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Public Education Against America: The Hidden Agenda Review by Bruce Shortt

By Marlin Maddoux
Whitaker House
1030 Hunt Valley Circle
New Kensington, PA 15068

Most of us knew Marlin Maddoux as the signature voice of the radio program Point of View. For those of us who listened to Marlin over the years, we always knew that Point of View was likely to give us insight into how to think and act biblically.

About a decade ago Marlin began focusing more on how we, as Christians, educate our children. As a result, Marlin very quickly became an early champion of Christian schooling and homeschooling, as well as a keen observer of the metastasizing pathologies of our government school system.

Public Education Against America is the final piece of the Marlin Maddoux legacy. In part, Marlin's book is a fascinating account of how Marlin's work as a radio interviewer allowed him to see behind the respectable façade of the "public" school system and recognize the public schools for what they have become - a cauldron of toxic pathologies inimical to the welfare of our children, our families, our churches, and our culture. Public Education Against America is also his account of why the public school disaster is not an accident. Most important, however, is Marlin's conclusion that we, as Christians, must not educate our children in today's public schools.

In general, the public has no real idea how the public school system got started or how it has changed over the years. In fact, if asked about the origins of the public school system, most people would probably respond with a version of what I sometimes call the myth of the "immaculate conception of the public schools." The myth goes like this: "Before there was a public school system, America was mired in illiteracy and darkness. The people in their travail cried out to God asking to be delivered from their ignorance, and the Lord took pity on them and said: 'Let there be Horace Mann,' and the people saw that it was good. Then Horace Mann begat John Dewey, and the people saw that this was even better. Then John Dewey begat Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind, and the people saw that they were being led into the Promised Land and rejoiced."

Yes, this is a bit hyperbolic, but most people today, including Christians, believe that the public school system was created to combat illiteracy and a lack of educational opportunity. This is simply false. From the early colonial period until the beginnings of the public school system, America was generally the most literate nation in the world, and Americans were always well equipped educationally for the times in which they lived.

Why, then, did the public school system get started? As Public Education Against America shows, the history of the public schools is largely a story about various groups using the schools as a tool of cultural influence and control. Today, the institutional behavior of the public school system is intelligible only if you regard it as, primarily, not an educational institution but a mechanism for allocating roughly $600 billion among various special interest groups and as a channel of ideological influence.

For Horace Mann and his Unitarian sponsors, "common schools" (the original name for what became the public schools) combined with compulsory attendance laws were their strategy for making Unitarianism the de facto established religion of the United States. But the Unitarians could not have sold the common school scheme initially in New England if it had not been for the massive immigration of Irish Catholics to the Eastern seaboard from the 1830s into the 1850s.

The problems resulting from Irish immigration, both real and imagined, allowed Mann to sell the common schools project to orthodox New England Protestants on the ground that the common schools, backed by compulsory attendance laws, would make it possible to coercively "Protestantize" the children of Irish Catholic immigrants. Thus, Protestants came to support the common school idea because they believed the common schools would be de facto Protestant schools. And indeed they were, for a very short while.

The hopes of the orthodox Protestants notwithstanding, the religious worldview of the common schools did become increasingly Unitarian, as Mann and other Unitarians correctly foresaw. As the Unitarians didn't foresee, however, by the end of the nineteenth century educational "progressives" led by John Dewey and others were rapidly transforming common schools into a secularized public school system.

In the 1930s a new group whose ideas would in time become a dominant influence on the public schools began arriving on America's shores--the German followers of an Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci. While Gramsci founded the Italian Communist Party, his most lasting influence has been as the architect of what is now known as "cultural Marxism."

Gramsci's essential strategic insight was that the West could not be beaten militarily or economically. Why? Because Western culture--that is, the culture of what used to be called "Christendom"--was simply too strong for Marxist ideology to overcome. Consequently, argued Gramsci, the only way to conquer the West was moral subversion through destroying the West's values, obliterating its knowledge of its own history, and destroying its Christian spiritual foundation. If these things could be accomplished, the West would collapse from within. In essence, Gramsci outlined a strategy for transforming the thinking of the free peoples of the West so that they would willingly enter the Marxist gulag.

Not long after they arrived in America, Gramsci's followers developed a plan for subverting traditional American culture that over the years has given their ideas tremendous influence in our educational institutions and our culture. Public Education Against America chronicles how this has happened and shows forcefully how the public schools are now a clear and present danger to Christian children.

As Christian homeschoolers, we need to be ministering to our brothers and sisters with children in the government's schools. Reading Public Education Against America will not only strengthen your resolve to homeschool, but, more important, also prepare you to explain why public schools today are not a legitimate educational choice for Christians.

--Product review by Bruce Shortt, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2006