If you want a classic example of how fast a whole culture can be turned on a dime, redirected by 180 degrees, try this: Just when it seemed, through the 1980s, 1990s, and even well into the past decade, that a socialist mindset had been successfully put down in the United States, back it comes-with a vengeance.
"Free markets are better for everybody," Ronald Reagan had taught us. So we deregulated. We reformed welfare. We defeated Hillary's nationalized health care. We popularized tax cuts. We watched the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapse, and we applauded the market economy in Europe. Talk radio exploded.
And, as fallen humans are wont to do, we also abused our freedom.
Which always provides an excuse to those with socialist inclinations to argue that we need to be regulated again, that we need stacks of new rules to curb our excesses, and that government needs to be called in to make everyone behave. And that's why you find a newly muscled Uncle Sam these days shutting down big investment brokers, buying huge equity clout in traditional banks, and rumored to be ready to buy similar shares of Ford, Chrysler, and GM.
All that under a supposed pro-free market Republican administration! So nobody's going to be very surprised if under an Obama presidency there will be a redoubling of Sarbanes-Oxley, re-regulation of the airlines (and just about everyone else), universal health care, a new budget line for carbon and energy, restrictions on talk radio, and increased taxes to pay the staggeringly higher bills.
Much of that has happened, may I suggest, because we also long ago conceded the most critical territory of all. While strenuously wrestling over business and banking and health care and energy and a dozen other issues, we cavalierly handed over to the state a perpetual 90 percent share of the nation's educational interests. America regularly has about 50 million children enrolled in K-12 schools, and about 20 million more in colleges and universities-and while the pattern fluctuates a little, 90 percent of those 70 million young people regularly get a state-flavored view of reality.
Socialized medicine? Most of us recoil at the idea. Socialized airlines? Reminds us of Aeroflot. Socialized banks? When it happened last month, it terrified us.
But socialized schools? Nine out of ten of us patronize them regularly.
And we do so with na'ry a thought or concern about how such an arrangement affects next week's election, or the election after that, or the lifetime of elections to come.
I am blessed to have had parents who did look ahead. Half a century ago, my father said often: "If I fail to feed my children, the government will step in. If I don't house them, the government has programs to help. Of course, I don't intend to turn those duties over to the government. But I would much rather have the government feed and house my children than to have the government shape their minds."
That's why, if I were ever forced to become a one-issue person on the political front, my single issue would be freedom of choice in education. With a nine-to-one edge in value-shaping influence, why shouldn't the government be producing products who think government-sponsored-everything is best?
When I enthusiastically endorse the Christian school and home school alternatives, I don't do so primarily because of their effect on the electoral process. Christian education isn't about filling the registration rolls of the Republican party.
But it is about producing thoughtful and earnest citizens. The bells of freedom on every front traditionally ring more clearly where a biblical value system has been inculcated. No one should expect anything resembling such a result from secularist state-sponsored schools, which will naturally glorify the state. No one should be surprised when that's what happens.
So I say: Go get educated about what Christians are doing these days in education. Go online to discoverchristianschools.com, a notable effort to help parents discover the good things happening on the school front. Go to hslda.org to learn about the growing impact of home schooling families throughout the nation.
It's too late, to be sure, to have much impact on next week's election. But so long as there are more kids and future generations, and so long as they have minds and hearts to shape with God's great truth, it's not too late at all to make a difference for elections yet to come.
If you have a question or comment for Joel Belz, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.