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Death to the schools

If you love the kids, you'll keep them from harm

Issue: "Who's marching now?," Oct. 17, 1998

Want a sure-fire recipe for getting into big trouble-and for making yourself persona non grata? Just start telling some parents you know what they're doing wrong with their children. That's why I winced when I first heard of the organization called Exodus 2000, a group dedicated not only to convincing Christian parents everywhere to withdraw their children from the public schools of America, but to ensure as well that the goal would be completed just two years from now. Talk about winsomeness! I prefer the subtle approach, sneaking up on folks, winning their friendship in an unsuspecting way, and then persuading them point by point of my radical agenda. Exodus 2000, headed by E. Raymond Moore Jr., was a little more like starting the peace talks with a threat to drop an atom bomb sometime this afternoon. But Exodus 2000 is in fact just one of several wonderfully boisterous organizations established in the last few years dedicated to waking up Americans-and especially American Christians-to the follies of state-sponsored education. Rescue 2010 is a little more patient; its founder, Robert Simonds, thinks it may take 12 more years, rather than just two, to sound the alarm effectively. But he's no less blunt with his message. "I founded Citizens for Excellence in 1983," he says a bit apologetically, "to reform our failing public-school system. After 15 years of valiant effort, I sadly concluded that school leaders have hardened their hearts to conservatives and have an especially hostile attitude toward Christians and others of religious faith." There is also the Exodus Project based in St. Paul, Minn., and headed by the always energetic Brannon Howse. Mr. Howse believes the state school context has become so biased that very soon those who do not agree with the state's worldview or standards will not be encouraged to pursue positions of power or influence either socially or economically. He believes vocational testing being used more and more widely in state schools will effectively "weed out" self-conscious Christians from all leadership roles in public education-if they don't weed themselves out of the system in the first place. If all that's a little too radically outspoken for your blood, you probably wouldn't feel too much at home a month from now at the Nov. 12-14 Colorado Springs conference of the Separation of School and State Alliance. The conference brochure puts the issue bluntly: "Do public schools undermine religious beliefs so much that you should remove your children?" There's no doubting what answer you'll hear from the dozen speakers and presenters ranging from John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down, to Vanita Warren of Concerned Women for America to R.C. Sproul Jr. of Tabletalk magazine to former congressman Bill Dannemeyer. (For conference details, call (209) 292-1776, fax (209) 292-7582, or check out the Web site at The alliance naturally struggles with its own diversity. It seeks to include not just vigorous Protestants and evangelical Roman Catholics, but atheistic libertarians and earnest Muslims. All of them want to see the government get out of the task of education-but for different reasons. Some seek that goal for theological motives, some for philosophical, and some simply because they're fed up with the educational and behavioral failures of public schools. Providing a most unlikely linkage for all these co-belligerents is still another outspoken educational revolutionary. Marshall Fritz, the alliance's swashbuckling founder, devastates his opponents with his keen thinking and his sharp phrasemaking. Still, in the end, he also almost always persuades you that his heart is right where any educator's heart ought to be right: He loves the kids themselves and wants to keep them from destruction. Mr. Fritz says American Christians have "over-rendered." "Esau was snookered," he says. "The Bible says he gave up his birthright for a bit of food. Too many American parents are modern Esaus. Some of us were robbed, but most of us willingly rendered to Caesar that which does not belong to him-our children. "From seat belts to airbags, from child labor to child discipline, from school attendance to school financing, parents have abdicated to politicians their duty of birthright and authority. We must reclaim our authority by dissolving the bonds between K-12 schools and state, local, and federal governments. This will allow schools to bond to parents and help trigger a moral and spiritual awakening in America." Marshall Fritz and his Separation of School and State Alliance are right when they observe that cultural "truth" generally passes through three key stages: First, it's considered absurd and is either ignored or ridiculed. Second, it's considered dangerous and is viciously attacked. Finally, it wins the day and is considered self-evident. The Alliance believes it's just entering significantly into Stage 2. To those who almost automatically assume that "school" means "public school," it's worth remembering that less than a decade ago, we all assumed the Berlin Wall might stand forever. Then, after returning elementary and secondary education to the rightful jurisdiction of the parents, we can take on the same objective with higher education. I'm not really sure which is the bigger challenge-but I'm glad the revolution is underway.

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Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.


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