Prior to the 1800's, obtaining an education was considered a luxury reserved exclusively for the rich. Everyone else had to tend to their livelihood which, in colonial America, was primarily based on agriculture or maritime activities. It wasn't until the mid-1800's when the public school system was introduced as an attempt to educate the nation's youth. The intent was to fight ignorance, improve communications, and make better decisions. Educating the general public was considered rather revolutionary for the times. Today we tend to take it for granted.
By combating ignorance, education was used as a tool to improve the country internally and externally. In other words, it allowed us to become more competitive, something sorely needed for a fledgling country. From this perspective, education was used as a weapon to allow us to effectively compete on the world's stage.
Beyond combating ignorance for competitive purposes, governments found education to be indispensable for pushing forward political agendas. As Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin correctly observed, "Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." From his perspective, Stalin saw education as a vital propaganda tool for controlling the masses, as did Hitler and others. By controlling their education systems, they controlled the masses. Not surprising, the Communist Goals of 1963 included, "Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for Socialism, and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers associations. Put the party line in text books."
There is indeed power in shaping the minds of people, be it impressionable youth, teenagers, adults or senior citizens. As Americans though we tend to naively believe the public school system, which is funded by American taxpayers, is not being used for political or social purposes; that it is being used primarily to combat ignorance and improve the IQ of the masses. However, because of the failure of people to effectively parent their youth, the responsibility has defaulted to school systems which explicitly or implicitly teaches morality, socialization, sex education, and, Yes, politics. Such subjects are most definitely not what American taxpayers had in mind, but sadly this is the hard reality of the times we live in.
For example, let's take the recent Montana proposal to teach a sex education curriculum at the elementary school level (K-5). Supporters contend the curriculum will help students better understand human anatomy as well as both hetero and homosexual relationships which should, in theory, result in students making better life decisions. Opponents see this as a threat to morality and question the necessity of teaching such lessons at an early age. Frankly, I think the proposal is not proper as they would be teaching the wrong people. Instead of instructing the students, the school system should be educating the parents so they can effectively teach their offspring. Undoubtedly, parents would claim they do not have time for such education and would balk at attendance. "Hey, that's the night for watching my reality shows."
The Montana issue begs the question though: Whose responsibility is it to teach our youth certain delicate issues such as sex education and morality? Again, in the old days, the responsibility was that of the parent; today, it is the school's. As an aside, our school systems would do us all a great service by offering adult training in parenting, thereby taking the responsibility off the shoulders of the teachers where it doesn't belong.
There is a fine line between teaching core subjects such as language skills, math, science, etc., and teaching political or social values. Whereas the former is used as a weapon to combat ignorance, the latter is a weapon for manipulating the masses. This is the primary reason why Islamic proponents want more say in education. Make no mistake, education is indeed a powerful weapon. As "Uncle Joe" pointed out though, who is holding the weapon, and who is it aimed at?
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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