Mark Shepard: What are we thinking?

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mark Shepard, a former Vermont state senator (2003-2006) in the Bennington District. He owns and operates an engineering business specializing in industrial control and test systems.

Schools are closed, children are home and parents are confronted with how best to help their children continue their education at home, where parents are more clearly seeing and evaluating the ideas that are shaping their child’s thinking and worldview. Indeed, every schooling option is a form of discipleship, and everyday disciples are being made. What type of disciple is your child’s school aiming to produce?

Ideas that not many decades ago were well understood to be destructive are now accepted, if not embraced, by huge percentages of Americans. And make no mistake: much of this shift ties to the curriculum forced upon the vast majority of American children through the public school system.

That curriculum is not an accident. It is the design of John Dewey and others who set up a teaching college at Columbia University, which has become a model for most teaching colleges in our nation. The core objective has been to shift America away from its free-market model to one of centralized state control, with the misguided belief that a world controlled by a few “gifted” people would deliver a safer and better life than a world where people are free to interact, create and exchange goods and ideas according to their needs, desires and dreams. In their elitist zeal, the history of corruption and carnage from concentrating power in the hands of a few was disregarded.

Their ideal world, which is from Marxist ideology, requires a world where the citizens’ greatest allegiance is to the state. So, like all Marxist experiments, their methods are aimed at eliminating from society the more natural allegiances: bonds to family, religion and property — physical as well as labor and creative works.

Our nation’s shift away from free markets and toward state-controlled markets is very much connected to the worldview taught in public school curriculum. Some surveys suggest that about half of America’s young adults are quite open to socialism. None of this is an accident. People become what they learn.

For decades vain efforts have tried to reform public education. However, it is impossible to make something good out of something that is fundamentally flawed. To pretend a school system can teach without impressing a worldview into the minds of its students is utter nonsense. Education is always teaching from some set of ideas.

We have had state-controlled public education for so long it is hard to imagine an alternative; however, as with any monopoly-type entity, it invites corruption and indeed has been used to redirect the American mindset. The concerns that produced the First Amendment, prohibiting government from pushing a particular religion, apply equally to education. A government with the power to direct the thinking of the population is dangerous. Americans have spilled massive amounts of blood and resources in wars against nations where monopoly state-controlled education steered cultures toward horrific ends.

A free-market system of education, which diversifies power and naturally delivers according to the needs and desires of the population it serves, is a much safer option. Thankfully there are numerous education models in practice today, delivering results far better for the children than the “free” public system. So while small at this point, the framework for a free-market system is well established.

Of course the public system is not free at all. Mammoth taxes fund its per-student cost that is almost always higher than most free-market options. But a far greater cost is the long term effect on a child of a poor education based upon a fraudulent set of ideas, which is the case at all public schools. Even teachers that understand the fraudulent core of the curriculum can do little when he or she is bound by law to impress that curriculum into the minds of students. What a huge loss of a person’s life to have spent their formative years learning from a paradigm that is counter to the realities of life.

Add to that the impact from peers, with parents having little to no control over who their child interacts with at public schools and on essentially unsupervised bus rides to and from school. Consolidating public schools makes the peer problems worse. Bigger is not better.

The utter failure of the state-controlled monopoly-minded school model has, even with its “free” price tag, spawned many free-market options. I have chosen to consider a free-market education model from a Christian perspective as that is the worldview I embrace. Additionally, the Christian worldview was widely embraced and thus very influential at the birth of our nation. With a free-market approach to education, curriculum naturally reflected the perspective that parents wanted instilled in their children, and so biblical teachings greatly informed the cultural thinking. Human incompatibility with great power was well understood as was the value and uniqueness of each person.

Drawing upon biblical teachings, the framers implemented a government with several layers of checks and balances with powers resting at the smallest governing body possible starting with the individual, to the family, church, community, state and finally a federal government with powers limited to those expressly enumerated in its constitution. The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, embraced the uniquely Judeo-Christian worldview concept of created human equality, and thus rejected the caste mentality that has plagued the world throughout human history. Attaining that goal, which is so contrary to our fallen human nature and was even beyond Jefferson’s natural thinking, is truly a never ending battle. But the idea of an American citizen being free to chart life according to his or her own aspirations and abilities, with no restrictions based on social status, is very much a founding concept that connects solidly to a Christian worldview.

Over the past few decades many people have been working tirelessly to create better options and their efforts have truly prepared our nation for a time such as now when, because of the COVID-19 virus, parents are forced to be more engaged in the direction of their children’s education. Just over a year ago several of these people and their organizations joined together to create the Christian Education Initiative (CEI). With CEI, those actively working for free-market education solutions built on a Christian worldview can get to know and support one-another and collaborate with their various strengths to help create more and better opportunities for children to have a Christian education. CEI embraces a free-market system, where parents have the strongest voice.

Image courtesy of TNR
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5 thoughts on “Mark Shepard: What are we thinking?

  1. I encourage readers to follow the link for the complete column. The True North version had edits to fit their format, which is understandable, and I am grateful to TNR for publishing my column. However as published some thoughts in the later part of the piece are incomplete. The full of what was Part 2 is more complete, which is at the link at the bottom of the published column above.

    • The best statement of the worst threat to the United States future I have ever read..

      I was a business man asked to speak to a high school personal economics class, 30 years ago. Students had no idea what I was talking about. Asked to borrow the text book on personal economics. Could have been one paragraph. A long list of everything that will “make the gov’t your primary keeper for life! “

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