MORE ON GOVERNMENT AND THE SCHOOLS
The issue of the relation between the government and private and parochial schools continues to be a vexing one. One of the problems involves the law which requires compulsory education until age 16. This problem is really limited for the most part to the Amish who, generally, refuse to send their children to school beyond the eighth grade. The question is coming up for decision sometime next year before the Supreme Court of the United States.
In a recent issue of Christianity Today, the magazine editorialized as follows:
Among cases being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in its current term are three involving the Amish. The court is being asked to decide whether Amish parents can be required to send their children to schools beyond the eighth grade and the age of fourteen. Representatives of the Old Order Amish in Wisconsin contend that to do so violates their religious convictions.
There is a great deal of sympathy for granting exemptions for the Amish. They are generally regarded as a quaint, harmless people who deserve to be left alone. It is difficult to see why modern sophistication should be imposed upon them.
But it is even harder to see what fundamental freedom of the parents is being violated. Religious convictions are not per se inviolable. Would parents have the right to keep their children illiterate? Indeed, one wonders if the individual child’s right to secondary education is not being automatically denied by the parents. True, the opportunities for Amish teenagers to leave their heritage will be greater if they begin attending public high schools. But the free choice will still be theirs.
No Christian parent approves all that is taught in public schools, but they are a necessary accommodation to our times. If compulsory education is constitutional, then there should be no exceptions on religious grounds. Those who do object to public education at this level on religious grounds still have the option of creating parochial schools and thus fulfill the constitutional requirements for their children.
This is a very difficult question which has no easy answers. The argument of the Amish is clear enough. They argue, on the one hand, that education beyond the eighth grade or beyond the age of fourteen is against their religious beliefs. Whether these religious beliefs are correct and in harmony with Scripture or not is not the question. They appeal to the Constitution of the United States which guarantees them freedom of religion. We must therefore take their assertion at face value and believe of them that they are sincere. Under these circumstances, is it possible and in keeping with the Constitution to insist that the Amish violate their own religious convictions? Does not this do violence to the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion?
But, on the other hand, the government insists that a child must be educated until he is sixteen years old. Beyond that age education is a matter of choice. Whether this law is Constitutional or not will have to be decided by the Supreme Court in its present term. But, supposing that the law is Constitutional, the argument of the government could very well be formulated in this way. Responsible citizenship in this democratic commonwealth requires an educated citizenry. A high school education is the very minimum to enable a person to function responsibly. If the government should permit parents themselves to decide whether or not to send their children to high school, the government will have to grant parents the freedom to educate their children or not to educate them in grade school as well. But an uneducated citizenry is a detriment to a democratic society. Indeed, such a society cannot hope to continue if the citizens are not educated. The very safety and future of the state requires compulsory education.
So the demands of an educated citizenry run head on into the guarantees of religious freedom.
What must then be done? We find some of the arguments of the editorial quoted above to be wrong. The editorial seems to suggest that no fundamentalfreedom of the Amish is being violated. But this is precisely the point. The Amish would surely demur. The editorial speaks of the equal rights of children to an education. But children are the God-given charges of their parents and have no rights apart from the fundamental relationship. The editorial suggests that the Amish could very well send their children to the public schools because, though, all taught there is not to be approved by Christian parents, these schools are a necessary accommodation to our times. This is, of course, an assumption. Whether they are a necessary accommodation to our times remains to be proved. And it seems as if the only grounds on which this can be proved is that of compulsory education. And so one argues in a circle. But the fact is, nevertheless, that the basic and underlying philosophy of the public schools is not neutral but anti-God and anti-Christ. Can any Christian parent, concerned about bringing up his children in the fear of the Lord, permit such instruction to be given his child? This would be a gross act of irresponsibility. The editorial suggests that, in the event the Amish are dissatisfied with the public schools, they should erect parochial schools. But this is contrary to their religious convictions, they tell us.
Their religious convictions may be wrong (and, indeed, they are), but does the principle of freedom of worship have to be curtailed because of this law that the government has passed? If it is a matter of religious belief with the Amish, and if the government foists on them compulsory education, we are back again to the days when religion is forced on people “at the point of the sword.” And history has proved in countless ways that this does not only lead to failure, but it also is a damnable practice.
The whole question finally comes down to the role which a government may legitimately play in the education of children. And here is precisely where the government in this country has gone wrong. The question of compulsory education is inseparably related to the question of whether the government may engage in education at all. Our answer is that it may not. The responsibility of educating children is a parental responsibility. And no government may usurp that role. If parents fail in this calling, they may be admonished and urged to perform their God-given task; but they may not be relieved pf the calling by any organization.
Does this imply that a government may not establish the principle of compulsory education? In my opinion it does. Parents must have freedom to educate their children according to their own convictions. And this implies freedom not to educate them as well. This is a solution which runs counter to everything heard in our day; but it is a principle of the truth of which I am becoming more and more convinced. The end of compulsory education is inevitably education as the government determines. And as B.B. Warfield once observed, education by the government in a public school system becomes the mightiest engine for the propagation of atheism this world has ever seen.
But the problem with the Amish also reminds us that in a world of sin, where principles are abandoned, problems are created to which there are no solutions.
We have reported in these columns recently that the United States Supreme Court has struck down various types of parochiaid. But this has not ended the battle and various organizations and states are attempting to find other ways to bring government aid to parochial and private schools without breaking the rulings of the Court. The latest of these attempts is the plan Pennsylvania is trying according to which the state pays parents $75.00 for every grade school child and $150.00 for every high school child when parents present vouchers at the end of the school year showing the amount of tuition they have paid. This plan, too, is on the way to the courts to be tested for its Constitutionality. If such a plan as this is also struck down by the Supreme Court, that would seem to be the end of attempts to gain aid for private and parochial schools from public funds.
The following article came into my possession recently which should be of some interest to our readers.
(This timetable is an updated version of the predictions made two years ago in the RAND Corporation/Douglas Aircraft studies and includes some ideas from G.R. Taylor’s The Biological Time Bomb. The dates are those of technological achievement and not widespread implementation. Implementation will, of course, depend on social and economic considerations.)
PHASE ONE: By 1980.
Effective screening of most major genetic defects in order to advise parents against conception or to recommend abortion of a genetically flawed fetus.
Human egg fertilized successfully in test tube.
Artificial inovulation of test tube embryo into womb of a non genetic mother (One not related to the offspring).
Choice of sex of offspring.
Storage bank of genetically superior eggs and sperm.
Synthetic life created in the form of artificial viruses that will be used to cure some forms of genetic disease.
First cloned animals.
PHASE TWO: by 2000.
Frozen embryos will be stored as insurance against nuclear holocaust and also for interplanetary colonization.
Artificial placentas and mechanical baby factory.
Effective control of most human defects through genetic manipulation.
Extensive transplantation of limbs and organs.
Single celled life created from chemicals on the shelf.
Intelligent animals produced to do menial work.
First cloned people.
PHASE THREE: By 2050.
Organ and limb regeneration in the same way that some lizards grow new tails.
Man-animal hybrid chirheras for specialized astronautical purposes.
Complex living organisms created from chemicals on the shelf.
Widespread cloning of people with highly desirable characteristics.
Genetically enhanced human intelligence.
Disembodied brains, organic computers, brain computer links.
Postponement of death by at least 50 years.
What is particularly disturbing in all this is not so muchwhat man’s claims are for the future in this matter of genetic manipulation. After all, these are loud and raucous boasts of ungodly men who claim the power to do all things. Whether they will be able to accomplish all these arrogant claims remains to be seen. God is in heaven and Christ is Ruler over all; nothing will happen without His will. The disturbing thing is that man wants to do these things. There is a philosophy behind all this which is unbelievably evil. Based on the premise of evolution (that man is nothing more than a highly developed animal who has reached the present rung in the evolutionary ladder by merest chance) he now envisions the possibility of getting his hands on the “evolutionary processes” and manipulating them at will to produce a superman, a “God-Man.” And his assumption is that anything which science can do, it may do. If he has the technology to do something, it is therefore perfectly legitimate to go ahead and do it. That is, if science becomes capable of altering the mind of man, science has, by this capability, received the license to do it. And do not forget that the phrase: “the ability of science to do it” really means, when translated: “the right of a small group of men in positions of power to do to their fellowmen what they want.” It is the claimed right of a few to decide the life and destiny of all; to decide what is good for “the masses”; to decide what every other man ought to do. It is a godless thing, fraught with danger, a hot breath of hell from the mouth of Antichrist.
But grace is greater than all in the lives of God’s people. Nothing can destroy their salvation.