STOP the War on Children

July 17, 2011

Supreme Court: 7-Year-Olds Free to Buy Violent Video Games

By Karen Gushta                                                                                                                          

Parents are having a hard time understanding Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent opinion. Scalia, writing for the majority, gave the High Court’s reasoning for upholding a federal appeals court decision, which threw out a California ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

Scalia and his wife Maureen have nine children and 28 grandchildren.  What was he thinking?

Perhaps one explanation is the fact that the Supreme Court justice left most of the child-rearing up to his wife. When it came to attending the children’s soccer games or piano recitals, Scalia told Lesley Stahl in a 60 Minutes interview in 2008, “You know, my parents never did it for me. I didn’t take it personally… He has his work. I got my softball game. Of course, [Maureen] was very loyal. She went to all the games.”

Referring to the Stahl interview, Jamie Heller noted on the Wall Street blog, The Juggle, “perhaps the more compelling point here is the clear division of labor that seemed to exist between these spouses. Nino had the workplace career. Maureen raised the children.”

So does this excuse Justice Scalia’s taking the position he did in siding with the majority in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association? Rebecca Burgoyne, legislative analyst for the California Family Council, says “The Supreme Court has basically done an end-run against parental authority and said that children have the right to have access to these video games, despite what their parents may think or say.”

As Burgoyne told OneNewsNow, the danger posed to children by excessively violent video games is the fact that children are simulating violent behaviors, such as shooting people—or worse—and “rehearsing these behaviors over and over again.”

In his opinion, Justice Scalia wrote, “No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm. But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

Agreed. That type of restriction is already in place in our government controlled schools where intelligent design and creation science are dismissed out of hand. But the issue here is not the “ideas” that children are being exposed to, but the “behaviors” that they are imitating and acting out in a simulated environment.

Some of those behaviors were described by Justice Alito in his concurring opinion. “In some of these games,” he wrote, “the violence is astounding. Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement…dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. They cry out in agony and beg for mercy. Blood gushes, splatters, and pools. Severed body parts and gobs of human remains are graphically shown.”

Justice Scalia, however, compared the video simulation of such horrific and gory acts of violence to the violence children and teenagers are exposed to in literature such as Grimm’s Fairy Tales or Homer’s Odyssey or even William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example are grim indeed,” he opined.

Although he concurred with the majority, arguing that the California law should be struck down because it was too vague, Judge Alito did caution, “The Court is far too quick to dismiss the possibility that the experience of playing video games (and the effects on minors of playing violent video games) may be very different from anything that we have seen before.”

And that is precisely what the “vague” California law was intended to take into account. The author of the bill is state senator Leland Yee, a 61 year old Democrat from San Francisco who is also a child psychologist. As Joan Biskupic reported in U.S.A Today, Sen. Yee’s concern in crafting the bill is the interactive component of video games. This interactivity makes them much more dangerous in their effects on gamers compared to the effects a violent movie might have on a viewer or a violence filled book has on a reader. The child psychologist claims that participating in video games that simulate killing or maiming of human beings is harmful to the psyches of young players and can even lead to violence.

Yee also points out that parents who want to screen violent games have difficulty doing so because the scenes of slaughter and brutal violence may only come after hours of strategic play. “No parent can just play the game and know everything in it.”

According to Biskupic, the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association case generated a large number of friend of the court briefs—26 of 30 opposed the California law. Included among these was the  U.S.A Today,. The foundation argued that violence has always been part of children’s literature, and fairy tales are replete with stories in which the witch is burned alive or a grandmother devoured by a wolf.

But such arguments again miss the point. Children recognize that fairy tales are fantasy—they are stories of imaginary characters, and that is what makes them frightening, but ultimately safe.

Video game simulations, on the other hand, are appealing to young gamers precisely because they allow them to participate in a “virtual reality” in which they become one with the characters who act out the fantasy. The avowed aim of game designers is to blur the line between fantasy and reality in order to make their games more compelling and captivating.

The Supreme Court’s decision flies in the face of both common sense and good sense. The Court even ignored its own past decisions that had bearing on this case, such as the court’s 1968 Ginsberg v. New York decision in which the court upheld a law that regulated content that was deemed harmful to children because it was obscene.

Ultimately the good sense and the constitutional sense in this case came from the two dissenting Justices—an unlikely pair—Justice Thomas, known as a court “conservative”  and Justice Breyer, known as a “liberal.”

As Mark Walsh noted in Education Week, “Justice Thomas cited the history of parental control of children from the early days of the Republic and said, ‘The freedom of speech, as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors without going through the minors’ parents or guardians.’”

Justice Breyer said that the California law “imposes no more than a modest restriction on expression. This case is ultimately less about censorship than it is about education.” “Sometimes,” Breyer added, “children need to learn by making choices for themselves. Other times, choices are made for children—by their parents, by their teachers, and by the people acting democratically through their governments.”

By their decision the Supreme Court has made sure that seven-year-olds are now free to make the choice themselves whether to purchase games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, regardless of what their parents may say.

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About Karen Gushta

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries, author of The War on Children, and co-author of Ten Truths About Socialism. As a career educator, Dr. Gushta has taught from kindergarten to graduate teacher education in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education and Masters degrees in Elementary Education and in Christianity and Culture.

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February 21, 2011

The End Goal of Obama’s “Race to Educate Our Kids”

By Dr. Karen Gushta
President Obama devoted a thousand words to education in his State of the Union Speech on January 25. “Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success,” he claimed. “But,” he added, “if we want to win the future—if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas—then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”
Winning the education race, according to President Obama, also means that by 2020 America should “once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” He challenged Americans “as citizens, and as parents,” to ask ourselves whether we “are willing to do what’s necessary to give every child a chance to succeed.”
“That responsibility,” the President said, “begins not in our classrooms, but in our homes and communities. It’s family that first instills the love of learning in a child. Only parents can make sure the TV is turned off and homework gets done.  We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”
There are few who would dispute the President on these points. Many of us might even have applauded him. All of the above statements are truisms—like stating that we should have clean water and the airlines should run on time.
What’s the problem, then, with the President’s remarks on education?
In my view, it was the context. In connecting America’s economic success to “giving every child a chance to succeed,” President Obama is following in the steps of the past three presidents, each of whom tried to shape America’s education system to further their economic goals for America. The President’s Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, explains the connection this way: “We have to educate our way to a better economy.”
George Leef, Director of Research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, disagrees. “Just like the notion that federal deficit spending will revive the economy, the idea that getting more young Americans through college will make the country more competitive and prosperous is utterly mistaken.” Leef points out that since 1971, we have been “graduating many young people from college who learn little and will wind up in jobs that most high school kids could do.”
President Ronald Reagan once said, “Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is
hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.”
As I note in my book, The War on Children, the idea of educating for virtue, which entails learning “what is worth having,” has been replaced by the view that schools should be producing “workers for the world.”
Interestingly, both those who believe in American exceptionalism and those who don’t tend to support this view. “Exceptionalists” want education to maintain America’s current status as the number one economy in the world by providing highly trained workers. “Transnationalists” want to transform America’s role among the nations by training our children to think globally and work for world peace and social justice.
What’s missing, however, in both these views is the idea, as expressed by President Reagan, that education should introduce youth to “what is worth having”—that is, the highest ideals of civilization. Such was the goal of traditional “liberal education,” which taught the classics: English literature, the humanities, and moral virtues. Liberal education, (drawing from the Latin root liber—meaning “free, independent, unrestrained”) was intended to free students from the shackles of ignorance and provincialism by introducing them to the great minds, great ideas, and the great books of civilization—primarily Western Civilization rooted in the Judeo-Christian worldview and ethic. 

In the mid-twentieth century, this view of education went into a free fall decline in colleges and universities across America. The emphasis shifted to professional education, and radical professors inserted courses rooted in the ideology of race, class, and gender.  General education requirements, which provided students with a broad perspective on the academic disciplines, were dropped. As Judge Robert Bork wrote, students learned “information about narrow corners of subjects, but no conception of the larger context that alone can give the niches meaning.” Rather than being “freed from provincialism,” students are now being indoctrinated into political correctness.
Most secular colleges and universities have abandoned the idea that there is a central body of knowledge that all educated persons should have, which is the central premise of the liberal education curriculum. According to one source, as of 2009, only four percent of students in the United States attend the eight percent of colleges that still provide a liberal education.
What with the high cost of college, the real possibility of being underemployed upon graduation, and the likelihood that all they’ll gain is knowledge of “narrow corners of subjects,” high school students should not assume that college is the best route to finding God’s vocational calling on their lives.
As Dr. Del Tackett, educator and host of Coral Ridge Ministries’ Cross Examine television program, has suggested, young people should ask themselves, “Do I want to write my own story, or would I rather be part of the story of an all-wise and loving God?”
Then, whether it’s a liberal education, a professional one, or an alternative route to Christian service  or vocation, they can be sure of God’s direction—and, “Where His finger points, His hand will make a way.”

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

March 1, 2010

Blowing Kisses and Giving Big Smooches!

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Blowing Kisses and Giving Big Smooches!

By Karen L. Gushta, Ph.D.

Last fall President Obama declared that September 28, 2009 should be observed as Family Day. He urged families to celebrate “with appropriate ceremonies and activities to honor and strengthen our Nation’s families.”

The president noted that “families encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things.” And parents, he said, “bear significant stress and burdens to protect their children from harmful influences.”

What kinds of “harmful influences” did he have in mind? The president’s list included alcohol, tobacco, or prescription and illicit drugs, and other harmful behaviors which, he said, “can destroy the mind, body, and spirit of a child.”

Conspicuously absent were pornography, promiscuous sex and homosexuality–behaviors so devastating to the physical and emotional well-being of adolescents that those who promote them are waging a de facto war on children and youth.

Promiscuity, for example, carries severe consequences. A 2006 study showed that one in every four girls in public high schools in this country is infected with an STD. Approximately 12 million Americans contract STDs every year—nearly three percent of the entire population. What’s more significant, however, is the fact that of this group, 65 percent are younger than 25 years of age. Youth who become infected with STDs are less likely to seek immediate treatment, and therefore more susceptible to the long-term devastating health effects of these diseases, such as sterility, damage to the brain and heart, cervical cancer, and incurable genital warts.

And what is the president doing in the face of this? Rather than promote abstinence, which is the only sure way one can be protected from STDs, the Obama administration’s budget redirected funds from abstinence-only programs, such as Community-Based Abstinence Education and Title V Abstinence Education, to what are termed, “evidence-based and promising teen pregnancy prevention programs.”

But the “evidence” favors abstinence. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation reports that abstinence programs that include a virginity pledge “dramatically lower rates of teen births.” Abortion rates, teen sex, and out of-wedlock births all decrease among teens who have made such a pledge. Although not all teens keep their pledge, this form of abstinence education results in the “number of sexual partners down a third to a half, compared to kids from a similar socioeconomic background.”

What about pornography? Twenty percent of Internet porn involves children. Ninety percent have viewed it online—most while doing their homework. Homegrown pornography, aka sexting, is the latest moral virus to infect cell phones and young souls. Only 25 percent of 7th to 12th graders have a filter or parental controls on their computers, and only three percent of porn sites require adult verification before entering.

Since the Warren Court opened the floodgates of pornography in the late ’60s by a series of 34 unsigned per curiam decisions, social conservatives have attempted to get legislation passed to reign in the purveyors of porn who now freely post on the Internet.

Where does the Obama administration stand on this threat to children? One might say they are “in bed” with the pornography lobby, having appointed David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General. Ogden’s resume includes service for clients such as Penthouse and Playboy, amicus briefs defending child pornography in Knox v. United States and opposing the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000.

Finally, what about strengthening families by protecting the institution of marriage itself? In his Family Day proclamation, the president proclaimed that families of same-sex couples can also “encourage us to do our best and enable us to accomplish great things.” But research has shown that family configuration has significant impact on children’s well-being. And while there is still a limited amount of research on same-sex parenting outcomes, social science research is unequivocal in finding that children do best with a mother and father. An abundance of research also shows that children suffer in manifold ways when their home is fatherless or their parents divorce.

It’s clear who suffers when society tinkers with God’s structure for marriage of one man and one woman for the sake of social experimentation and a socially defined right to marry.

While the president gave one day to recognizing families, he declared the whole month of June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, 2009,” and affirmed his administration’s support for ensuring gay adoption rights and civil unions. He also inexplicably appointed Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), to be the “safe schools” czar at the Department of Education. When he was a teacher, Jennings failed to report a homosexual statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy. Jennings has praised pro-pedophile gay activist Harry Hay and promoted books detailing seductions of teen boys by older men. What’s more, GLSEN sponsored a forum in which 14-year-olds were told how to perform dangerous homosexual acts.

Unless Mr. Obama’s administration follows through with family friendly social policies that seek the best interests of children, his Family Day Proclamation smacks of little more than lip service. Blowing kisses at the family while giving big smooches to all things gay, shows where the president’s heart really is.

Karen L. Gushta, Ph.D., is a researcher at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children (Coral Ridge Ministries, 2009).

February 10, 2010

STOPPING the WAR on Children

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Moral Education to Build a Moral Nation

By Dr. Karen L. Gushta

This speech was presented to The Constitutional Coalition’s “Education Policy Conference 21” – St. Louis, Feb 2010.

In many respects, the adults of our nation are like the ostrich—not the proverbial one who buries his head in the sand to avoid calamity, but the one described in the 39th chapter of Job, the one that abandons its young:

“For she leaves her eggs to the earth and lets them be warmed on the ground, forgetting that a foot may crush them and that the wild beast may trample them. She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;”

This is description is emblematic of the case I make in my book, The War on Children. Our culture is dealing cruelly with our young. We kill them in the womb. We infect their minds with vulgar and pornographic entertainments. We barely notice when one quarter of young high school girls are infected with STDs. As a nation we seem to have lost sight of the fact that our children are our nation’s hope for the future and our greatest heritage.

Therefore, I doubly appreciate the opportunity Donna Hearne and the Constitutional Coalition have given me to speak to you today. Not only am I honored, but I am thankful to speak to a group that “gets it!”  You understand that education is THE political question our nation must face if we are to give our children a heritage of freedom.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan claims that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle all agree that “education is the one issue that rises above politics and ideology.”[1]

But I would say, most emphatically not! Education does not—in fact, it cannot rise above politics. The way we educate—lead, direct, guide, and nurture—our youth is always going to be political and ideological, because it is determined by beliefs that are politically, morally, philosophically, and yes, religiously grounded.

For decades now we’ve been told that the way to fix our schools is to throw money at them.  The new Obama budget will give close to $50 billion to government controlled education, the highest amount ever.[2]

However, as Dr. D. James Kennedy observed, “It’s not the money that is the problem; it is the philosophy that has gone wrong. We have brought about a moral educational collapse equivalent to an attack by a hostile foreign power.”[3]

Education is the political question we must tackle if our country is to remain free. It has been THE political question since Plato addressed it in The Republic and Aristotle in his Politics.

Our Founding Fathers considered it deeply, and like most other political issues, they got it right. They saw that moral virtue is our “first line of defense” to preserve our Republic. Samuel Adams, known in our schools until recently as “The Father of the American Revolution,” wrote:

While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.[4]

According to Manhattan Institute Fellow Kay Hymowitz, parents during the Founding era gave a great deal of attention to the moral development of their children. They saw that they must prepare their children to be independent moral actors in a free society. “Knowing that republican government depended on individual virtue, they set out to construct in their child’s heart and mind an internal moral compass they thought of as ‘character,’” says Hymowitz.[5]

Until the rise of the commons school movement in the 1840s and 50s, schooling was handled by a variety of institutions: some students were educated in private academies; some attended church schools, some were taught by tutors or parents who prepared them for higher education by reading of the classics, and many youth were apprenticed to learn a profitable trade. The result of this mix was described by Alexis de Tocqueville after his visit to America in 1831:

There is no country in the world where, after all is said and done, men make as many efforts to create social well-being. I do not know a people who has succeeded in establishing schools as numerous and as efficacious.[6]

But Horace Mann believed a “common school” was needed to promote “common cultural values” across the land, and so he and his fellow educators took control of schooling out of the hands of parents and local communities and put it in the hands of government and bureaucrats. They believed, just as educationists do today, that children are the property of the state and, therefore, the state has the right to determine how they should be educated.[7]

This morning’s speakers have described the ideological takeover of our nation’s classrooms. I do not believe this would have been possible, however, if parents truly understood that education is a political question, or if they really knew what was happening in schools today. As Gary DeMar notes in his book, Whoever Controls the Schools Rules the World, “. . . most parents have no idea what’s going on in their child’s school. If they don’t hear any bad news, they assume that all is well.”[8] But that assumption can bring disastrous results, as thousands of parents will testify who sent their kids off to school and had them return with their worldviews tainted by moral relativism, evolutionism, and now globalism.

Should this surprise us? Our nation has lost its moral bearings; its moral compass is skewed. Our current system of education only reflects that fact.

For years educationists have been insisting that their curricula not only are, but must be, “value neutral.” Rather than giving our children a strong moral mooring, schooling in America is cutting them adrift. The result: our youth are caught in the prevailing winds of hedonism, individualism, and egalitarianism. Their passions are ignited before their reason is fully developed. Lust is stoked by entertainment and marketing; the passion of envy, which de Tocqueville rightly recognized is endemic to democratic states[9], is played upon by educators and politicians alike.

So in view of this, I believe the only way we can stop the war on children is by providing a moral education to build a moral nation. And in the remaining time I have I’d like to suggest three principles which I believe must provide the foundation for education in our land.

First, education must affirm and value the sanctity of life. Life is the most fundamental value in any society. Without it, no other rights or liberties matter. Liberty, the pursuit of happiness, none of these matter, as Dr. Francis Schaeffer once pointed out, when you are lying in your coffin.[10]

Second, our education system must recognize that parents, not the state, have the primary responsibility for the nurture and education of their children.

Third, for education to be truly moral, it must be grounded in recognition of the covenantal relationship that God has made with His creation. As the Supreme Lawgiver, God has given His law not only to mankind, but also to creation, and His laws cannot be broken, except at our own jeopardy.

Let us look now at the first principle: Life itself is sacred—it is a gift given by the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, who dispenses all rights to mankind.

In our society, sanctity of life is a vanishing value—especially among our youth. Homicide is twice as high among teens and young adults as in the general population. Suicide is 13 times higher.[11] We shouldn’t be surprised.  Youth do not see life being valued; 50 million of their peers have been aborted.

As a society, we no longer treasure our children as a “gift of the Lord.” The “fruit of the womb” is often unwanted. The status of children in our society is more precarious now than at any point in our nation’s history. Children are vulnerable in the womb and young children are vulnerable to physical abuse and assault. In Broward County, Florida, the number of deaths caused by child abuse increased 23% just in 2008.[12]

Two incidents that occurred last year should have been a wake-up call in this regard. Perhaps you saw the cell-phone video that was played on the news showing teens beating their schoolmate to death in the Southside Chicago neighborhood where Barak Obama worked as a community organizer.[13] Then last fall boys in a Deerfield Beach, Florida neighborhood deliberately set fire to one of their peers.[14] These incidents illustrate the loss of moral conscience that accompanies the devaluing of human life.

Education by definition shapes the disposition, bends the will, and influences the soul of the learner. If moral values are not taught, however, there will be no formation of a moral conscience in our youth.

Today we hear more about “quality of life” than “sanctity of life.” However, that is taking us down a very slippery slope. If we think about it a bit, we see why. As Dr. D. James Kennedy pointed out, “quality of life” is a material judgment. It is based in a materialistic, and ultimately, atheistic ethic. “Sanctity of life” recognizes life as a transcendental value—it is sacred, holy—and God given.

If we do not affirm “sanctity of life” as the first principle of moral education, our culture will continue in a downward spiral of violence and degradation of human life. And our republic will be in great jeopardy, for any government that fails to protect the lives of the innocent is already becoming a tyrant state.

The second principle is one that I discuss at length in The War on Children. Moral education must affirm that parents have the primary responsibility to nurture and educate their children. Although the state derives a benefit from the education of its citizens, it is the responsibility of parents, given to them by God—the giver of life—to direct and determine the education of their children.

After giving the children of Israel the moral laws of the Ten Commandments to govern their relationships with God and with man, Moses gave the Israelites the following instructions:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

In other words, they were to grab every “teachable moment” in order to pass on to their children a godly heritage of wholehearted love for the Lord their God.

Today, a growing percentage of children receive no moral instruction in the home; for many others, their fathers are absent or rarely seen. Our fathers are missing and parents are abdicating their parental roles. When fathers are absent, children suffer; when fathers fail to teach their children moral virtues, the nation suffers.

In The Death of the Grown-Up, Diana West says that Boomer parents, in their own striving for “perpetual adolescence,” are unwilling to assume the role traditionally held by “grown-ups” in society; i.e., the role of setting boundaries and guidelines for youth.[15] Boomers are not helping youths make the transition into adulthood. The result—career-less twenty-somethings continue to live with their parents. Thirty-somethings avoid the commitment of marriage and devote all their income to their own entertainments.

In her book, Ready or Not, Kay Hymowitz links lack of parenting in our society to a mindset she refers to as “anticulturalism.”[16] Arguing that our culture is denying the need for home and school to shape and nurture children’s moral development, she says we’re treating children like little adults. We expect 3 year-olds to exercise their autonomy by choosing what they will wear to school. 13 year-olds are not required to have their parents consent to have an abortion. Our culture is full of ironies, but this is one of the most poignant. Adults living in perpetual adolescence are treating their children like little adults and pushing them into realms of behavior they are not ready for—emotionally, cognitively, or morally.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child is the ultimate expression of the “anticulturalism” Hymowitz speaks of. If ratified, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty would supercede all state laws regarding parental rights, and the federal judiciary and UN agencies would have the power to make determinations on what they considered to be in the “best interests of the child.”[17]

The third principle I’d like to suggest gets to the heart of moral education. True moral education must be grounded in recognition of the covenantal relationship that God has with His creation as its Supreme Law Giver.

The Pilgrims clearly understood this covenantal relationship. As their leader John Winthrop told them during their voyage to the new land, “The end is to improve our lives to do more service to the Lord. . . We are entered into a covenant with Him to do this work.”

Having been providentially blown off course so they could not settle in the area under the Virginia Company’s jurisdiction, the Pilgrims wrote the Mayflower Compact to serve as the foundation of their self-government. Some have called the Compact a “social contract.” But steeped as they were in Protestant covenant theology, the Pilgrims clearly saw themselves as loyal subjects of the king who, nevertheless, had the right to make a covenant with God and each other for the governance of their community.  “We, whose names are underwritten,” they wrote, “do. . . in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic.“[18]

This conception of covenant can be traced through scores of similar documents that preceded the Constitution. It had a tremendous influence upon the writers of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.[19] They recognized that the rights of life and liberty had to be endowed by the Creator in order to be “unalienable.” A social contract can be broken by either party. But signing a covenant meant pledging one’s sacred honor and even one’s own life to keep it.[20]

The dilemma of modern education, as my great uncle, apologist and theologian, Cornelius Van Til pointed out, is that it cannot provide our children with any moral absolutes, because it no longer acknowledges any source of truth outside of the material world and man’s own reason. He wrote:

Only when ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ revelation are seen (thus) to supplement one another, is man placed in his proper historical perspective. Only thus do we see what he was and what he was meant to become both individually and racially. Only in this way is man functionally defined as the covenant being that he is.[21]

God established a covenantal relationship with His new creation after saving Noah and his family from the worldwide flood. He set the rainbow in the sky as a constant reminder of His continued providential care for this “privileged planet.” God has always worked through families. The moral heritage passed down from fathers to sons and daughters can have tremendous impact for moral good in society.

As Michael Medved points out in 10 Big Lies About America, “No family story concludes with a single generation.” One of the most striking examples of this in American history is the story of the heritage the Puritan Theologian Jonathan Edwards.  He raised 11 godly children. Among their descendents were 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, and a dean of a law school, 80 public office holders, nearly 100 missionaries, 3 mayors, 3 governors, 3 United States Senators, 1 comptroller of the U.S. Treasury and 1 Vice President of the United States.[22]

Secretary Duncan has said that education is a “moral issue” because we have “an obligation to give every child in America an education that helps them succeed in their career and fulfill their role as active and involved citizens.”[23] But this is the morality of socialism.

Education a moral issue because it works on the soul. Education shapes dispositions, bends the will, influences character, and molds the conscience. And unless we understand the moral impact that education has on the souls of our children, we will never be able to provide education that is morally up to the task of building a moral nation.

There is hope for the future.  Our hope cannot rest in our own strength, however. It must rest in the One, who guided our nation in its founding; the One who will continue to guide us, if we turn to Him. Let us confess our national idolatry, seek His saving grace, and pray for His supreme help in this, our time of need.


[1] Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “Economic Security and a 21st Century Education,” Remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Summit, November 9, 2009.

[2] Bill Murchison, “Government Itself Needs an Education,” Townhall.com, February 2, 2010,

http://townhall.com/columnists/BillMurchison/2010/02/02/government_itself_needs_an_education

[3] D. James Kennedy, “The Dumbing Down of America,” Sermon preached at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL,  Feb 2, 1997.

[4] William Federer, “Sam Adams and the Boston Tea Party, American Minute, September 27, 2009.

[5] Kay S. Hymowitz, Ready of Not: What Happens When we Treat Children as Small Adults, (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000), 30.

[6] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Translated and edited by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 88.

[7] Bruce N. Shortt, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon Foundation, 2004), 307.

[8] Gary De Mar, Whoever Controls the Schools Rules the World (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007), 62.

[9] De Tocqueville, op cit. p. 189.

[10] Quote provided by D. James Kennedy in “Life: An Inalienable Right,” sermon preached on Jan. 19, 1992 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

[11] About.com Longevity, Top 10 Causes of Death for Ages 15-24, Mark Stibich, PhD. Updated June 15.2007;

Ben Best, “Causes of Death,” Causes of Death, USA, 2002, http://www.benbest.com/lifeext/causes.html

[12] Josh Hafenbrack, Tallahassee Bureau, January 7, 2010, “Child-abuse Deaths Jump 23 Percent in Florida,” Articles about Child Abuse, Sun Sentinel, http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-01-07/news/1001060797_1_child-abuse-deaths-jump-abuse-and-neglect-child-abuse

[13] Heather MacDonald, “Chicago’s Real Crime Story: Why decades of community organizing haven’t stemmed the city’s youth violence,” City Journal, winter 2010.

[14] Anne-Marie Dorning, “Teens Who Burned Boy May be Tried as Adults: Teen Was Set on Fire over a $40 Video Game,” ABC News, Oct. 14, 2009. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/US/burned-boys-attackers-adults/story?id=8829393

[15] Diana West, The Death of the Grown-Up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Civilization (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007).

[16] Kay S. Hymowitz, op. cit.

[17] Michael P. Farris, Judicial Tyranny Goes Global: International Mindset Usurps Parental Rights, reprinted from The Home School Court Report (vol. XXI, no. 2), http://parentalrights.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={FD002BD3-E4FC-4BE3-B30D-EFFE061FF34F}

[18] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower_compact

[19] David C. Gibbs and Jerry Newcombe, “The Puritan Covenants,” in One Nation Under God: Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Founding of America, (Seminole, FL: Christian Law Association, 2005), 36-46.

[20] D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, “Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor” in What if America Were a Christian Nation Again? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 30 – 41.

[21] Cornelius Van Til, The Dilemma of Education, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1956), 32.

[22] William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations (St. Louis, MO: Amerisearch, Inc.,

1994/2000), 223.

[23] “Education Secretary Launches National Discussion on Education Reform: “Listening and Learning Tour” Seeks Grassroots Input on Improving America’s Schools,” Press Release, May 5, 2009, http://www2.ed.gov/print/news/pressreleases/2009/05/05052009.html

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