In a delicious irony, I was finishing up Balmer’s 3d chapter on education and democracy while on the TV in the living room Ann Coulter was being interviewed by Chris Mathews on MSNBC. They were outside; young students were in the audience. The mic was given to a young woman who asked Coulter how she could call herself a Christian and speak the way she had just spoken of Al Gore. Coulter was stunned a bit, and resorted, instead of addressing how Christians ought to address others in the public forum, to calling this young student a “Miss Smarty Pants.” In the same few minutes she criticized Democrats for not addressing the substance of her book but instead addressing only her words. Ah, Coulter, look in the mirror.
I don’t like it that she wears a cross about her neck. It doesn’t fit.
But this post is not about her, but about Randy Balmer’s book, Thy Kingdom Come. In part, it is about her, because Balmer’s book is directed in part against such views.
This chapter can be found in thesis on p. 93. Here goes:
First, “Whatever common culture we have attained in this country has come about largely though the agency of public education. At the risk of sounding mawkish, I truly believe that public schools served to make America what it is by helping us forge a mutual understanding of one another as Americans” (93).
Second, “Homeschooling, school vouchers, and charter schools all diminish the possibilities for such understanding” (93).
Third, this produces a “ghetto mentality” and to “heightened segregation” (93) while it accuses public education as “government indoctrination centers” (91).
Fourth, therefore, “real Christians, those who take seriously the teachings of Jesus, should be fighting against voucher programs and charter schools because they perpetuate divisions, rather than reconciliation, within society” (93).
Fifth, “The future of American democracy hangs in the balance in the tussle over homeschooling, school vouchers, and public education” (95).
Sixth, withdrawal of both students and funds from public education exacerbates social problems like intolerance, racism, and economic inequities. It favors the wealthy.
Balmer trots around America in this chapter and dips into a Lutheran and public school in Cleveland, the legal cases over public funds being used for religious education, and to Patrick Henry College. Christian parents, he says, have every right to religious education but “at their own expense” (82).