Separation of church and state. This is a concept we are all familiar with and throughout our history as a nation have demanded. Why? Why is the separation of church and state so important? Freedom from religious persecution is one of our founding principles, and you as an individual have the right to decide what religion you believe in, or to not be part of a religion at all.
Now, imagine that one day you and everyone you know receives a letter from the federal government stating that you no longer have that right. You will no longer be able to choose how/if you worship, but based on your geographic location you will be required to attend the church designated in this letter, and if you refuse then you are subject to imprisonment. The letter also states that attendance is mandatory, that you will be tested on the material taught and continually monitored so the government can track your progress in learning the material and can assess the instructor’s ability to teach, based on test scores.
Maybe this is how a morning at a state-run “church” would go:
It’s 7:50 a.m., everyone is filing into the building so they won’t be late for the 8 a.m. teaching. As my family enters the building my children are directed to the left, my husband and I are directed to the right. My children will be in their assigned rooms, based on their age while my husband and I join the adults in the main gathering area. Attendance will be taken as children enter their rooms, and our attendance will be noted as we enter the gathering area. By 8:00 a.m. we are in our seats, ready to listen to the weekly teaching. While the children learn the weekly teaching through worksheets, games and play activities, the adults listen to a sermon being given by a government approved official.
Isn’t the idea of state-run religion a good one? Wouldn’t we all benefit from being taught the same ideas in an orderly way? Shouldn’t we trust that the government has our best interest at heart and knows how best to guide us morally?
Did you just yell “No!” at the screen? Good, glad to hear it. Now, consider for a moment a state-run institution we do have: public schools. Just like the scenario above we are mandated, according to geographic location, to send our children to school every day. We send them to a place where we have no say in the curriculum that is taught or the tests that are given, a place where we trust the government to have our children’s best interest at heart, but do they?
I know that as a parent to young children I had simply accepted the fact (until recently) that my kids would attend public school. Since we have decided to homeschool I have been exploring all types of ideas and theories about teaching kids. And in this research I have come across the idea of separation of school and state.
Separation of school and state is as valid an idea as separation of church and state. Why would we leave the formation of our young children’s minds to the government when we don’t leave the formation of their moral being to the government? Aren’t the two intertwined to the degree, especially in young children, that they are nearly the same? In the early formative years there are few people more powerful in a child’s life than a teacher that they spend six hours a day with. Shouldn’t parents have the ability to truly choose a school setting that is right for their family and children?
Let’s go with another scenario, one in which there are no more public schools, at least no more public schools in the sense that we know them. What’s the alternative? Many alternatives are already available, private schools, charter schools, homeschooling. Maybe you and a group of other like-minded parents start your own school in your own neighborhood? Some teachers might get together and start a school. If we separate the school from the state, then we free ourselves to explore endless options that benefit children (not politicians or their cronies) and put the power and responsibility back in the hands of parents.
We have been lulled into a sense of security and become apathetic about what is going on in our schools while programs like No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, which implements Common Core State Standards (CCSS) have chipped away the power and responsibility of parents. It’s time for us to become informed and empowered so we can make decisions based on knowledge, not fear. In my next series of posts I’ll be talking about CCSS and what it means to our schools and kids. If you’d like to start your own research, start here and here. I hope you’ll join me in becoming informed and empowered!by