Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series by David Kupelian.
When I was a little boy about 9 or 10, I had a recurring dream.
It didn’t come at night, however, but during the daytime. It would happen when on occasion I found myself lying by myself on my parents’ bed, not doing much of anything or thinking about much in particular.
I would gaze up at the ceiling – I don’t really remember if I had my eyes closed, but I don’t think so – and I would visualize outer space, with its multitude of worlds and heavenly bodies orbiting and streaming through limitless space. I would extend the expanse of space farther and farther out, in my mind, and then farther still, as though I wanted to see what came next, what lay beyond it all. Of course, all I saw was more and more of the same galactic landscape.
Each time I had this “dream,” a wordless question would arise in my mind as I mentally searched out the ends of the universe:
Is that all there is?
Somehow, despite the infinite expanse of the universe and its spectacular cosmic events, I felt as though it was just so … one-dimensional. All I could see in my mind’s eye was more space, more worlds, stars, galaxies and such, and beyond them more and more and evermore of the same.
I was searching, it seemed, for something more, for something beyond the final outer wall of space and matter and time. What lay on the other side of that “wall”?
Pretty soon I would “wake up” from my daydream and go play, eat, watch TV or fight with my older brother.
Decades later, I can really appreciate my recurring childhood “dream.” In those special moments, some part of me was looking for God. For some strange reason, even though I lived in a fog like most young people, I was graced on occasion with magical, faith-giving moments of wonderment. I was searching, at least during those brief flights of fancy, for meaning, for purpose – for the spiritual dimension of life.
Actually, far from being daydreams, I would say those infrequent but soulful inner explorations of mine were probably my most awake moments as a child.
Indeed, for most of us childhood itself is something of a dream. We float along in the world of our parents, for better or for worse, and we grow up pretty much shaped by the most powerful forces around us – home and school.
Fast-forward a dozen or more years. The next time I remember brushing up against the Infinite was after I had graduated from college. Taking an extended and much-needed break, it was the first time in years I didn’t have the demands and anxieties of school hanging over me. There was an unaccustomed absence of pressure. I could breathe. My future was not mapped out for me as it had been during all previous years, when I always knew I’d be moving up into the next grade when September arrived.
I went into neutral gear. My mind relaxed. Reflection and introspection set in, and I found myself taking nature walks and gazing up at the sky and looking for God – again. I hadn’t thought much about Him during all my school years.
And where had God been during my “education”? During those critical years of youthful metamorphosis – the 17-year span of my formal schooling – where was that deeper part of me, the part that when unencumbered by pressure and cruelty tended to gravitate naturally, effortlessly, toward the spiritual?
The truth is, during all those formative years when I was being “educated” and supposedly prepared for adulthood and career, my life was basically one long anxiety spell. I discovered – or maybe I should say, re-discovered – God and meaning and purpose when I was free of school. Moreover, though I was a high achiever as a student, I can say honestly that 95 percent of what is really useful in my life today, both in my career and as a husband, father and citizen, I learned apart from school. In this I am far from alone.
Today, more than 30 years after the end of my formal education, and after two decades as a working journalist who is confronted daily with a never-ending stream of school horror stories, I look back and ask myself: Why is the public school system so wretched?
But before we look at school, let’s look first at children.
In a riveting speech at the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention earlier this year, Focus on the Family’s Dr. James Dobson asked the crowd of 3,500 people a provocative question about children:
- Do you understand what a stem cell is? A stem cell is a cell – in the human being at least – that in the very early stages of development is undifferentiated. In other words, it’s not yet other kinds of tissue, but it can go any direction depending on the environment that it’s in.
The stem cell, if it’s in the brain, develops into a nerve cell or into the substances between the nerves. Or if it’s in the heart, it becomes a heart cell, or if it’s in the eye, it becomes an eyeball cell. Wherever it is, it takes on the characteristic of the surrounding area.
Do you understand that children are the stem cells for the culture? The environment that you put them in is what they grow up to be. And if you can control what they hear, if you could control what they’re told, if you have access to their minds … you can make them into just about whatever you want them to be.
Hold that thought, as they say, while we take a quick romp through the government’s school system.
‘An act of war’
“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
The rantings of a right-wing fanatic? No, it’s the conclusion of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, convened 21 years ago by U.S. Education Secretary Terrence Bell, who was concerned over “the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system.” After 18 months of thoroughly examining America’s school system, the commission presented its dismal conclusions in its April 1983 report titled “A Nation At Risk,” which focused on America’s loss of competitive edge in the post-Sputnik era.
That report has been joined by scores of books before and since, sounding the alarm over the supposed subversion of American government schools.
Some describe sinister “change agents” attempting to reprogram Johnny into a drone carefully groomed for service in a future utopian socialistic state. Others speak of the “deliberate” dumbing-down of educational standards and practices. They describe atheistic, globalist intellectuals plotting to lobotomize America’s youth by sabotaging sound methods of reading instruction.
The educational Paul Reveres warn of other threats: There’s “death education,” during which the class would take a field trip to a mortuary and children would be required to discuss how they might commit suicide. There’s “values clarification,” forcing students to decide who should live and who should die in special mental exercises designed to wrest their loyalty away from their parents’ “old-fashioned” values and to reshape them along modernist lines – for better socialization, of course.
And then there’s sex: We’ve heard for years about pornographic, co-ed sex-education classes in public schools, about school counselors seemingly eager to dispense birth-control devices to vulnerable teens, and even to refer them out for abortions, during school hours – no need for mom or dad to know. Today, of course, homosexual proselytizing has become so rampant and audacious in government schools that major cultural icons like Dr. Dobson and talk radio’s Dr. Laura Schlessenger have publicly urged parents to simply remove their children from public schools.
We hear a lot about the insatiable appetite of the American Civil Liberties Union to intimidate, threaten and sue schools for allowing the Ten Commandments to be posted in the hall, for praying at graduation time, even for posting a sign simply saying “God Bless America” in honor of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
No matter how bizarre a belief or practice, it somehow seems to qualify as the basis of public school curriculum, we’re told, from New Age rituals to Islamic jihad. That’s right, even after the 9-11 Islamist terror attacks, some California public schools teach Islam as a regular part of their middle school curriculum, requiring students to dress up as Muslims, memorize portions of the Koran and participate in “jihad games.”
Then there are other sorts of disturbing tales. Tales of children suspended from kindergarten for playing cops and robbers because they pointed a finger at another child on the playground and shouted “bang bang.”
David Crowley, a probation officer in California’s San Fernando Valley, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about this “brave new world” where common sense and discretion have been suspended along with innocent students:
- My 8-year-old son was recently suspended from school for a day. His offense? Possession of an illegal and dangerous explosive device.
That device was a firecracker that was given to him after school by a peer. He had possession of this potential hazard for all of two minutes before giving it to his best friend’s mother who turned it in to the school office. The following day, he was taken out of class at 11 a.m. He was interviewed by an administrator and school police. He remained in the office until 3 p.m. When his mother picked him up, he was visibly shaken. He did not eat much dinner that night and uncharacteristically wanted to go to bed early. He also complained of a stomachache. He had been under stress all day.
Explaining that his son had been “disciplined under the Los Angeles Unified School District’s zero tolerance policy,” Crowley noted:
- My story is not an isolated one. Because of zero tolerance policies, there are many other examples. There was an instance in which a girl was suspended because she gave a cough drop to a friend: possession of and exchanging drugs. A 7-year-old boy gave a girl an unexpected kiss on the cheek: sexual harassment. Another boy received marijuana from a friend at school. He gave it to his parents who contacted the sheriff. He was suspended because he did not give it to a school official. Never mind common sense or valid explanations, the rules have been broken and certain responses are mandated.
In a grotesque over-reaction to the rash of school shootings and prevalence of illegal drugs on campus, administrators’ solutions have turned many schools into “Alice in Wonderland” environments where nothing makes sense and the Queen of Hearts shouts “Off with their heads!” for the slightest perceived offense.
‘My kid’s school is fine’
Despite the overwhelming evidence that government schools are hopelessly and increasingly corrosive to the minds and souls of America’s most valuable resource – her next generation of citizens – for most people there remains an air of unreality about all of these dire claims.
After all, these unsavory episodes must be the exception, not the rule – mustn’t they? For every parent who takes all these nefarious claims seriously, there are evidently hundreds who think: “I haven’t heard of any of this sort of nonsense going on at my children’s school. In fact, they love their school, they’ve made so many friends. I know there are some bad schools out there, but my kid’s school is fine. I’ve met their teachers at back-to-school night, and they’re just great!”
One can almost sympathize with this attitude. How, after all, are people to believe that their schools have been deliberately dumbed down? Even if they have been sabotaged, hasn’t it been by accident? Who would deliberately, purposely hurt children? And even if they did, why wouldn’t the mainstream news media have jumped all over the story and pilloried the perpetrators?
This aura of unbelievability has prevented all these dire reports from being taken seriously by a wide audience, and relegated those championing such claims to the fringes of public debate where conspiracy theorists and Chicken Littles are safely confined.
Nevertheless, not only are these claims of educational subversion true, but the reality is far worse than the words could possibly convey. After all, isn’t reality always more than what words can describe? Heaven and hell both must be far better and far worse than what mere words can conjure up in the mind.
In fact, it is the very horror of what has happened to America’s schools that prevents many people from being able to face that reality squarely.
NEXT: In tomorrow’s Part 2 of “Why Christians don’t belong in government schools,” David Kupelian shows how and why America’s public school system has been intentionally transformed into the bedeviled mess it is today. In Thursday’s final installment, he explores the homeschooling revolution.
Editor’s note: “Why Christians don’t belong in government schools” is excerpted from the November issue of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine. Titled “THE FLIGHT FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS,” it focuses cover-to-cover on the ever-worsening government education system, and explores the homeschooling revolution.
Read David Kupelian’s “Important letter to WND readers.”