American Exceptionalism | Our Philosophy of Education

Education was a vital and fundamental principle for our founders due to the fact that most of them grew up being educated themselves within a system that valued and placed importance on education, for many, education consumed a great deal of their time and effort and many went on to found universities. However, the concept of public education did not begin with them, it began almost a hundred and fifty years prior with our earliest colonists. After seeing first hand the manipulation of biblical text in the hands of the state and how Church leaders were complicit in civil atrocities and because people blindly believed and followed what they had been told they abetted the commission of those atrocities. To ensure that this would not happen in the new world, one of their first orders as a governing body politic was the “Old Satan Deluder Act”. They reasoned that if people could read the scriptures for themselves they would understand that God puts limits on governing authorities, that the common man would no longer be deluded by those in authority and could resist a misbehaving government. It was in Satan’s best interest to keep people ignorant of truth. They reasoned that as truth sets men free, Ignorance results in bondage. So they passed a law requiring the establishment of public schools in every community using the bible as a text book thus ensuring a sound academic education while instilling morality and virtue in future generations. The New England Primer was the primary text book for most of our founders and was rooted in this educational philosophy. It was these men, educated by this philosophy who drew up documents like Our Declaration of Independence, The Northwest Ordinance, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Article III of the Northwest Ordinance, The first Federal Law to address education and signed by President George Washington stated that: Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged. It was understood by our founders that teaching religion in school also taught morality or virtue resulting in people of good character and a nation of people honoring and respecting one another. This philosophy of education continued over the next 100 years and for the 1892 Columbus Day Fair held in Chicago celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus Day. An invitation was sent out to all professions and trades to publish records of the progress made by each over the prior four centuries. The Kansas teachers’ association prepared a review of the history of education in America where it was stated “American education was nurtured in the lap of the church” and that as the nation grew “the church reluctantly relinquished her claim upon elementary schools. Yet, despite the fact that jurisdictional authority over education had partially shifted and was being shared with the State, the philosophy of education remained unchanged”. In Fact it was the State Superintendent of public education that stated “If the study of the Bible is to be excluded from all State schools – If the inculcation of the principles of Christianity is to have no place in the daily program – If the worship of God is to form no part of the general exercises of public schools – Then the good of the State would be better served by restoring all education to church control”. It is hard to believe how far we have come, Lessons from the Bible reflective of those first principles of Religion, Morality and Knowledge were still taught in public schools up until 1974. I was taught these principles in public school, my children were not.

These three elements, Religion, Morality and Knowledge form the basis of character, achievement and common sense and enable students to be future leaders and good citizens. These was taught for 400 years and resulted in the greatest nation, it is our duty to transmit these values to future generations.

Kim Payne was born and raised in California.  He laughs at himself declaring that he was a crazed hippie youth when he was younger.  He grew up to be an aerospace test engineer in southern California and resides in Thousand Oaks. 

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