- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2001

A few weeks ago, home-school parents were able to use the protracted presidential election to teach civics lessons to their children, as well as other subjects. Examining the Electoral College not only was timely, but also provided an entry point for a practical application of geography, history and even math.

The opportunities to teach practical lessons about American government continued when President-elect George W. Bush began announcing his Cabinet appointments.

Perhaps the most important lessons regarding Cabinet appointments are lessons in loyalty and civility. Those are two character traits we need more in public life. We need to teach our children how important it is to support leaders who are willing to stick with the right thing, no matter what.

In 1951, Joyce Elmer Morgan published "The American Citizen Handbook." This books puts into context the cultural degradation we have experienced since then. It demonstrates how much America and particularly American public education has changed.

According the book's author, "This volume should be taken into every home library and on every teacher's desk. It may well be used as a text of reference books in the schools."

There is every indication from the book that it was used widely in public schools across America.

According to the handbook, the American citizen has a high but reasonable calling:

• To be a good father, mother, brother, sister or friend.

• To be a dependable, faithful and skilled worker in home, school, field, factory or office.

• To be an intelligent, honest, useful and loyal citizen, with faith in God and love of fellow man.

• To recognize the brotherhood of man and to live by the golden rule.

It is the call to citizenship with faith in God that stands in starkest contrast to our situation today.

Today, children cannot be told that the moment of silence offered at the beginning of the school day might be used for prayer. Bible reading? Surely you jest. Group prayer? Are you a Neanderthal? Only bigots, zealots and religious nuts ever favored such activities. Christian principles in schools? Never was, never will be at least that is what the education establishment, including the National Education Association and others of its ilk, tell us.

Yet "The American Citizen Handbook" was intended for use in public schools, and there was much to be said about the relationship of Christianity to education and to our nation in general.

In the opening essay, "Your Citizenship in the Making," the author expresses a most politically incorrect opinion.

"It is difficult to read this history without seeing in it the hand of Providence, for the struggle which was then taking place in America was in a sense the climax of untold centuries of human struggle upward, a struggle against despotism, against the destructive forces within the nature of man himself. The birth of our democracy is the result of the teachings of religious leaders going back hundreds of years. Democracy finds its fullest expression in the roots of religion, which has ever emphasized the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. For democracy to reach its highest fruition, our society must include that larger liberty and justice preached so eloquently by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus."

Those words echo the thoughts of America's founders. However, when schools today talk about teaching values, the topics usually discussed in a nonjudgmental framework are premarital sex, homosexuality, drugs, abortion and situation ethics.

As recently as 1951, we encouraged children to upright behavior through an essay from Benjamin Franklin on the subjects of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity, chastity and humility. The simple explanation Franklin gave about humility was, "Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

Our modern ears are not used to hearing such things. George Washington is quoted as saying:

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are the indispensable supports. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion."

Lincoln's second inaugural address is quoted: "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

One of the chief founders of American public education Horace Mann argues for Bible reading and Bible teaching in the public schools. He says:

"The lives of great and good men should have been held up for admiration and example; and especially the life and character of Jesus Christ, as the sublimest pattern of benevolence, of purity, of self-sacrifice, ever exhibited to mortals. In every course of studies, all the practical and perceptive parts of the Gospel should have been sacredly included; and all dogmatic theology and sectarianism sacredly excluded."

Oh, how things have changed.

But who published this book? The Southern Baptist Convention? The National Association of Evangelicals? A 1951 precursor of the Moral Majority? A young Tim LaHaye?

No. It was published by none other than the National Education Association, the NEA. It is unimaginable today that the NEA would publish and promote such a book.

We need to teach our children to support leaders who will stand by America's heritage.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.


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