Libertarian Theocrats?

TC Pinckney and Bruce Shortt’s proposal that Southern Baptists remove their children from public schools is, I’ve just discovered, only part of the plan: if Pinckney has his way, there won’t be any public schools to send children to anyway. As noted by Joe Rodgers in a long essay from a while back (undated, maybe 2002?):

approximately 15,000 [latest figure 25508] have gone so far as to sign a Public Proclamation for the Separation of School and State that calls for the end of government involvement in education. Scores of religious leaders, including [James] Kennedy, Pinckney, and [Tim] LaHaye, have endorsed this concept.

Rodgers’ link to the Alliance for the Separation of School and State, run by Christian libertarian Marshall Fritz from California, is broken, but it’s easy enough to get to. VIP Signers to the Proclamation also include Joseph Farah, (the late) Rousas Rushdoony, Gary North, and a number of other religious figures (including Mormons and a couple of Muslims).

The Alliance argues that

for over a century, American school leaders have more and more focused on “career skills” and for over a half-century, on “life adjustment” or “social skills” as the ultimate goal for their students.

This is dishonest. Schools implicitly tell students a lie: Mere professional and social success can bring satisfaction.

Well, I went to a state school in UK so I can’t judge – although if the above is really the whole picture, one wonders why the Christian conservatives are so worried about American schools teaching liberal values and non-theologically approved science, both of which would surely be squeezed out by a purely utilitarian education. So, should schools perhaps backtrack to what they were like in the good old days of a broad education? No:

By definition, public schools are in the “public” sphere, and are thus subject to political winds — just like your City Hall, your state’s legislature, and Congress.

Besides, the very idea is socialistic, like Soviet farms. The problem that results is that:

A teacher who has children of different beliefs in her classroom can’t honestly share her own beliefs on the Big Questions because that would seriously undermine some of the parents.

The Alliance argues that everyone will benefit:

From Baptist to Buddhist, from Catholic to Calvinist, from Montessori to Muslim, from Progressive to Classical, from Child-centered to Direct Instruction, from Phonics to Whole Language, from sports to arts, and more, parents will choose schools where teachers support their values.

These new private schools will have to be good to stay in business, and “by blending campus-, cooperative-, home-, and self-schooling, education in urban centers will be cheaper to run.” Private accreditation services will ensure “stated objectives” (i.e. stated by the school) are met. A huge tax cut and scholarships will provide the money for tuition fees. In interview, Fritz adds that some on the religious right have complained, but:

I would not have government intervene if a private school was teaching that homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality, just as I would not approve intervention if that school was teaching that God does not exist and that man is morally autonomous. That would make government the arbiter of Truth, a role it has already wrongly claimed in our present government schools. We cannot count on the government having a proper understanding of Truth. I would allow intervention if a school were advocating direct violence against others. In my mind, this would give government the impetus to exercise its proper role of “punishing the evil doer.”

So why are theocrats like Gary North, who would have homosexuals and non-believers executed, supporting Fritz’s movement? Are they confident that in a free market secular schools will go bust, leaving them in charge by default? Or that a period of separationism would be a stepping stone to their “dominion” over society? In fact, it seems that the likes of Pinckney and North will support any movement that seeks to undermine public education. Katherine Yurica notes that North advocates conservative Christians getting on school boards in order to strangle funding for public schools.

She also points out that the end of public education is already part of the Republican Party of Texas’s platform. The party has also called for “the abolition of the state’s regulatory authority by eliminating the Texas Education Agency and demanded that all power should reside with the local board of education.”

UPDATE (24 May): More libertarian theocracy today.

UPDATE 2 (27 May): More on Pinckney’s associates today.

7 Responses

  1. Thanks for the Clarkson link. I’ll look forward to reading that when I have the time.

  2. Anarchy now! But what would one do about the parents who decide to keep the money and not send their kids to any school?

  3. That’s okay…Southern Baptists don’t belong in public schools…they are the reason there are so many home-schoolers and so called “Christian” schools. Their exodus from public schools began at desegregation.

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