Prior to the 1960s, public schools and teachers clearly accepted their role in defining the culture of the youngsters under their supervision. The public schools, using a McGuffey-Reader-style curriculum, were the mechanism through which American kids learned not only the basics, but also values such as honesty and patriotism, and immigrant kids assimilated by learning our language, laws and customs.
For example, The American Citizens Handbook, published for teachers by the National Education Association in 1951, proclaimed: "It is important that people who are to live and work together shall have a common mind a like heritage of purpose, religious ideals, love of country, beauty, and wisdom to guide and inspire them." This message was fortified in this Handbook by selections suitable for memorization, such as Old and New Testament passages, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Golden Rule, the Boy Scout oath, and patriotic songs.
My, how public schools and teachers unions have changed since 1951!
The turning point in public schools came in the 1960s with the vast influence of the Humanist John Dewey and his Columbia Teachers College acolytes, who argued against objective truth, authoritative notions of good and evil, religion and tradition. Sidney Simon's 1972 book Values Clarification, which sold nearly a million copies, was widely used to teach students to "clarify" their values, i.e., cast off their parents' values and make their own moral (or immoral) choices.
Then the public schools welcomed the Kinsey-trained sexperts to change the sexual mores of our society from favoring sex-in-marriage to diversity. Concepts of right and wrong were banished, and children were taught about varieties of sex without reference to what is moral, good, or even legal.
Meanwhile, elementary and secondary school curricula suffered a vast dumbing down. Phonics and traditional arithmetic were censored out. Students were allowed to graduate without learning to read or calculate. While tolerating massive illiteracy, the public schools are now powerfully impacting our culture by inculcating the values of situation ethics, diversity, and the easy acceptance of sex outside of marriage. American history and literature courses now teach the doctrines of U.S. guilt and multiculturalism instead of the greatness of our heroes and successes.
By the 1980s, the public schools were rejecting the Meyer-Pierce doctrine that parents have the fundamental right to control the upbringing of their own children. The Meyer-Pierce doctrine is described in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1920s, which we thought was settled law.1
By the 1990s, public schools had adopted the attitude best described by Hillary Clinton: the "village" (i.e., the government) should raise the child. Public schools, backed by anti-parent resolutions adopted by the National Education Association at its annual conventions, have become fortresses in which the administrators exercise near-absolute power to determine the students' values, morals, attitudes and hopes, while parents are kept outside the barricades.
Using activist judges to shore up their monopoly power, the schools persuaded the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court to rule in 20052 that a public school can teach students "whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise," and that parents' right to control the upbringing of their children "does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door." After heavy criticism in the U.S. House, the court tried to soften the "threshold" sentence but reaffirmed its decision.
The meaning of "whatever" is spelled out in anti-parent, pro-public-school decisions handed down in five circuits within the last two years. Federal courts upheld the right of public schools to indoctrinate students in Muslim religion and practices,3 to force students to watch a one-hour pro-homosexual video,4 to force students to attend a program advocating homosexual conduct that used minors in sexually suggestive skits,5 to censor any mention of Intelligent Design,6 to use classroom materials that parents consider pornography,7 to force students to answer nosy questionnaires with suggestive questions about sex, drugs and suicide,8 and to deny a divorced father's right to get his son's school records.9
1 Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925).
2 Fields v. Palmdale School District (2005).
3 Eklund v. Byron Union School District (2005).
4 Boyd Gay-Straight v. Boyd Board of Education (2006).
5 Brown v. Hot, Sexy and Safer Productions (1995).
6 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005).
7 Evans-Marshall v. Board of Education (2005).
8 C.N. v. Ridgewood Board of Education (2005).
9 Crowley v. McKinney (2005).