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Education in Rural Kentucky - Disclaimer

The education information was put on this Internet site to raise questions about the quality of educational efforts and to foster discussion. The basic idea is to support public education by finding ways to make it more objectives oriented. I find that this subject, like so many, tends to get attention from some individuals who are able to enter into an intelligent discussion of issues and also from some fools who are "true believers" in an agenda or ideology which is based on an us versus them mentality. I find that some people, because I have criticized public education, have assumed that I am one of their group which basically, for various reasons, believes that public education should be replaced with some other system.

Although I realize that legitimate arguments for their point of view can probably be made, I find that these types of people usually simply want to destroy, not improve, the educational system. They seem to me to usually have an anti-government, anti-democracy, and narrow minded anti-religious freedom view which is very different from mine.

The purpose of this page is to disavow this type of support. I realize that, in doing so, I will probably end up with little support because there are in the educational establishment many other narrow minded people on the other side of the us versus them equation who will disagree with this site because it does criticize the establishment. So be it.

Below is a quote from one of these right wing nuts who wish to destroy our educational system:
You need to know that Clinton, Gore, and a few thousand cronies are part of a "New World Order" conspiracy to bring down the sovereignty of this nation and put it under the U.N. Charter -- a miserably inferior document to our Constitution. Therefore, I suggest your efforts be directed ..... to strip all federal funding from anything to do with messing around with education, dismantle all the education labs of the department of education...

They often describe the federal Goals 2000 program as the apex of the Federal Government's evil effort to subvert our children. Below is that evil document:

The National Education Goals

By the year 2000..

Click here for the reality of Goals 2000.

Purpose of Public Education

Many people support the idea of a school voucher program. This theory is that if the tax money now going to the entire educational system were instead given to parents of school aged children in the form of education vouchers to be used to purchase education from private companies formed to provide such education, then the free market would cause improvement of educational quality. I am sure that in the case of some enlightened and some upper class parents that would occur for their children. I am equally sure that this system would be a disaster for the overall educational level of this nation. The result would be just what the proponents of this system envision, a nation which would provide the education the parents want. The problem is that many and probably most parents do not want education for their children. They want baby sitting, employment of their friends and relatives, a strong sports program, and religious indoctrination. In rural areas like the one in which I live, too small to support more than one school system and thus with no competition, the school system for all would reflect the desires of this second type of parent. Although it is true that areas like this now have a public education system that is very similiar to the one I just described, there is, at least, hope, due to Goals 2000, KERA, and other reform efforts, that improvement can occur.

The purpose of a national educational system is not to be a service to parents to provide the services they want for their children, but a service to children and to the future to give those children an education adequate to enable them to lead successful adult lives and to be productive and informed citizens. By the logic of these voucher proponents the National Park System should also be turned over to private enterprise so that it could be exploited, provide jobs, and be turned into Disney type theme parks giving the majority what they want, not what is best for the future of the nation.

Many of these people also object to the taxes of people who do not have children in school or who send their children to private schools being used to support the public school system. Once again they fail to realize that the educational system serves a public, not a private, purpose and thus must be supported by all the public. In general people who have money usually object to the government taking that money to use for purposes which do not directly benefit them. This idea is, of course, basically anti-government because the purpose of government is to support the public good rather than the greed of individuals. The trick is to achieve a balance between public needs and individual rights. I, like others, do not like having a government to the extent that it interferes with my life, but I also realize that it is necessary to provide me protection from others and services which, as an individual, I am unable to provide for myself.

There do not seem to be any shortcuts. I think improving education requires that the majority of the public have a statement of objectives of education much more specific than Goals 2000 and a plan for reaching those objectives that they can support and that they insist that school systems use that plan to meet those objectives. Read My observations and recommendations about the local school system for an example.

Religion and Schools

An interesting contradiction is that many of the same people who do not want the government to interfere in their lives by providing education for their children do want the government to force all children to pray aloud and to be indoctrinated into religion in the schools. I have never understood this.

Most people believe that religion is a personal thing. This nation was founded on that very premise, that each man has to find his own religion and that no one, and especially not the government, has any right to force a religion upon him. That simple idea is called freedom of religion. It is one of the fundamental individual rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights added as the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. It is our protection against the excesses of unrestrained government. It was once the belief of the Conservative movement and of the Republican party that "that government is best which governs least". These people, like Barry Goldwater whom I was raised to admire, believed that individuals should have as much liberty as possible and that government, to the extent it was necessary at all, was best in small units and as close to the local level as possible.

Now people who call themselves conservatives want to put prayer in the schools and want the schools teaching students the religious beliefs of the majority or of somebody. Actually, I guess, the majority of these people have not studied the issues for themselves, but have simply believed it when others mislead them by claiming that children had been forbidden to pray in schools. The government can no more forbid children to pray in schools than it can force them to do so. What is forbidden is any imposition of religion on students in any way, either by schools requiring or sponsoring prayers or religious study of any particular religion.

May a child pray aloud or preach in class to disrupt the class? Of course not, no more than he may play his boom box or sell tupperware in class. May a student bow his head and say a silent blessing before beginning his meal or say a quiet prayer before opening the test booklet? Of course he may. Why would anyone want schools any other way?

Jesus said:

"Again, when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in synagogue and at the street corners, for everyone to see them. I tell you this: they have their reward already. But when you pray, go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is there in the secret place; and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you."

May a teacher lead a class in prayer or in saying a morning bible verse? No. That's for parents in homes and clergymen in church. Neither may she require that they read from the Koran, or the Talmud or the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu each morning.

However, it seems that most educators also do not understand the concept of religious freedom. Religious freedom does not mean freedom from exposure to religion. It simply means freedom from imposition of religion. In my opinion, a very essential part is missing from the educational system. That is study of religion and philosophy. A student should obtain a knowledge of his culture and, to me, religion and philosophy are as much a part of that as is history. The problem is that we do not seem to have many in the educational establishment who have enough sense to know the difference between the comparative study of various religions and religious history and the imposition of religion. Study of religion and philosophy would involve exposure to both the pros and cons of various religions and philosophies without pushing any particular doctrine. In the case of Christianity, for instance, it would involve not only Mother Teresa and Cardinal Bernardin but also the murders committed in the name of religion in the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition and the many wars fought and people killed in the name of peace on earth.

See President Clinton's Views on this Issue and Separation of Church and State Home Page.

Teachers and School Administrators

Some think I am, somehow, against teachers. I think the teaching profession should be the most honored and rewarded of any in our nation because of the importance of their job. At the same time I realize that, in spite of the job of brainwashing the public that they have tried to do over the years, teachers are not magic or smarter than people in other professions or dedicated to their work or otherwise exalted. They are just people trying to do a job they have been trained to do. Some are smart. Some are dedicated. Some, like people in other professions, are not all that smart. Some are not all that dedicated but simply want, like many of us, to get as much pay as possible for doing as little as possible. As a local man once said to me, "You cannot overpay a good teacher and you cannot underpay a poor one."

That is why it is necessary that we have excellent administrators in our schools who can spend most of their time training, and supervising, and supporting the teaching staff and finding new and innovative ways to improve education.

Comments from our visitors

It seems to me if we are not to impose beliefs on the students that are being taught in our public schools, then we should neither should we teach the THEORY of evolution.
It would seem if we are to take the open minded approach to education we would present both sides of the issue and let the student decide which they choose to believe.
Couldn't agree with you less on this subject .. but respect your right to your OPINION.

Sender: Bob Crabtree

I like your website.

I know you're fighting an uphill battle to get these matters disussed without the polemics on both sides.

I don't know much about education or the debates within, but you're website was a good place to start for me.

I hope some good comes of it.

Sender: Colin Dodd


You still have the greatest site..

And I agree with you 100% on the issue of Religion/Government/Education.

There is too much hate in this world now dealing with people trying to force their views on other people...

I went to Catholic schools..Got a decent education in religion but I am really disturbed the way the Catholic church does so little to tackle the problems of today. (I was raised Catholic).

Keep up the good work.


Sender: Pete Zavorskas - pete606@cris.com

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Last revised September 29, 1998.

Please send comments to: Duane Bristow (oldky@webcom.com)