The leftist elitists are quick to judge the people of America’s frontier past as backward, uneducated, and illiterate. Nothing could be further from the truth!
In fact, Lawrence Reed of the Foundation for Economic Education documented their well-developed intellect, vocabulary and literacy in an article entitled, “The Myth that Americans Were Poorly Educated Before Mass Government Schooling.”
That’s why I dedicated my December 29th Generations Radio broadcast to this critical discussion.
Reed cites Robert Peterson’s assertion that “The Federalist Papers, which are seldom read or understood today even in our universities, were written for and read by the common man. Literacy rates were as high or higher than they are today. A study conducted in 1800 by DuPont de Nemours revealed that only four in a thousand Americans were unable to read and write legibly.”
Think about that. That’s only a miniscule fraction!
Well into the 19th century, Susan Alder writes that "parents did not even consider that the civil government in any way had the responsibility or should assume the responsibility of providing for the education of children." Indeed, only Massachusetts had compulsory schooling laws before the Civil War. Yet, wonder of wonders, the literacy rates were among the highest in our history.
Look at the literacy rates of even African-American slaves which is equally instructive. On the eve of the Civil War, their literacy rate ranged from 10 to 20%. By 1880, nearly 40% of southern blacks were literate. And in 1910, 50 years before the federal government involved itself in K-12 funding, black literacy exceeded 70% and was comparable to that of whites! Robert Woodson, the African-American President of the Woodson Center, has documented this literacy arc among the black population.
Don’t buy into the propaganda of the New York Times’ misguided 1619 Project which is nothing more than revisionist history.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote The Little House on the Prairie series of children’s books between 1932 and 1943, was doing just fine teaching in her little, one-room schoolhouse there in South Dakota. Somehow, some way, her students not only survived, but thrived, without the top-down, “we-know-better-than-you” Department of Education!
If you read letters written in the 1700s or 1800s, not by the likes of Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, but written by ordinary people, do you know what you’ll find out? Their vocabulary is strikingly similar to that of our Founding Fathers. Why? Because people were literate.
Where does the U.S. literacy rate stand today?
In my December 29th Generations broadcast, I pointed to a study conducted by the US Department of Education which documented that “32 million of American adults are illiterate, 21% read below a 5th grade level, and 19% of high school graduates are functionally illiterate, which means they can’t read well enough to manage daily living and perform tasks required by many jobs.”
The United Kingdom has also seen a dramatic decline in literacy since the advent of compulsory, government education. The late Professor Edwin West wrote a powerful article entitled, “The Spread of Education Before Compulsion: Britain and America in the Nineteenth Century.” In 1996, he noted, “Over 95% of 15-year-olds were literate. More than a century later, 40% of 21-year-olds in the United Kingdom admitted to difficulties with writing and spelling.”
Here’s the key question: Why is a high literacy rate created through independent schooling so essential?
Two reasons. First, because a power-hungry government will have an uphill fight if it wants to transform the people into “sheeple.” Second, if the people have not become dependent on government schools, then they will be unlikely to submit themselves to totalitarianism and sign their kids up for socialism. Liberty endures where literacy and independent schooling abound!
The “educrats” and the mainstream media are upset right now because there’s been a marked decline in government school enrollments around the United States.
In Massachusetts, they’ve lost 37,000 students: that’s a drop-off of 4%. New York public Schools lost 31,000 students, Virginia’s Fairfax County lost 8,700 students, and California’s Los Angeles Unified School District lost 11,000 students. Plus, Wisconsin government school enrollment dropped by 3%.
To be honest, the Department of Education and the leftist teachers’ unions are sweating bullets. Because, ultimately, it’s not about education. It’s about control!
But where did these students disappear to? Praise God! Their parents are now home-educating them. Home education has doubled in its population since last year, from roughly 2.5 million to 5.2 million in just one year. That’s the largest increase in the homeschool population in the last 40 years. And 52% of the homeschooling population is comprised of Evangelical Christians.
This direct, parental involvement in education is the key to creating a literate and free people!
Twice the homeschoolers means twice the number of parents searching for a distinctively Christian family discipleship form of education. After 15 years of toil, we have a Christ-saturated, academically rigorous curriculum ready to “plug-n-play” for 5th through 12th graders.
To what can we attribute this utter breakdown of knowledge, wisdom, and the ability to communicate? Why does confusion and irrationality reign in the modern mind?
In my December 29th Generations broadcast, I didn’t pull any punches.
Romans 1:22 has the answer. “Though they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” The media, universities and politics are filled with fools. Why? Romans 3:18 declares, “There is no fear of God before their eyes." They’ve removed the fear of God from their curricula.
That’s why we have such a dramatic breakdown. It’s not just the fact that they didn’t get good phonics programs into the public schools. Bottom line: They did not glorify God as God in the classrooms. Nor were they thankful to their Creator for life and for everything good which He created.
If you’re interested in a distinctively Biblical approach to education opposed to the socialist humanist approach, get a copy of my book entitled Upgrade: The 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child.
I love how Lawrence Reed concluded his article in which he exposes the myth that people were poorly educated before government-mandated public schools.
He wrote, “When it comes to education, Americans really should know better. Maybe one positive outcome of the virus pandemic is that they will rediscover that they don’t need government schools as much as the government told them they do. In fact, we never did.”
Every weekday, I address the stories of the day on Generations from an unapologetically Biblical perspective. Catch the show each day by downloading the Generations app or by subscribing to the iTunes podcast. Or you can get the daily program delivered right to your inbox by subscribing to the Generations Radio email feed.