Now that the Trump administration has a secretary of Education who’s committed to dismantling public education through “school choice” and misspelled press releases, there are plenty of nice rightwing Christianists who’d just love to help Betsy DeVos but Jesus back in the government schools, too. Like a little outfit called the “Council for National Policy,” a fairly quiet but influential think tank for Christian conservatives that was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye, before he got rich(er) selling all those “Left Behind” novels. In general, they’re one of those “Dominionist” groups that would like to see a much more theocratic America, just like the Founders would have wanted if they’d had the advantage of knowing a bunch of wackjob fundamentalists from the ’80s and ’90s.
Secretary DeVos presumably has heard of these nice folks, since, as Eclectablog notes,
Her father-in-law Richard DeVos, her mother Elsa Prince, and her father Edgar Prince were all past members and leaders of the CNP.
Education blogger Peter Greene, who runs the beautifully named “Curmudgucation” blog, found a copy of the CNP’s beautiful plan for Christianing up America’s schools, at least before CNP took it down from its own site. (You can find it here.) Written sometime before Trump took office, it’s a nifty little wish list for the “restoration of education in America, in accordance with historic Judeo-Christian principles which formed the basis of instruction in America’s schools for its first 300 hundred years.” That would be up to about 1920, since the document literally closes with a paean to the Mayflower Compact of 1620. Since scammers like David Barton have taught them that Jesus wants you to make up the most Christian history you possibly can, these folks know that in olden times, American public schools were indistinguishable from American Protestant churches (of the strict fundamentalist variety that arose in the late 19th century).
CNP has some real fun plans for fixing schools and returning them to a past form they never actually had. To help Betsy DeVos get there, the group offers “four assumptions and one pledge” for educational reform as God wants it:
1. All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.
2. Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it.
3. Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not.
4. No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.
5. The CNP Education Committee pledges itself to work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who, along with America’s pioneers, believed that God belonged in the classroom.
That seems like a pretty clear mandate to toss out the entire educational establishment all right, along with any parts of the Twentieth Century they don’t much care for, too. No more state boards of education (even city boards might be too tyrannical), no more state curricular guidelines, and let’s just let the churches run things, since “neutrality” is impossible.
Then the document gets into the action plan, which we won’t reproduce every last part of, since it’s right here at the link, and summarized quite nicely by Greene, too. First up, they want to eliminate Common Core (which isn’t a federal guideline anyway, but it’s evil) and end all data collection on students (which is intrusive and probably will lead to their being branded with the Mark of the Beast). Then the Department of Education itself needs to be dismantled ASAP, because it’s “unconstitutional, illegal and contrary to America’s education practice for 300 years from early 17th century to Colonial times.” (We think another math class, and maybe some history, might be in order.)
Once the Department of Education is disbanded, it would be replaced with a sub-cabinet level “President’s Advisory Council on Public Education” that could advise states on educational policy but not impose any federal rules. Yay! No more nasty federal requirement to, say, educate children with disabilities, who are only that way because their parents sinned anyway (we’re reading between the lines there). All funding and “sovereignty” for education would devolve to the states, and you’d probably get a big tax cut as your share of the Education Department budget vanished (you’d presumably make up for it in mandatory tithes).
But in the interim, while the Department of Education still exists in any form, the CNP advises,
drain the swamp. Recruit new staff at all levels, from Assistant Secretaries to the mailroom, who fully subscribe to the educational policy the Trump/DeVos team. [sic]
Heck, it should be comparatively easy to fire and rehire — with religious and ideological purity tests — 4,400 civil servants. We bet they’re already on that!
Also on the list of “strategies”: Enlist the help of the Heritage Foundation, recruit help in restoring American education to its Judeo-Christian roots by engaging “movement conservatives, conservative and Christian media leaders, and pastors” (seems kind of short on Judeos, there), and for some reason, “Promote and adhere to the historic definition of education as defined in the 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary.” Because it’s old, and that’s what God likes. Old stuff.
Then, once the federal Education Department is gone, it’ll be a simple matter to reform education at the state and local level everywhere:
Can’t see any problems there, since of course the religious minorities have already been ignored under the old “neutrality is impossible” principle. Fuck ’em — they want rights, they can go back to whatever Muslim shithole they came from. Number 6 should be a hoot, what with all the re-educating that graduates of godless secular education programs will need. Fine, as the holder of a BS in Ed, I already know a good quarter of the people in my program would have flung their hands in the air and welcomed this. But since parents — Christian parents, of course — will have the final say in what is taught, it should be easy enough to fire the unbelievers. In any case, there eventually won’t be any public schools anyway, as the document explains: The ultimate goal here isn’t coercive at all! Rather, it’s persuasive, and will come about through a “return” to a rightwing paradise that never was:
Just as the Christian gospel was designed to succeed by acclaim, not by coercion, so must be our every effort. Therefore, these strategies are designed to reform state-level public education, by calling for the elimination of the worst abuses in current state systems. Far better is the promotion of a gradual, voluntary return at all levels to free-market private schools, church schools and home schools as the normative American practice. We believe such a move will benefit the public at-large, open their eyes to the deficiencies of government-run secular education and provide an attractive, superior alternative, as was once the norm in American education.
Or else it’s a whuppin’. The Bible’s big on those, too.
How seriously should anyone take this thing? Whatever plans CNP has for reshaping America, it seems to be infested with at least some of the same attention to detail we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration and DeVos’s Department of Education: The very first paragraph of the cover page looks forward to the coming “leadership of Mrs. Becky DeVos Secretary-Designate.” Assuming the USA doesn’t manage to go Full Gilead anytime soon, the actual “reforms” are unconstitutional cowflop, and the plan itself isn’t particularly different from any number of aspirational “How We’d Fix The Schools For Jesus” agendas.
Of course, we’ve never had a cabinet secretary whose social circle — and immediate family — actually comprised loons who dream of implementing such plans, either.