School Choice: “An Existential Threat” or Inalienable Right?
Throughout the book of Proverbs, we are reminded of God’s view of education:
“Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning...
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 9:9, 22:6 NASB).
Although the eternal question of the purpose of education has been biblically settled, the Supreme Court is currently deciding the answer to the once uncontroversial question: “Should American taxpayers fund religious education?”
“Espinoza v. Montana centers on a 2015 law passed by the Montana legislature allowing families who send their children to private or religious school to receive tax credits — paid for by the public. The state’s Department of Revenue established a rule preventing the implementation of the program and some families who could not get a tax credit sued. The case reached the Montana Supreme Court, which declared it unconstitutional, and the plaintiffs pursued it to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
While critics call this landmark case “an existential threat to public education,” interestingly enough, public education was virtually Judeo-Christian for decades after our country’s founding.
“With few exceptions, America’s earliest universities were closely associated with particular denominations and were typically run by ministers from that denomination. In fact, by 1860, 262 out of 288 college presidents were ministers of the Gospel—as were more than a third of all university faculty members, and only seventeen colleges and universities at that time were state institutions. But even the state schools were not secular...and others had self-declared purposes of Christian education and the inculcation of Christian character...over 90 percent conducted chapel services; at half of them, chapel attendance was compulsory; and a quarter of them even required regular church attendance in addition to chapel attendance.”
But now as our country has sought to secularize education, parents are being removed from the decision process and children are being delegated to schools by zip code—and this secularization of education is, in the words of Billy Graham, “stumbling and floundering.”
Remembered as the “Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution,” Benjamin Rush observed:
“There is the most knowledge in those countries where there is the most Christianity…The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
While returning our public education to Judeo-Christian values may be a foregone conclusion, the opportunity for families to choose their own form of education is not. Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue could decide not just for the state of Montana but also for every other state whether families or politicians have the power to choose how to educate the next generation.
In the meantime, let us “bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NASB). As God commanded through Moses:
“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NASB).
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 Strauss, V. (2020, January 22). Should taxpayers fund religious education? Betsy DeVos says yes. Now, the Supreme Court will decide. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/01/22/should-taxpayers-fund-religious-education-betsy-devos-says-yes-now-supreme-court-will-decide/  Strauss, V. (2020, January 22). Should taxpayers fund religious education? Betsy DeVos says yes. Now, the Supreme Court will decide. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/01/22/should-taxpayers-fund-religious-education-betsy-devos-says-yes-now-supreme-court-will-decide/
 Feaver, E. (2020, January 29). Guest view: Espinoza v. DOR is existential threat to public education. Retrieved from https://mtstandard.com/opinion/columnists/guest-view-espinoza-v-dor-is-existential-threat-to-public/article_b46ebe76-3179-51a0-99ff-b32bd2c31d3f.html  Lesson 2: Colonial period (mid 1600s – 1765). Retrieved from https://wallbuilders.com/chw/lessons/lesson-2-colonial-period/  Sweeting, G. (1995, September 1). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=7mn8AwAAQBAJ&pg=PT164&lpg=PT164&dq=%22america%27s+founding+fathers+did+not+intend+to+take+religion%22+billy+graham&source=bl&ots=L6jENBY77s&sig=ACfU3U06tWZPK3HinebKrOgBlJYoRV9ITw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjdk9Dn76nnAhVxJjQIHXdzCjMQ6AEwC3oECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22america's%20founding%20fathers%20did%20not%20intend%20to%20take%20religion%22%20billy%20graham&f=false  Rush, B. (1806). Essays, literary, moral and philosophical, p. 84. Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford. Retrieved from https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/  Rush, B. (1798, July 13). Letter to L. H. Butterfield. Retrieved from https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/