With all the public discussion about whether values voters would vote in the 2006 election or stay home, the underlying and still unanswered question is, what is the role of government in defining our culture?
Do both red states and blue states look to government to set or guide our cultural direction, whether it is about marriage versus the gay agenda, free speech versus pornography, life versus abortion/cloning/euthanasia, property rights versus community development, or sovereignty/patriotism versus globalism/open borders?
Do we believe in a very limited government that would allow all these issues to be thrashed out and decided by big media, special interest groups, and 527 unregulated political action committees? Should we demand that our elected representatives pass laws to address these issues, or should we allow appointed judges to make those policy decisions for us?
Laws, judicial decisions and media have a powerful effect on our culture.
But more influential than all those in directing our culture is the arm of government known as the public schools.
Public schools are guiding the morals, attitudes, knowledge and decision-making (the elements that determine our culture) of 89 percent of U.S. children. Public schools are financed by $500 billion a year of our money, forcibly taken from us in taxes, which the public school establishment spends under a thin veneer of accountability to school board members elected in government-run elections.
Quo vadis? Whither are the public schools taking the next generation?
Prior to the 1960s, public schools and teachers clearly accepted their role in defining the culture of the youngsters under their supervision. The public schools, using a McGuffey-Reader-style curriculum, were the mechanism through which U.S. children learned not only the basics but also values such as honesty and patriotism, and immigrant children assimilated by learning our language, laws and customs.
"The American Citizens Handbook," published for teachers by the National Education Association in 1951, proclaimed: "It is important that people who are to live and work together shall have a common mind - a like heritage of purpose, religious ideals, love of country, beauty, and wisdom to guide and inspire them." This message was fortified by selections suitable for memorization, such as Old and New Testament passages, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Golden Rule, the Boy Scout oath, and patriotic songs.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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