid issue, however. Somehow he expects that all parents magically will be able to teach their kids the same things.

    Somehow I also suspect that math and science are not part of his imaginary curriculum, though.

  19. Reply Cheryl Sep 29,2009 11:59 am

    Joey said, “Scriptural Law doesn’t trump secular law, ElJefe, since there is no law apart from Scriptural Law. What the secular calls “law” — ain’t. Only when anything that you call secular law aligns with Scriptural Law could what you call “law” be truly Law.”

    I would submit for your consideration, Joey, the law that the doors of public buildings must swing outwards, to facilitate egress in case of emergency such as fire. I don’t recall that issue being addressed in your scriptures. So I wonder, would you really prefer to live in a society in which every individual building owner must learn for himself, through experiment, that outward swinging doors are safer? Or do you prefer a society in which we collectively learn and benefit from each other’s experiences?

    This law does not exist because the people who wrote, voted on, and signed the law were in some way superior to all of us who now follow that law. They enacted the law because it was their job. They were hired to do it by the people who voted for them. When we as a society base our laws on this thing called “reality”, i.e. historical evidence, we improve the living conditions for ourselves and those who come after us. Without this capabilty to act on observations, a lot more people would get burned to death in buildings with inward swinging doors. Among other things.

    I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” For example, it is faster and easier for a person to escape a burning building through an outward swinging door than an inward swinging door, whether that person believes in God or not. So I think it is worth your time to consider the possibility that secular law does indeed exist.

    I would also submit for your consideration that: “a society functions better when its citizens are well educated” is another one of those pesky facts of “reality”.

  20. Reply Cheryl Sep 30,2009 9:19 am

    I see unschooling as the opposite extreme to the old-fashioned, all kids sit at a desk all day and do the exact same rote drills no matter what their ability level or interests, type of education. In my opinion, nothing extreme is ever good. (Is that an extreme statement? 🙂

    The advantage I see to unschooling, done well, is that it preserves a child’s natural inquisitiveness. That inquisitiveness would, ideally, eventually lead a child to want to know real science and to demand that their parent seek out a qualified person to learn from, if the parent is not.

    I taught one semester of remedial algebra to incoming university students, as a graduate student in math, as well as working in the math center and privately tutoring high school students throughout college, so I am very familiar with the difficulties many people have with math. When I am introduced to someone and they learn that my degrees are in math and engineering, it is rare that they do not respond with how horrible they are at math and/or how much they do not like it.

    It would take a special type of person, as parent, not to subconsciously (or even consciously) steer away from subjects they are not personally comfortable with, and a very insightful and confident child to realize that what the parent is teaching is not adequate, and to insist on a qualified instructor if one is not proffered.

    So, all that is a longwinded way of saying I agree with you eljefe, that homeschooling and unschooling put kids at risk of inadequate instruction in math and science.

  21. Reply eljefe Oct 1,2009 3:29 am

    Frankly speaking, some unschoolers and homeschoolers, especially those of a more conservative bent, think we are still living in a time where McGuffey Readers (and a Bible) are all a parent needs to teach their kids. Details like a decent education in science, math, secular literature, unbiased histories of the USA, and so on, are not in their curricula, I suspect.

    Properly done, any form of education can preserve and bolster a child’s natural inquisitiveness, although I must agree that formal schooling sometimes can kill that natural curiosity pretty quickly. The point is, sometimes is not always. American schools graduate plenty of students each year who still have creativity and curiosity in their being. Compared to the Chinese system, which is almost entirely based on rote learning, memorization and examinations right up through graduate school education, American kids have more flexibility and practical experience than their Chinese peers.

    Meanwhile, expecting parents to all do a wonderful job at pedagogy is unrealistic, too. Parents can kill off natural curiosity in a child as easily as a school or school teacher. All it takes is an angry word, or an off-the-cuff remark (“girls can’t do math as well as boys,” for example) to put a child off a particular subject. I have gotten the “physics was my worst subject” or “it’s the only course I flunked in college” so many times from parents that I lost count.

    Recently, I learned about a public school critic, John Taylor Gatto, who attacks public education from the left-wing side. Some of what he says I agree with, but like Joey here, Gatto has such an axe to grind that he overlooks the weaknesses in his own arguments. I am trying to wade through Gatto’s online book now. The man seriously needs an editorial staff to cut down his verbiage.

  22. Reply eljefe Oct 1,2009 3:50 am

    Meanwhile, I feel as if this remark from Joey, the history scholar, deserves some rebuttal.

    … the states and not the central government could and did indeed establish religion — Christianity, for that is the Almighty God they referred to — in their domains and with the full support of Thomas Jefferson.

    Well, no, they didn’t. Ten of the 13 colonies had “state religions.” The exceptions were Pennsylvania/West Jersey, Rhode Island/Providence Plantation, and Delaware. By 1818, however, there were no state religions in the USA. (See this link.)

    Furthermore, giving thanks to Almighty God or crediting the Creator for the establishment of a state does not mean a state was intent on creating a “Christian state.” All of the state constitutions, as far as I know, reiterate the protections contained the First Amendment to the US Constitution. For example, here is what the Kentucky constitution says:

    Bill of Rights, section 1.

    All men are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned:

    Second: The right of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of their consciences.

    Bill of Rights, section 5.

    No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious sect, society or denomination; nor to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity; nor shall any person be compelled to attend any place of worship, to contribute to the erection or maintenance of any such place, or to the salary or support of any minister of religion; nor shall any man be compelled to send his child to any school to which he may be conscientiously opposed; and the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in any way diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching. No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

    Now I don’t see how those two clauses can be construed to permit the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which does give thanks to Almighty God in the Preamble to its constitution, to create a state religion. Without doing an exhaustive perusal of the other resources at this website, I can guarantee all the other states have similar provisions, even Utah.

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