By now, you have probably heard about Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo, wherein he called on the FBI to address violence against schools and teachers. The context of this memo is that many parents have attended school board meetings across the country to voice their displeasure about current issues facing schools, topics such as mask requirements in school and especially critical race theory. Garland’s memo has a lot of people worried because there has not been a habit of violence at these school board meetings. Sure, discussions have been heated and parents are upset, but there is no record of parents actually physically assaulting teachers or school board members or threatening them with physical harm. In fact, the people I know of who have been encouraging people to attend school board meetings have been very explicit that parents should not be violent as they voice their opinions. As such, Garland’s memo sounds much more like a threat, a shot over the bow, so to speak, an attempt to silence parents at these school board meetings and less about actually protecting teachings or school board officials.
Because of Garland’s brazen memo, some people are wondering, what are we to do about it? Now, I know that science is the focus of this blog, but science cannot help us here. I know that may be an odd thing to point out, but bear with me. We cannot look at statistics and determine what is the best course of action for schools. We cannot study the learning behaviors of children and determine the best teaching method for students. We cannot do these things because teaching is not something that falls under the “domain” of science. Neither does it fall under the domain of government, or politics. Certainly, people will try to use all three of these as a tool for advancing certain educational programs or objectives, but when it comes down to it, neither science nor civil governments nor bureaucrats have been granted the responsibility to teach children. Instead, the responsibility of teaching children has been given to parents.
Consider what is said in Deuteronomy 11:18-21. Here, God is explaining what the nation of Israel is to do with the commandments that He gave to them. God said,
You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets, between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are talking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Notice how personal this teaching is supposed to be. Teach your children when you are in your house, when you lie down and when you rise up, and put the precepts of God over the doorposts of your house. This is not, “send your children to school and let the school teach them.”
Now, some may say, “But it is the commandments of God that are to be taught this way. Learning actual facts is not addressed in these verses.” I would strongly disagree, primarily because it is basically impossible to separate “fact” from “truth.” Consider critical race theory. This is an idea derived from Marxist thought. It holds that different people groups, ethnic groups, are naturally hostile to one another. Whichever ethnic group is in the majority necessarily wields power over the minority ethnic groups. And that is just the starting point of this idea. This theory is opposed to what the Bible claims, that all people, slave, freeman, Greek, and Jew, are to be united into one body with Christ as the head (Ephesians 3:6-13, 4:1-5). Thus, critical race theory cannot be taught in schools without instilling a set of values in the students. A similar argument can be made about a variety of other topics taught in school, such as sex education and the theory of evolution.
It is my impression that at one time, schools supplemented the teachings of parents. There was a time when schools taught the three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic. These are probably three of the least values-associated topics: it is pretty easy to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic without discussing anything of eternal value or of moral importance. Parents where then left to fill in the rest of their children’s education, things like morality, religion, civic duty, sex, a career, and so forth. However, somewhere along the way, schools began to grow, and rather than teaching basic skills, they began to teach what a “proper” citizen should know. Thus, schools now teach about civil governments (typically from a liberal perspective). There has also been a push to keep up the nation’s science literacy, and so science is taught in schools (and the focal point of biology is the theory of evolution). Since sexually transmitted diseases can be controlled, to an extent, through behavior, schools took on the role of teaching sex education. And on and on and on. Now, schools don’t supplement parents, schools substitute parents. I believe that this creep of the schools the duty of teaching away from parents has been occurring for decades. The difference is that now people like Merrick Garland are threatening to take legal steps against parents for daring to voice an opinion that differs from what schools want to teach their students.
So let’s address the question, what can be done about Garland’s memo? One piece of advice I have heard is that parents should not back down from attending school board meetings. Don’t be intimidated, keep making your voice heard, taking special care to not be violent or threatening. This is great advice for some people. For others, the response may be more drastic. It may be time to take back the responsibility of teaching our children by simply not letting the public schools teach our children. There are alternatives: private schools and homeschooling are the two most notable. By the way, this option is not a theory: it is a practice for many of us. The core of the homeschool movement has always been that it is the parent’s responsibility to teach their own children, not schools. Some of us (and I mean myself here, since my wife and I homeschool our children and my wife and I were both homeschooled by our parents) have been doing just that for decades. It might be time for the rest of us to send a message to schools that these are our children, and if the schools will not listen to the parents, then the schools don’t get to teach their children.
Thoughts from Steven
P.S. While I do feel strongly about homeschooling, I want to also acknowledge that some people still want to reform schools from the inside out. The Board of Directors at Heart of America includes people who have taught at public schools and people who have been trying to open up public schools to classes that teach alternatives to evolution. However, even in those circumstances, we should never lose sight of the fact that your own children are your own responsibility, and if you need to take them out of school and teach them yourself, so be it.