EDUCATION IN AMERICA – THEN AND NOW

Our founders were big on education. They believed a nation that was educated was more likely to remain free. However, if education was so important, why didn’t they include it in the U.S. Constitution? I believe they did. There are seventeen enumerated powers given to the Federal Government in the Constitution, yet none of them concern education.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  The Tenth Amendment

Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, physician, scientist, and founding father understood the importance of an education for the citizens to establish a secure and stable republic:

“Contemplating merely the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues which constitute the soul of republicanism.”

Notice Dr. rush spoke of the “principles of Christianity.”  He did not suggest the schools become places of forced conversion, only that the Biblical principles were the source of the principles necessary for self governance.  Also note that when he speaks of republicans and republicanism he speaks of terms relating to our Republic, not a party.

When I speak of the changes in education, some are quick to point out that things have changed. There were no computers. True. But wait, weren’t we told that computers were a tool that will save us time?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting computers are bad. They are no different than a shovel or a gun, it is a tool.

Most in our new nation understood the importance of education and each community did what it saw best for it’s families. The framers saw education as a key element if the fight against tyranny.  Travel was difficult so schools were small and located so the majority would not have to travel much more than five miles, an acceptable distance to walk even for the youngest.. We were an agrarian society so the school day and terms were set around the busiest times on the farm, planting and harvest. Many areas had a summer term and a winter term leaving the spring and fall free for farming.

The school day was shorter in most cases and the year shorter. Beginning at eight or nine and ending at two to four o’clock for around 132 days. Today, the average is 180 days. School was available but attendance was not required, averaging about 59%. Most schools were a single room, heated by a wood of coal stove with an outhouse in back for a toilet facility.

The average child had to wake early to accomplish chores such as milking, feeding and watering livestock and fowl before walking up to 5 miles to school. Remember, this was a privilege, not a requirement.  The teacher would be a single woman, when married she would have duties at home and would not be able to attend to the needs of the children. A school or schools might have a “Headmaster”, or it might simply be the area men who watched over the school. The teacher often stayed with a family that lived near the school, most of her pay being the room and board she was provided.

The children would be from first to eighth grade with the youngest sitting in the front row. No paper and pencils, there would be a large blackboard in the front of the room and the children would have a small one on which to write or perform math problems. There was no lunch available, children would bring their lunch in a small pail. There would be an hour for lunch and recess.  The teacher would give lessons to each age group and older kids would help the younger ones, building a sense of community and mentoring. By the time they reached the eighth grade, they had had all the lessons many times. Examples of 19th century school books are the McGuffey Readers, others can be found here. Lessons included moral principles and ethics required for good citizenship.

There was no janitor or maintenance personnel. The children would sweep, mop, haul wood and other needed chores. The community would provide the fuel for heat in the winter.  The entire community was engaged in the education process. Understand that the men who sent us to the moon, designed the SR-71 and other accomplishments had this educational beginning.  The men who helped for the republic were homeschooled in most cases.  Thomas Jefferson went to William and Mary at seventeen having learned three languages besides English; Greek, Latin and French.  He would also study Italian for some of his architecture. Much of his famous library was in languages other than English.

To graduate you had to pass the Eighth Grade final exam, this example from my state of Kansas. According to the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas “this test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, KS. An interesting note is the fact that county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade.”

Much of the modern day schooling is attributed to John Dewey.  Well known as a progressive in his day, Dewey operated a private school in Chicago to prove his theories.  Dewey’s work and impact is widely applauded by Marxists and accepted by those who are ignorant of his goals.  Marxists consider his efforts vital for a “bourgeois-democratic revolution”, a permanent revolution.  He urged a departure from teaching the “Three R’s”, opting “into learning the more abstract, intellectual branches of knowledge.” This of course sets the stage for teaching young minds either in a good or sinister way.

Education and books are a vital part of the Marxist/Progressive/Socialist mindset. “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” “Print is the sharpest and the strongest weapon of our party.” – Joseph Stalin  Am I saying all teachers and school administrators are Marxists or socialists? Of course not. However many if not most are unwilling accomplices to those who are. Just as with the Manhattan Project, very few know the end product on which they are working, only the small component with which they have been tasked.

Dewey’s principles also pushed all children towards higher education beyond primary school. Of course not all the national education shortcomings can be laid at the feet of John Dewey, but we cannot ignore what we see today and think his policies had nothing to do with it either. We have taken God, morals, ethics and virtuous principles our of our schools and substituted feel good social agenda.

Most college graduates could never pass the eighth grade final exam given as late as the 1920s. College graduates have useless degrees and owe tens of thousands of dollars for their college education, or their parents have buried themselves in debt to pay it themselves – or both. Every child gets a trophy destroying the idea of success and failure, risk and reward. Universities are creating “Safe Spaces” so students will not have to endure anything uncomfortable and offering places where they can play with “Play-Doh, coloring books, tissues and hot chocolate to de-stress.

Does it sound as if we are “progressing” in our education, or “regressing?” The problem is now multi-generational. History and civics are either not taught or only enough to present a furtherance of the Marxist agenda. Most children today do not see socialism as a failure, but simply an alternative governing option, that is if they even know what it is. We have not even addressed the school shootings and the across the board decline in respect for authority.

Our problems are legion, the failures in education are only one.  Not only is the product of our schools less prepared for society, it is also falling behind in relation to the rest of the world, slipping from number 18 to 24 from 2009 to 2014. College tuition has risen 1000 percent since 1970. It’s taken 100 years to bring the US to this point and returning to a true education system run by parents and states will not return overnight, if ever. But we must stop the current trends and return to the essentials, we must abandon the social engineering and teach history lest we repeat even more mistakes of the past.

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