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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

Educating for Damnation

(Reprinted from the issue of August 7, 2003)

Capitol BldgAccording to Secretary of Education Ron Paige, “The president and I believe that education is a civil right [and that] there should be equal access for all, not just the privileged few.” This is the sort of thing that makes me despair of the Bush administration, especially when nominal conservatives hail it as conservative.

Gaseous pronouncements about education are nothing new. G.K. Chesterton addressed them in his wonderful little book What’s Wrong with the World, where he wrote, “Of course the main fact about education is that it does not exist.” That was his retort to the “deafening and indeterminate discussion going on all around me.”

It’s still going on all around us; only today, so-called conservatives are talking as inanely about education as liberals. You can’t tell what they mean, because they themselves don’t know what they mean.

As Chesterton explains, “education” is a word without specific content, like “transmission” or “inheritance.” Certainly children should be taught something; but what? And if it’s a “civil right,” does that mean the state should decide what it means and enforce it?

Since Paige and the president haven’t defined “it,” we don’t have any way of knowing; but they evidently agree that the federal government must take the lead in seeing that every American child has equal access to “it.”

Any rational discussion of education must begin with the things every child needs to know; and this depends on how we conceive of human nature. But such questions are now regarded as hopelessly abstract and impractical, even taboo.

If man is just an animal, then education may be seen as imparting to children certain practical skills that will enable them to serve their bodily needs, desires, and comforts. Some enlightened educators think this should even include teaching them, early in their lives, how to perform sexual acts, including sodomy. From one point of view this may be perfectly rational, but we may hope it’s not what Messrs. Bush and Paige want all kids to have equal access to.

Another point of view, once prevalent in Catholic schools, holds that man is created in God’s image, with an immortal soul, and that the child’s chief educational need is to know how the Creator has revealed Himself. If so, nothing else can be remotely as important as this. Of course the Christian child, like the materialist child, may find reading and math skills helpful, but education must be organized around some ultimate purpose.

To quote Chesterton again: “It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education.”

But here the materialist has a leg up on the Christian. If education is the domain of the state, as it is in America, and if the state must be neutral about religion, as the U.S. Supreme Court understands religious “neutrality,” then the public schools may be organized on materialist dogmas but not on Christian dogmas. Separation of church and state, you know. Heads the materialist wins; tails the Christian loses. That’s neutrality for you.

So the “education” to which every American child has a “civil right” to enjoy “equal access” to is bound to be materialist, secularist, Godless. I don’t think Paige consciously meant to say all that, but the Bush administration isn’t likely to challenge the liberal status quo. And the larger the role of the federal government in “education,” the worse for Christian education.

State-run education has already been a powerful factor in the religious homogenization of America. It propagates a definite, if unacknowledged, philosophy, sometimes called “secular humanism.” Of course the secular humanists themselves profess not to know what this phrase could possibly mean. If they admitted that their dogma is as dogmatic as Christianity, then separating dogma from education would also mean the separation of state and secular humanism.

Hence they prefer to insinuate their creed rather than to proclaim it. As long as the child is trained to think and behave as an atheist, it isn’t even necessary for him to know he’s an atheist. He may never even hear the word.

“Secular humanism,” after all, is nothing but applied atheism. Even sincere Christians have been tricked into believing, and acting as if, the American form of government requires us all to accept its premises, even if the practical result is to lead countless children toward damnation.

In recent years fundamentalist Protestants, though often intellectually and verbally gauche, have been more lucid about this than Catholics. They never let go of the prime truth — the dogma, if you will — that God has revealed Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. And if God has spoken, man had better listen and construct his institutions, including his schools, accordingly.

Otherwise the schools will only be doing Satan’s work, if only by default. And now it’s not just by default: New York City has just created a new high school exclusively for “gay” youths.

I’ve always thought “gay” is a particularly inapt misnomer for a way of life marked by sin, loneliness, and self-disgust, not to mention the disease and early death that often attend it; you couldn’t possibly wish that condition on anyone you love, though you might wish, sentimentally, to spare him as much pain as possible.
Conserving Christian Civilization

After reading James K. Fitzpatrick’s typically thoughtful reflections on conservatism in these pages last week, I wonder if “conservative” hasn’t also become a misleading euphemism. What, after all, is conservatism trying to conserve? As Mr. Fitzpatrick says, “Not as easy a question to answer as it used to be.” I doubt that most self-described conservatives today could answer it very helpfully.

But let me venture a simple intuitive answer: We are, or were, and should be, trying to conserve Christian civilization. What we used to call Christendom is now so decadent that the task now is less of conservation than of regeneration and restoration. It is far beyond easy repair; it needs evangelization and reconversion more than, say, “limited government” (though that is also part of our Christian and Catholic heritage, and well worth defending).

There are no merely political solutions to the death of a great civilization, and conservatives who think there are such solutions are as deluded as the liberals and Communists who used to believe in “building a new society.” Their “new society” is here, but it’s not something that was “built”; it’s the tragic residue of what they have destroyed.

Republicans persist in thinking they can make the liberal system “work.” But what can it mean to speak of “education” as a “civil right,” in a society that slaughters many of its children long before they set foot in a school?
Copyright © 2003 by The Wanderer
Reprinted with permission.

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