Today I was listening to the Reasonable Doubts podcast and they had a really interesting segment on the religious right’s attack on education. Here is my summary of what they had to say:
It is a well known fact that on average the more educated a person is the less likely they are to be conservative or religious. (Yes there are highly educated conservative and religious people, but the data shows that these people are anomalies)
Education and exposure to different cultures/people/worldviews has a corrosive effect on religious faith and conservatism. The radical religious right’s response to this fact is to isolate their children from the world with home schooling, while simultaneously working to undermine public education. My non-American readers might be shocked to find out that here in America parents can homeschool their children with little to no qualifications or curriculum standards; in essence they can teach, or not teach, anything they want regardless of their own education level.
Often in the United States you will hear defenders of homeschooling put forth statistics that suggest homeschooled children excel in all areas, especially scholastic aptitude tests. The fact is, all of these statics are bogus and poorly collected. There is an excellent article in the Peabody Journal of Education by Dr. Eric Isenberg titled “What have we learned about homeschooling?” In the article Isenberg examines the quantitative data on homeschooling, how extensive it is, and how it is collected and then goes point by point showing that essentially it is a black hole.
We do not have good data on homeschooling or its effectiveness. Why? Because the religious right fought hard to make sure the government wasn’t allowed to collect such data. They deliberately want to keep it as unclear as possible. If data was accurately collected it would show the appalling low level of education these homeschoolers are receiving.
The conservative religious right has set up a system where homeschooled children can go from their sheltered home “education” straight to private religious fundamentalist “universities” without ever encountering an idea or person who might challenge their faith. These students then graduate from these “schools” and are often hired as government aids to work for conservative officials. This was recently very prominent when Bush was in power. A lot of his aids were from these private religious institutions. He legal defense team was made up of “Liberty” “University” graduates, a “school” 10 minutes from where I went to college. This system and it’s goals of raising up fundamentalist children sheltered from opposing view points has a name and a website, “Generation Joshua.” (There is an interesting NY Times Best Seller book by Michelle Goldberg on this subject titled “Kingdom Coming.”)
Another way these religious fundamentalist schools affect the public is through tax vouchers for private schools. Through tax vouchers, the public has to subsidize families who choose to send their children to private schools instead of public ones. The political spin is that this is about “school choice,” but if you see past the bullshit it’s really about back-door public funding for religious schools. Almost all private schools in the United States are religious. The guys on Reasonable Doubts even pointed out that the even some of the few officially “secular” charter schools are actually very religious in their curriculum while remaining outwardly worldly.
Public education is a blight for the radical religious right. Pat Robertson, infamous televangelist and founder of Regent “University”, had this to say about tax vouchers: “They say vouchers would spell the end of public schools in America. To which we say, so what?” Jerry Falwell (the same as Robertson and also founded his own “school,” “Liberty” “University”) had this to say on the matter: “I hope to live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, there won’t be any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!” Luckily the fat bastard died before that could happen, but his minions are hard at work trying to advance his “vision.”
These institutions are bastions of conservatism and religion. Here students are taught what to think as opposed to how to think, and their curricula are carefully crafted to be as bias and twisted as possible. “Liberty” “University” even went so far as to ban liberals. The fact is that the radical religious right’s worldview cannot survive in the free market of ideas. When exposed to the sunlight of different cultures, people, points of view, and education in general, it shrivels up and dies. To protect their fragile children from reality, the religious right sets up system whereby students are exposed only to “approved” ideas. I find it hilariously ironic that conservatives like to claim liberals are like Maoists and Stalinists while they’re the ones with thought police institutions with portraits of Jesus on the walls.