Commentary

Throwing Brickbats at Public Education's Windows

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The national secretary of the Moral Majority has repeatedly charged that the public schools are encouraging children to commit suicide. The Rev. Greg Dixon, pastor of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, believes that "a small cadre of elitist humanoids" is attempting to control the population through sex education, death education, and environmental education.

Mr. Dixon has repeatedly accused the public schools of committing a number of heinous crimes. To disseminate his charges, he uses a variety of media: sermons, debates, speeches, Moral Majority recruiting rallies, magazine articles, newspaper interviews, and radio and television programs. And he undoubtedly expects many of his listeners and readers to believe every statement he makes about public education.

Through questions allegedly based on facts, Mr. Dixon skillfully implants ideas about the public schools in the minds of the people in his audiences. For example, in a formal debate with me in Indianapolis, Mr. Dixon asked the audience why teachers would take junior-high school students into rooms, close the doors, pull the curtains, and show them stag films. "What is the purpose of such a thing as this?" he asked. "Do you suppose it's for the purpose of inflaming their passions so that they'll go out and do what the film suggests and get a young lady pregnant so that she'll go down to an abortion center and get an abortion? ... After all, if the abortion centers do not have customers, they won't get the more than a billion dollars a year from the Federal government. Where are they going to get customers unless those customers are produced?"

During the debate, which was part of the Indiana state teachers' convention, Mr. Dixon declared that "the public schools of the State of Indiana are teaching pure communism," that "textbooks destroy everything that is holy and decent and right," and that teachers are teaching children poems that glorify suicide. To support his last charge, he read the lyrics to the theme song from "M*A*S*H," which he said had been taught in an Indianapolis school.

In a sermon entitled "How Public Schools Make Communists of Your Children," Mr. Dixon asserted that environmental educators have worked out a mathematical formula for controlling population. He said: "A certain percentage will have to practice contraception and birth control and certain percentage will have to commit suicide. You know why? Because they are Nazis. They believe in the survival of the fittest. And they know that the fittest will not commit suicide ... Now you know why they're teaching sex education in school. Now you understand why they're trying to teach your children to get an abortion. Now you understand why they teach little junior-high-school age kids to commit suicide. To keep from having overpopulation by the year 2000, they either have to control or kill through the schools."

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, Mr. Dixon's college classmate and the founder of the Moral Majority, has made an equal number of indictments of public education. In a speech in which he launched a new phase of his Clean Up America campaign, he declared that most public-school textbooks are nothing more than "Soviet propaganda." He told an audience of 15,000 as he spoke from the Capitol steps in Washington: "In school textbooks, pornography, obscenity, vulgarity, and profanity are destroying our children's moral values in the guise of 'value clarification' and 'sex education.' Our children are being trained to deny their 200-year heritage." Mr. Falwell then urged his followers to "rise up in arms to throw out every textbook" that does not accurately present the American heritage.

In his speeches, sermons, and publications, Mr. Falwell frequently denounces "secular humanistic" public education and urges his followers to enroll their children in "conservative Christian academies." In his book, Listen, America!, Mr. Falwell proclaims: "Christian schools are the only hopes of training young men and young women who will be capable of taking the helm of leadership in every level of society. People devoid of character cannot lead a nation."

Are people educated in public schools devoid of character? Are the public schools preaching a religion called secular humanism? Are teachers encouraging children to commit suicide? Are public schools teaching "pure communism"? Are public-school teachers working closely with federally funded abortion clinics? Are textbooks "Soviet propaganda"?

Can Mr. Dixon, Mr. Falwell, and their followers substantiate the many charges they make against public schools? Or is substantiation unnecessary since they know that many people will believe--without questioning--anything they say?

Throwing brickbats at public education's windows is easy and fashionable. Anyone can do it because it requires little skill. All one must do is make a strong charge--for example, sociology is destroying today's youth--and hurl it at the schools in the form of a book, monograph, newsletter, speech, or radio or television interview. The stronger the charge, the better. Never mind that it is based on a half-truth or on hearsay. Few Americans will bother to verify the charges.

The brickbat throwers have much in common. All are convinced that the public schools are preaching the religion of secular humanism, and all use virtually the same, pat definition to back their accusations. All know that textbooks are filthy, whether they have read them or not. Many read only the reviews of textbooks and library books or scan a few pages before calling for their removal. Those who write about the schools usually send their diatribes with calls for concerned parents to remove their children from the evil public schools and to enroll them in conservative Christian academies.

Very few Americans would deny parents the right to send their children to private schools. Very few Americans would deny Mr. Dixon and Mr. Falwell their rights to decry public education. But more and more Americans must begin challenging the statements about public education that are being made by Mr. Dixon, Mr. Falwell, and their followers.

The public schools have many serious problems and many vocal critics. Some critics carefully analyze school problems and offer solutions. The brickbat throwers smash windows and run.

Vol. 01, Issue 23, Page 24

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