Monday, November 20, 2006

Religion, Public School, and Parents

This weekend I borrowed a book from a friend, Bible Study Course, New Testament for Dallas Public Schools. After an eloquent forward by Henry Van Dyke,

Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of the world with familiar feet and enters land after land to find its own
the book defined the parameters of the course,

Classes may be organized by any Sunday school or church or any other religious organization for the purpose of studying the Bible in their respective organizations with a view to obtaining high -school credit.

The Bible survey course was taught in the Dallas schools in the 1940's, both the old and new testament. In a short 60 years we've gone from having Bible studies for credit, to the place where parents are criticized for creating an independent study from a classical Christian perspective as being possibly unconstitutional.

In response to that situation, Andrilie wondered,

I seldom seen mentinoned in the debate of schools and religion. Since our schools are so largely funded by local property taxes, why can't they more closely reflect the mores of the community that is funding them, i.e. Why can't our local schools sing religious Christmas carols rather than Kwanza tunes if that is the nature of our community? It befuddles me what more people aren't at the school board meeting every month DEMANDING that these bureaucrats create schools that reflect the community that is financing them.
That's the beauty of compulsory government schooling, they take your money and no longer have to listen to the parents. They have no incentive to do so. If our schools truly operated under the authority of the parents, not over them, they would be asking parents in the local community what they want taught to their children. Obviously they don't. It's the other way around, the state tells parents what their children should know.

In reality however, local schools boards are becoming just as irrelevant as the parents. I'll use Michigan as an example.

Our state passed a "reform" measure, Proposal A in 1994. It was a Republican measure, promising lower property taxes in return for an increase in the state sales tax. It passed. While schools are still funded partly by property taxes, the law effectively removed local control. The money goes to the state and then is funneled back to the local districts in a "equitable" manner (wealth redistribution.) It was supposed to help out poorer local districts. It hasn't. But what it has done in many ways, is make the local school board irrelevant.

They are local boards without local control because they don't control the funding. Most of the decisions are made at the state, and increasingly the federal level. The further the money is removed from local control (centralized planning) the less input parents will have. Any input will be a token attempt to appease parents, without taking the ability to take action. They know where their bread gets buttered. So they are looking to meet state and federal demands, not the parents whose children they teach every day. That's why you have library books about gay penguins in the schools over parents objections. It's just one book, but the school administrators are reluctant to remove it.

Thankfully, parents are starting to wise up, they are saying in increasing numbers, "Forget it. You can take my money, but you're not getting my kids."

(Note: I'm not advcoating a return to the schools of the 1940's. We can no more do that than put toothpaste back inside the tube once it's been squeezed out.)

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