On the history of religion in public education

by Andrea Elizabeth

Turns out all the episodes I missed of God in America are available to view online. The second, “A New Eden”, talks about how Catholic Bishop John Hughes ended up getting religious instruction taken out of public schools. How ironic that it wasn’t an atheist who did this. He fought the American Protestant establishment in response to anti-Catholic teaching that was taking place in public schools. New Irish Catholic immigrants were taking their kids out of schools because of having their Church being referred to as the whore of Babylon, the Pope as antichrist and such. He thought this was anti-American. America was supposed to represent freedom of religion.

Protestant bias in education upsets me as my kids and I encounter it in some of their homeschooling instruction. To me it is better than the vacuum created by its absence in the public schools, but I am there to counter the Protestant wrathful God with my own children, not that the Catholic one is much better.* And what about all the other good Christian children who will see my kids’ point of view as morally wrong? When I went to public school I was a Protestant, and since teachers and books couldn’t promote God, they ended up promoting atheism and Darwinism, therefore Christians, Protestant or not, were wrong. It is stressful to go to school where you’re supposed to passively open your mind and be enlightened, and end up having your core identity undermined.

It would be nice if the state and all the people agreed on core issues, but today’s complex society wont allow for that. All the plurality ends up neutralizing people. United people can go much further, but what if they are going the wrong way?

*Just the other day my fourth grader heard the video teacher explain Exodus as God killing all the people who didn’t worship him correctly. It’s hard to explain the Old Testament to children, as well as the exclusive claims of the Orthodox Church. My attempt is that the ground opening up removed damaging people from the situation. This was not necessarily damning them to eternal torment, which is how the Protestants and Catholics connect the dots.