Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Faith in education

Education Secretary Rod Paige offered the following comments to a Baptist news service:

All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith.

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The reason that Christian schools and Christian universities are growing is a result of a strong value system...In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values.

Now, it's unclear from this sentence whether Paige meant to say children in government-run schools should be taught Christian values, but not surprisingly, that's how some people took it. Barry Lynn, the leftist head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, immediately called for Paige's resignation, saying the secretary's remarks were an affront to "diversity." These comments were echoed by American Federation of Teachers president Sandra Feldman, who emphasized diversity is "what makes our public schools great."

The problem with Paige's remarks, however, is not his alleged attacks on "diversity," but his declaration of faith as a means of education. You do not "teach" faith to children; you impose it upon them through coercion. Faith is the systematic denial of the reasoning process by which men thrive. Faith is not a valid means of cognition, yet the secretary's remarks clearly state otherwise.

At the same time, it's pointless to call for Paige's resignation. The Department of Education exists largely to provide government schools—and the teacher unions which control them—with a permanent foothold in Washington, and nothing in Paige's remarks threaten this stranglehold. Indeed, the teachers unions are simply another vehicle preaching a secular Gospel of altruism to the 50 million students they currently hold captive thanks to the government monopoly on education. Unless Secretary Paige is prepared to address that reality, it makes little difference what he says or does otherwise in office.

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