PUBLIC EDUCATION AND STUDENT CONSCIENCE: A DILEMMA FOR CONCERNED CITIZENS
Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

 

I. Introduction

Commitment to universal education is one of the noblest aspects of the American tradition. In its origins this commitment is rooted in a fundamentally religious understanding, articulated by our founding fathers, of the God-given dignity and essential equality of all persons. In this view, the nature and destiny of human beings create a moral imperative obliging all members of the community to help bring about the conditions within which each will have opportunity to achieve the fullest possible realization of his or her personhood: to grow—physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually—to the fullest dimensions of humanity of which he or she is capable.

Public education in the United States is a concrete expression of this shared vision and commitment. Historically, American public education did not originate as a simply humanistic or humanitarian system.(1) It was founded instead upon an understanding of the child as a person whose nature and destiny include but transcend the here-and-now dimensions of the secular.

This religious view of the person, however, is not universally held today. Therefore it is not surprising that there is much confusion and controversy concerning education: for one's philosophy of education is inevitably shaped by one's understanding of the human person. Discussions of public education are also made more complex by considerations of constitutional law and public policy. While these considerations are exceedingly important, the deeper, more important question for education concerns the nature and destiny of the human person. For our part, we take as self-evident the view enunciated a half-century ago by the United States Supreme Court: "The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."(2)

If we agree on who the child is, we can begin to shape an educational system which suits his or her personality and needs. If agreement is not possible, we must devise alternative approaches to education which respect reasonable and legitimate differences concerning human nature and destiny. In the latter case, we should avoid a monolithic approach which gives preference and preferment to only one philosophy of education and only one view of the human person, as in a totalitarian society.

The time has come for serious reflection and dialogue on public education's duty, considered in this light. We wish here to contribute to this process, and we urge others to take part in the effort.

In recent years a critical dilemma has emerged in public education, a dilemma which involves millions of American children and their parents. On the one hand, education cannot be free of values: public educators rightly state that the public schools promote values, and citizens, especially parents, rightly expect them to do so. On the other hand, the law of the land, as interpreted by the courts, prohibits any values in public education except secularistic ones. How, then, are the religious rights and the rights of conscience of children and parents who do not accept the secularistic view of human nature and destiny to be respected in an educational system where only secularistic values are allowed? There is also a more poignant aspect to the dilemma: How to prevent the rights of such children and parents from being violated in such a system? We believe that violations have occurred—for the most part unintentionally—and will continue to occur until ways are found to prevent them.

At the outset we wish to emphasize that we are neither attacking nor indicting public educators. For the sensitivity and dedication with which they approach their tasks they deserve the gratitude and support of all members of the community. Many are deeply concerned with the dilemma we have described and are actively searching for solutions. We gladly take this opportunity to express our appreciation of their efforts. We encourage them to continue their search, in collaboration with the rest of the community, for educational approaches which respect the rights of conscience—and the profound human needs—of all the students entrusted to their care.

We also urge parents to join in this dialogue about the future of public education. As the primary educators of their children, they have not only the right but the duty to participate responsibly in the process by which the educational system is evaluated and adapted. Thus we offer our comments for their thoughtful consideration and response.

Similarly, we invite other concerned citizens, including public officials and leaders of other churches, community groups, and appropriate professional organizations or agencies, to join in dialogue about the future of public education. This crucial subject calls for the best insights and collaborative efforts of all. The need now is for generosity and good will as we seek in a spirit of mutual respect for a solution to the present dilemma of public education and student conscience. It is in this spirit that we offer our suggestions and urge dialogue concerning one of the most urgent issues in our country today.

II. The Problem

There is no such thing as "value free" education. The question is not whether education—any education—inculcates values, but what values are inculcated by a particular educational program. Although the "values" question is enormously complex, it is not unrealistic to speak in general of three kinds of values: "religious," "secular" and "secularistic." Religious values are rooted in the belief that God exists and that human beings are created by God and destined for eternal life with Him. For their part, authentic secular values, which of themselves do not extend beyond the temporal aspects of life, do not exclude the religious dimension of human life; indeed, they are fully compatible with it, since they emphasize appreciation of the goodness and importance of God's creation. The problem arises with secularistic values. As matter either of theory or practice, they exclude reference to the religious and seek their basis in beliefs about human nature and destiny limited to this world alone. At its most extreme, the secularistic worldview explicitly rejects the religious worldview and orients the authentically "secular" toward the "secularistic." The heart of the problem in public education today is the de facto dominance of secularistic values.

Well over a decade ago, in a series of decisions concerning prayer and Bible reading, the United States Supreme Court in effect excluded religious values from the public schools.(3) We do not intend to subject the court's decisions to a new and exhaustive critique. However, one can only conclude that these rulings mandate a practical impossibility. They require public schools to be neutral in a matter in which there can be no neutrality. Notice that we say "can be," not "should be;" our point is not that neutrality in the public schools is undesirable, but that it is impossible. The result of the Supreme Court decisions has for the most part been to substitute secularistic values for religious ones in public education.(4) This violates both the concept of democracy in the educational process and the philosophy of the Constitution itself. It also violates the Supreme Court's own underlying view that public education should not give preference to one value system over another.

Whether or not one subscribes to the theory behind this analysis, it is abundantly clear that, as a matter of fact, neutrality in public education has proved elusive and the "neutrality" now practiced in public schools is illusory. In 1969 the American Jewish Committee stated that the public schools "should maintain complete neutrality in the realm of religion. They should never undermine the faith of any child, nor question the absence of religious belief in any child."(5) Although we do not agree that "complete neutrality" is possible, we fully agree that the public school has no right either to undermine religious belief or challenge unbelief. Yet religious belief and religious values are now being subtly but surely undermined in public education.

In the following section we shall point to examples of how and why this is so. Here we wish only to note that widespread public and parental discontent with the present situation in itself shows that the solutions to the dilemma attempted so far not only do not work but profoundly violate the religious and moral convictions of a large segment of the community.(6) This situation must be faced candidly and corrected.

It would be unrealistic and unfair to lay all the ills of society at the door of public education. Nor do we posit a "golden age" of American public education—or American society—somewhere in the past. Our contention is simply that a pedagogical policy which would base moral instruction (and, as we shall see, "moral instruction" is part of the public school program) on a purely secularistic foundation must shoulder some of the blame for the problems of the present. Public schools, along with many other social institutions, are failing to instill in many young people the will to behave in a morally good manner. We agree with the conclusion of a specialist in educational research: "The inadequate moral code taught in American elementary classrooms [and also, one might add, in secondary classrooms and in higher education] is governed by custom and the chance of history . . . Little is being done to affect it, and . . . we need not, and dare not continue to ignore the matter in these violent times."(7)

We emphasize again that we are not presenting an indictment of public schools and public educators. They, too, are victims of the dilemma we have described. Next we shall examine the responses which have been attempted and see why, instead of relieving the situation, they help to make it worse.

III. Some Approaches to the Problem

In a well-intentioned effort to fill the vacuum created by the Supreme Court's decisions, many courses and programs have been introduced into the public schools in recent years which bear in one way or another upon religion and values. While these come in many different forms and under many different names, they can be grouped in two large categories: the "objective" study of religion; and programs which deal indirectly or directly with moral values. Each approach not only fails to meet the legitimate expectations and wishes of many parents and students, but raises serious problems for religious belief and religiously-based values.

1. The "objective study" of religion.

A number of different activities and programs fall under this heading: courses intended to teach the history, beliefs and contributions of particular religions without advocating any as true; the study of religious thought, literature and art for their intellectual or esthetic value, and similar programs. The purpose is either to convey information about religion or to foster appreciation of its nonreligious contributions, but not to advocate religious belief and values. Since religion is part of our culture, it is said, it should be part of any curriculum which aspires to give children a knowledge of civilization. According to this view, religion may be treated as a legitimate part of general secular knowledge.

The approach presents many difficulties. The desired neutrality may not be realized, since what is required is not just neutrality of the textbook—hard enough to achieve—but, more important, neutrality of the instructor. With the best of intentions on the teacher's part, this is exceedingly difficult. Much depends on emotions and personal background, as well as knowledge. For a Catholic teacher in a public school to "teach about" the origins of the Established Church in England may prove no simple matter; or, if simple, controversial. It would be difficult for an atheistic instructor to "teach about" the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation with complete neutrality. Nor can the conscience of the teacher in saying what he or she believes true be ignored. It would be a grave burden on a Mennonite teacher to require her to teach about the established churches of the sixteenth century while refraining from condemning their persecutions of Anabaptists.

A most serious difficulty of the "teaching about" concept concerns the need not to teach that a particular doctrine or religion is true. A child taught at home that his or her religion is true is exposed in school to a "cafeteria" approach which simply omits the question of truth. Many parents feel that this necessarily weakens the child's belief and readily leads to religious relativism or indifference. Furthermore, depending on his or her attitude and beliefs, a teacher may quite unintentionally "teach about" theistic religion but "teach" nontheistic religion. The de facto result of a program of "teaching about" religion could be to tell pupils in effect: "Here is what Catholicism is all about; here is what Reformed Judaism is all about; here is what the Lutherans believe. And here, in our course in democratic ethics, is what we do and we believe."

One writer speaks approvingly of public school instructors who "will educate free minds who, on the one hand, appreciate the depth of man's religious tradition, but to whom on the other hand, the old denominational and dualistic conflicts appear secondary, if not inhibitive to, the formation of a unifying world outlook."(8) This is not an imaginary danger. Such an attitude can easily be conveyed even by an instructor who is trying to be scrupulously neutral.

Apart from inherent dangers, such programs simply do not allow for the teaching of theistic religion and religiously-based values, something many parents deeply desire. They do not want their children simply to hear that "religion is a good thing" or that "we should all respect others' beliefs because all religions have contributed to society." True as they may be, such impoverished affirmations detract from the meaning and force of the religion they believe and the values they cherish. There is a vast difference between such weak affirmations and positive teaching that Jesus Christ is God, or that man has an immortal soul, or that Saturday is the Sabbath, or that heaven and hell exist, or that all men should be "born again" through baptism.

Finally, it must be recognized that for some parents it is a cause for legitimate concern that sacred things are taught under a secular aspect. Some Protestant parents have objected that they do not wish their children to be exposed to instruction in which the Bible is treated merely as literature. The Bible is the Word of God; to approach it simply as "literature" offends their understanding of what the Bible really is, and such an offense perpetrated by public schools to which they send their children and which they support by their taxes is not something they are prepared to tolerate.

2. Programs which deal directly or indirectly with moral values.

Many different courses and programs also fall into one or the other of these categories. It is not always possible to make a hard and fast distinction between programs which deal "indirectly" with moral values and those which do so "directly." In general, however, programs which treat values "indirectly" do so because their subject matter unavoidably raises values questions: examples are courses in social studies, life sciences, literature, sex education, by whatever name, and certain aspects of the guidance and counseling programs. By contrast, other courses and programs "directly" and explicitly deal with values themselves: these include various "sensitivity" programs and programs of value "clarification."

However one categorizes them and whatever name they are given, throughout the nation, under all manner of different headings, programs dealing with the most vital aspects of the moral life of children are now part of the public school curriculum. Beyond question they have been introduced and implemented with great good will on the part of public educators, acting, in part at least, to fill the vacuum created by the judicial exclusion of religion and religious values from public education. In many cases they have done so in the belief that the elimination of religion from the public school need not mean the loss of the benefits claimed for religious practices and values in terms of moral behavior—that the same benefits can still be achieved in other ways. But such programs are themselves fraught with problems and dangers, to the point where some now reasonably fear that the cure may be worse than the disease.

A curriculum booklet for a suburban school district, describing a course in "Prejudice," invites secondary students to "get involved in nine weeks of interesting and enlightening discussion on the various prejudices that rule our individual attitudes." A teacher's handbook for another school district, describing a program called "The Magic Circle," recommends such discussion-starters for student groups as "It made me feel good when . . . and "I made someone feel bad when I . . ." The objective of the program is said to be "the development of skills in children needed for effective personal adjustments, success in academic endeavors, and other life challenges."

No one quarrels with such purposes as helping children recognize and overcome prejudice, achieve "effective personal adjustments," and so forth. But what exactly constitutes "prejudice"? What is an effective personal adjustment? Ultimately, upon what value system does the school or teacher rely to determine whether such courses and programs are accomplishing their purposes?

A prominent exponent of value "clarification" writes: "Value clarification involves a series of strategies which are not guilty of forcing one set of right values down the throats of all students . . . Every effort is made to be open-minded, accepting, and tolerant, since this is the atmosphere in which we believe values can grow."(9) We certainly are not in favor of forcing values down children's throats. Nor can anyone object to an open-minded, accepting and tolerant approach toward children. But is one to conclude that there are no "right" values which children should be helped to learn and make their own? Is one value system just as good as the next? Whether this is or is not the case, is the teacher supposed to act as if it were; and, if so, how is he or she supposed to achieve such superhuman objectivity and detachment? If all value systems are not equally acceptable, then we are back where we started. Ultimately, what values are the "right" values which school and teacher propose to instill in students? What if these values conflict with the conscientiously held values of some students and parents? Subtly or not so subtly, is a disapproved value system to be "clarified" out of the minds and hearts of children by teacher and/or peer pressure? And, if so, what is to take its place?

Many people reasonably fear that, given the present state of affairs, the result of such courses and programs can easily be the inculcation of secularistic values—and that this can happen without any specific intention on the part of schools and teachers. Here, however, a distinction must be made. To speak of the "inculcation of secularistic values" suggests a conscious and deliberate effort. But secularistic values may be imposed even in the absence of any specific intent to do so. Indeed, much that is "secularistic" would be considered by its exponents to be completely non-ideological, in no sense a program for promoting anybody's values, but instead simple secular knowledge: "the world as it is."

Courses in democratic ethics, sex education, value clarification and the rest deal with matters of belief and conduct which have always been properly considered to touch on profound areas of human life and which inevitably raise questions of values. Yet, as matters now stand, there are only three possibilities open to the public schools: first, that through such courses and programs religious values are proposed to students in violation of the law; second, that somehow or other no particular values or value systems are proposed to students through such courses and programs—which is doubtful, to say the least, and which even if it is the case means that students are thereby being indoctrinated in ethical relativism, the notion that one value system is as good as another; and third, that secularistic values and a secularistic philosophy are de facto being substituted in the public school for the religious values and religious philosophy of the majority of its children and their parents.

Parent protest concerning this situation has been unorganized and has lagged behind the introduction of these momentous programs. Yet the discontent of parents with what they perceive as a threat to the religious and moral beliefs of their children is today surfacing in many communities. With increasing insistence, parents complain of these programs on grounds of religion, morality, privacy (in particular, family privacy), and the intellectual liberty of the school child.

IV. Toward a Solution

For many parents these developments have created a crisis. Inflation and rising taxation have increased their burden in carrying on private education. The Supreme Court has ruled that only minimal public aid may be provided to children attending religiously affiliated private schools; and on principle a significant number of such schools would not accept public aid in any event. Social and economic factors have influenced more and more religious parents to send their children to public schools. Neither in theory nor increasingly in practice is it reasonable or responsible to say that parents who are troubled by the situation can send their children to private schools.

Thus the dilemma of public education and student conscience has become a matter of urgent personal concern for many responsible citizens who are supportive of public education but aware that the solutions to the dilemma attempted so far raise more questions than they answer and create new problems and dangers. Many public educators share the awareness that a serious problem exists and adequate means have not yet been found to solve it.

We come, then, to an exploration of alternatives related to freedom of religion and conscience in education. We offer these suggestions in order to encourage constructive public discussion of the issues, leading to solutions which respect the rights and meet the legitimate expectations of all. These alternatives are by no means mutually exclusive.

1. Increased awareness and collaboration among educators, parents and concerned citizens.

This is a story which has no villains. The present situation was thrust upon educators, parents and children, and the community at large by circumstances over which they had little or no control. Yet the dilemma has the potential for polarizing the community and exacerbating tensions; indeed, it is already doing so. Parents' indignation can foster intransigence on the part of the educators; educators' intransigence can feed the indignation of parents. We face the danger of a deteriorating situation which will result in injury to all concerned. One essential answer lies in heightened mutual sensitivity to the problem and in collaborative efforts to work out equitable solutions. A number of practical steps can and should be taken immediately to bring this about.

Educational policy makers and administrators, teachers and future teachers should be sensitized to the delicacy of the freedom of conscience issue. Developing sensitivity to these issues should be part of teacher preparation programs and inservice programs. Teachers and administrators must be constantly aware of their high responsibility to deal respectfully with pupils from diverse backgrounds and value systems in the context of a pluralistic society. It must be frankly recognized that not every teacher is automatically equipped to deal with values questions and value related courses and programs. Teachers should receive specific training for this task, and their performance should be monitored and evaluated.

Parents, educators, political leaders, young people and the community at large should also systematically be made aware of the importance and delicacy of the "values" question in public education. Candid discussion and careful study of the issues should be encouraged.

Parents and community leaders, including representatives of the churches and synagogues, should be directly and collaboratively involved with professional educators on the local level in the development and assessment of value-oriented curricula and courses. The participation of parents and religious representatives should be thorough, commencing at the very start of the process by which such programs are planned and continuing through all stages of implementation and evaluation. It should also be authentic: token participation will not suffice. The school is a community institution, and the entire community should have an active role in what it does.

Parents and the community at large should be encouraged to take a sympathetic and supportive attitude toward the sincere efforts of public educators to deal with the dilemma they face. While educators must be responsive to the reasonable desires of citizens, the latter should recognize the problems of educators and support them in their efforts to find responsible solutions through dialogue and collaboration.

Negatively, it must be insisted that moral and ethical issues of a highly controversial nature should simply not be treated by public school teachers, or should be treated only with extreme sensitivity. There is a grave danger that, in dealing with such issues, violence will be done to the convictions and rights of some individuals and groups. Examples of such issues are abortion, euthanasia, birth control, and various solutions to the population problem. Some will object that such a prescription will prevent public schools from dealing directly with some of the pressing issues of the day. This is true. But the practical alternative is to involve the public school in advocacy, subtle or overt, of moral and ethical positions which some of its constituents will inevitably find obnoxious. In these circumstances it is better for the public school to leave instruction in such matters to parents and other agencies.

2. Exemption from programs on grounds of free exercise of religion.

Some religious parents may be willing to accept a degree of secularistic environment in the school as part of the price they must pay for "free" public education. Even so, equity demands that everything possible be done to reduce the imposition on them and their children. Specifically, the public schools should make provision to exempt pupils from programs to which they or their parents object on religious and moral grounds.

Parents and pupils should be given clear notice of this option. The exemption procedure should be simple and effective, so as to cause the least possible embarrassment to parent and child.

Exemption is, however, a less than satisfactory solution, which we propose only as a short-range, interim measure to reduce the most objectionably coercive features of the present situation. Testimony in some court cases involving sex education has made it clear that a child whose parents seek exemption may be regarded as odd or abnormal by other children. In a recent case a father testified that his daughter had been "ridiculed for the fact that my wife and I will not let her take the (sex education) course." The Supreme Court acknowledged this problem almost 30 years ago.

"That a child is offered an alternative [exemption or excusal] may reduce the constraint; it does not eliminate the operation of influence by the school in matters sacred to conscience and outside the school's domain. The law of imitation operates, and nonconformity is not an outstanding characteristic of children. The result is an obvious pressure upon children to attend . . . As a result, the public school system . . . actively furthers inculcation in the religious tenets of some faiths, and in the process sharpens the consciousness of religious differences at least among some of the children committed to its care."10

In short, exemption can only be regarded as a palliative in the absence of a better solution. If even this palliative is lacking, however, it seems inevitable that confrontations and court tests will grow in number and intensity. No one desires this outcome, yet it will be unavoidable if conscientious parents have no other recourse. Taxpayers' money and the public school system may not be used to impose the establishment of a religion of secularism. Those who may question the use of the word "religion" to describe secularism should recall that secular humanism has been strictly defined by the Supreme Court as a religion within the meaning of the religion clauses of the First Amendment."(11) If parents who hold the beliefs and values of theistic religion are offered no reasonable alternative by the public schools, it is predictable that they will press this issue to the utmost through litigation. If it comes to that, schools, parents, children and the community at large all stand to suffer.

3. Expanded options in publicly-sponsored education.

In recent years a variety of proposals have been advanced and in some cases adopted to give parents and children who desire educational programs not ordinarily available in the public school an opportunity to exercise their freedom of choice and obtain access to such education. Among the means of accomplishing this are community schools, alternate schools and educational vouchers. Underlying such programs is the realization that "publicly sponsored education" is a broader term than "public schools "that the public schools in their present form do not exhaust the possibilities of realizing the American commitment to publicly-sponsored education.(12)

As a longer-range solution to the dilemma we have discussed here, the possibility should now be explored of making similar educational options available to parents and children who object to the exclusion of theistic religion from public education and the substitution of secularism, and who desire a form of schooling which respects and supports their religious beliefs and moral values. While aid to church-related schools (and parents and children who patronize them) is one obvious way of doing this, the question is raised here in a different context, that of publicly sponsored education itself. Specifically, the question is whether a creative approach to publicly-sponsored education could allow for alternate schools or programs which meet the reasonable desires and expectations of religious parents and their children.

Serious consideration should be given to restructuring public schools and their curricula and staff arrangements so that pupils in a given school could take most of their courses in common, while value-oriented subject areas were taught by independent contractor teachers from the religious or ideological communities of particular students. Participation in such instruction should be purely voluntary, and safeguards should be devised to prevent discrimination, coercion, or embarrassment.

lf such instruction were available in public schools, the situation would be very different factually from the situation which now exists with regard to, say, sex education courses, where we have argued that exempting pupils is at best a necessary palliative with undesirable features. In the former case, we are proposing the availability of many different instructional options, none taught by public school teachers, from among which pupils could choose or not as they wished. In the latter case, there is only one program of instruction, offered in the classroom by a public school teacher; the only alternative (and even that may be lacking) is nonparticipation in something in which all or most other pupils are participating. Coercion and embarrassment of the student are inherent in the latter situation, but can easily be avoided in the system we suggest.

It may be objected that "church-state separation" bars such a possibility. But "separation" should not be a shibboleth which prevents the discussion of new ideas or the revival of useful ideas from the past. There may indeed be constitutional problems with such an approach; if so, there may also be solutions to the problems. We will not know unless we make the effort to find out.

Educational alternatives have already been developed within public school systems. Some believe that this is the wave of the future in public education. Our suggestion is merely that ways be explored by which religious parents and students can be added to the list of those for whom alternatives in public education are offered. To argue that the Constitution bars them from consideration would smack of precisely that discrimination on religious grounds which the Constitution is intended to prevent.

4. Released time religious education in the public school.

Although concern over the exclusion of religion from the public school has tended to focus on the Supreme Court's "prayer" and "Bible reading" decisions, these to a great extent merely confirmed a process initiated in 1948 by the court's McCollum decision.(13) In that ruling the court held it unconstitutional for children to receive religious instruction on public school premises during periods when they were "released" from required public school instruction.

Efforts have been made to compensate by conducting "released time" religion programs outside the public school. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of this approach in 1951 in the Zorach decision.(14) But programs of this nature have generally proved to be inadequate. Beside serious practical difficulties of scheduling and transportation, "released time" programs away from the public school have the effect of compartmentalizing religion and relegating religious instruction to a small and inadequate portion of the child's total school time.

It is necessary to return released time religious instruction to the public school. Either through constitutional amendment or preferably through a new decision of the Supreme Court, McCollum must be overruled in order to open the public school to an equitable and rational recognition of religious and moral liberty. The nearly three decades which have passed since McCollum give ample evidence that the original ruling was a mistake which should be speedily corrected.

This is perhaps the most positive and realistic approach to the dilemma of student conscience and public education available in present circumstances. In this way the public school will be able to satisfy the legitimate desire of parents and students that religious education and formation in religiously based moral values be part of children's educational experience, without infringing on the rights of any individual or group and without usurping educational functions which properly belong to other agencies. Students, parents, educators and the community at large will benefit. We propose therefore that urgent attention be given to ways of bringing about a result which will be to the advantage of all and the disadvantage of none.

V. Conclusion

We do not suggest that an equitable solution to the dilemma discussed here is simple. In a pluralistic society such as ours, questions involving religious conviction and moral values are inevitably complex and difficult to resolve. The matter is even more difficult when such questions are raised in the sensitive and often controversial context of public education. Yet a "solution" which ignores the problem or favors the convictions, beliefs and values of some at the expense of others is no solution at all.

We conclude these reflections as we began: by urging all concerned parties—policy makers, administrators and teachers in public education, parents, public officials, religious and civic leaders, and others—to come together in dialogue concerning the dilemma. Our own suggestions have been proposed for study and discussion. We welcome the response of others who share our perception that a serious problem now exists but may see other solutions to it. It is our hope and our prayer that the effort to find solutions will draw all elements of our community closer together and foster commitment to a strengthened system of public education in our state and our nation.


Notes

  1. The literature on this subject is voluminous. As an example one may cite the statement of Horace Mann that "by the term education I mean such a culture of our moral affections and religious sensibilities, as in the course of nature and Providence shall lead to a subjection and conformity of all our appetites, propensities, and sentiments to the Will of Heaven." V. 2 Life and Works of Horace Mann, (5 Vols.) (Boston, Mass., Lee and Shepard, 1891), p. 144.
  2. Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534 (1925).
  3. Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1961); School District of Abington Township v. Schmepp, Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203 (1963).
  4. Although the judicial exclusion of religious values from public education is emphasized, the problem is broader than the court decisions. Arguments put forward for a "prayer and/or bible reading" amendment have much to recommend them; yet it is apparent that such an amendment would not by itself solve the problem of the dominance of secularistic values in public education.
  5. Religion and Public Education, A Statement of Views, (American Jewish Committee, New York, 1969) p. 6.
  6. e.g., the recent textbook controversy in West Virginia, the nationwide concern about the MACOS program that the National Science Foundation developed, the protest of the American Civil Liberties Union and others about the Educational Quality Assessment Program in Pennsylvania, the growth of Fundamentalist and other independent schools generally, etc.
  7. Arthur W. Foshay, "The Moral Code of Children and Teacher Education," Approaches to Education for Character: Strategies for Change in Higher Education, Clarence H. Faust and Jessica Feingold, eds., (New York, Columbia University Press, 1969), pp. 87-88.
  8. Paul A. Freund and Robert Ulich, Religion and the Public Schools, (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1965) p. 50.
  9. Sidney B. Simon, "Seven Value-Clarifying Strategies for Teachers," Values and Youth, Robert D. Barr, Ed., (Washington, National Council for the Social Studies, 1971) pp. 68-69.
  10. Illinois ex. rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203, 227 (1948).
  11. Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961).
  12. Public schools are merely one means of accomplishing "public education," an educational endeavor that is supported or fostered by public funds. Certainly there are publicly funded educational programs that differ substantially from public schools as they are currently structured—for example, community educational work—experience programs.
  13. McCollum, Supra, at 227.
  14. Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (151).

Used with permission of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

 

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