Recently, I read an opinion piece on the Opposing Views website titled “Warning: Students Who Go To Public School will Go To Hell.”
The main idea the writer of that article offered is that sending your child to a public school will condemn them in this life and in the afterlife. It is written with great certainty and self-righteousness, as if the author is privy to information transmitted directly from the Lord God himself.
And reading it, I felt moved to respond. Because I think it is so terribly sad to see how sick with religion some people are, both at home and abroad, and how much damage they do in the world. I think that if you look around, you'll find that the places where these religiously sick folk hold the most sway have the least freedom, the most injustice and the hardest time with positive change.
My field is communication, persuasion and conflict resolution. I'm no expert on religion, though I've read the scriptures of several of the world's great religions, and have studied with others to deepen my understanding. I actually have great respect for people seeking to live their values, be true to their faith, serve others, and do the right thing in their own lives. Such people, I think, truly are the salt of the earth. They become a shining light on a hill, a glowing example of honesty, integrity and compassion, and I find them to be a pleasure to associate with.
But the person who wrote the post about public school assigning children to a life in hell has a different approach. He seeks to frighten others into living by his rules (which he, no doubt, is certain are God’s rules) He seeks to use the fear of God (which, I'm pretty sure, is really his fear, not God’s fear) to intimidate rather than the love of God to inspire people. He seems to see the public good as bad and wrong and unGodly, and wants to oppose and undo it.
In my view, the author of that piece has the same ignorant and hateful mindset as the Taliban. The only difference is a matter of degree.
Personally, I’m a fan of public schools. I see a bright future for our country that happens as a direct result of improving them by parents and communities engaging with and participating in them. I went to public school , and so did my daughter. The public schools in my town consistently rank among the best in the country, and our students wind up attending the finest colleges after. Why? Because our town's parents support the teachers, and embrace their responsibilities as parents rather than pushing their parental obligations into the classroom. The result is that our classrooms are a safe place for young people to learn rather than a hostile environment for the kids to play out their parents' passions against each other.
Now maybe the person who wrote that article about public schools and hell has had only bad experiences. Maybe he's got an axe to grind for a specific reason that he doesn't mention. But meanwhile, his hyperbole, found in statements that tell his readers that our children will be more likely to be selfish, rebellious, and yes, to kill their children if you let them attend public school, is so overdrawn as to be cartoonish.
Who is setting the example of selfish and rebellious these days? Teachers? Students in public school? No. I think you'll find more selfishness and fear among the homeschooling teabaggers, with the often racist and intolerant Obama haters and liberal bashers. And who can forget Pat Robertson, with his comments following natural disasters that blames these inevitable events (because life on Earth, weather wise, geologically, and so on, is anything but stable) on God's anger with us. Or the pedophile priests. Or the likes of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts, and the rest of their ilk, wolves among sheep who bilk the elderly and frail through their 'crusades' so they can live in palaces, wear expensive jewelry and be waited on hand and foot by their followers, who preach against avarice, homosexuality and marital infidelity until (and even after) they're found out to be either thieves, closeted and/or adulterers (or worse! See the case of Ted Haggard for another example!). I seriously doubt if anyone could outselfish these people! Indeed, these dubious religious leaders and their double standards remind me most of Oliver Wendell Holmes' cautionary quote: "Whenever he spoke of his honor, I started counting my spoons."
Here's my idea of a smart alternative to bashing schools and government. Let’s take responsibility for them, work with them, participate, build, encourage, while honoring our obligations to our children by parenting them instead of delegating that to the already overworked and underpaid teachers. The public schools, which have done a great job of educating Americans for generations and who got our country this far, and which are still doing an ok job at a time when they are undermined and underfunded at every step of the way, and our society is confused and torn apart by lies, distortions and other polarizing behaviors that threaten to burn down our country for the sake of being right about who is wrong. In my opinion, our public schools deserve the support of community members so they can continue doing the important job of educating our children to participate in our society and contribute to it.
I say enough with the religious insanity. If you’re a person of faith, by all means keep your faith by living it. Be a glorious example of the kind of person you think God wants us all to be. Let us look to you because of our admiration instead of fear. But to those people who use their religious fervor to scare and misinform people as a way of getting them to believe as they do, all I'm saying is that I wish you would stop it. It’s shameful and embarrassing, it certainly isn’t helping, and it makes you look as crazy as the Taliban, another group of fearful folks who think that forcing their religion on others is God’s will.