Sunday, October 30, 2011

David Barton Claims that "Fear of the Lord" Undergirds Education

On the October 27th edition of Believers' Voice of Victory, Kenneth Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries interviewed right-wing author David Barton. To watch the full episode, visit www[dot]kcm[dot]org/media/webcast/kenneth-copeland-and-david-barto/111027-the-word-of-god-is-your-final-authority)

Barton, who has long promoted a "Christian nation" version of American history, argued that the free market system originally came out of the Bible. Barton also insisted that the American legal system, including the right of habeus corpus, the right to an attorney, and the right to confront one's accusers, originated in the Bible.

Barton had much to say about Christianity and the U.S. educational system. At the 15:21 mark, Barton asserted that U.S. public education was originally based on Biblical teachings, with harsh words for today's "government schools." The term "government schools" has been used as a pejorative term for public schools by some Christian homeschool advocates, such as Doug Phillips.
"This shows you what public education's supposed to look like. The educational system is supposed to come--and it did. These guys started the  first public school in 1642 and cited Bible verses on why they were doing it. They also cited Bible verses on the courses they taught and the way they taught the courses. Now, most Christians today, "well, we've got government schools. That's the way it's supposed [to be]." Really? Show me in the Bible where government's supposed to do the education. Show me how that works. Show me what courses government's supposed to be teaching. See, we can't do that anymore. We don't use--we've been conformed to the culture. We've had public schools for so long that we think that's the way it is."
At the 17:05 mark, Barton argued that U.S. literacy has declined because "fear of the Lord" no longer undergirds the American educational system.
BARTON: 1962 to 63. The U.S. Supreme Court, three decisions, said no more fear of God in education. We want education to be secular. All right. That's a theological issue.

COPELAND: And how's that working out?

BARTON: How's that working out? In 1962-63, America was number one in the world in literacy. We are now number 65 in the world in literacy. We have the highest per capita spending on education. $460 billion a year on education. We spend $13,800 a year on students, and we're 65 in the word in literacy? We don't have the fear of the Lord, so guess what? We don't have knowledge. It goes down ... At a White House briefing, they said we just graduated 700,000 students from high school who can't read their own diploma. Time out! We're spending $13,800 a year? We've gone through thirteen years of school, and they can't read their diploma? The fear of the Lord's the beginning of knowledge. But we're saying, oh, the government should educate these kids. Well, guess what? If you don't have the right philosophy, they'll never get educated. The fear of the Lord's the beginning of knowledge. And if we think secular education's going to make our kids smart we're nuts. It will not happen. See, we've let the culture conform us. It's time to re-conform the culture.
How non-fundamentalist or non-Christian parents would respond to public schools teaching their children "fear of the Lord" was not considered, nor were the church-state separation problems this approach would create. To boot, Barton's assessment of the U.S. educational system is too simplistic. To assume that literacy problems erupt from refusal to teach "fear of the Lord" ignores the complex roots of illiteracy, including the roles of poverty, pedagogy, and learning disabilities.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)


  1. Back in my religious days, I heard David Barton speak at the megachurch where I attended. Even then, I thought he was coo coo for Cocoa Puffs.

  2. But Barton is right. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge... in the sense that we should fear substituting superstition for knowledge! ;-)

    I think you're on target with identifying his overly simplistic approach and his lack of knowledge on the church-state thing. He probably doesn't realize that there are pockets of predominantly Muslim communities, and that opening the door for him to teach about the fear of the Lord equally opens the door (I'm sure to his horror) for publicly teaching the fear of Allah in those communities.

  3. Michelle -- That says a lot. Do you recall what Barton talked about at the church?

    Wise Fool -- I'm positive that Barton and his ilk would react with horror if these principles were apply through an Islamic lens.

  4. It would have been around 2001 or 2002, and he was pretty much singing the same tune. He kept going on and on about how he owns loads of original documents that belonged to the founding fathers, which prove that they were all head over heals for Jesus. I remember he said that the fathers who were said to be Deists or agnostics would be considered Bible thumpers today--it was all a matter of social context.

    He spoke about early school primers and how kids learned to read by memorizing Bible verses and stories. Conveniently, he sold new editions of said primer along with all of his other wares.

    He said that Harvard, Princeton and Yale used to be Christian schools, and they're doing so poorly now because of losing those roots (huh?).

    He had a broken arm when he came and spoke, so whenever I see a video or picture of him with the cast, I know it was around the time that he came to my old church.

    I would so never go back to those days.
    Enlightenment is a grand thing. :)

  5. Michelle -- Thanks for the details. Enlightenment is indeed beautiful and liberating, and I'm glad you broke free.

  6. I love people who throw statistics around without substantiating or accrediting. Sheesh.... I can make up shit as well as the next guy... but a little 'truth about the founding fathers?

    "In 1787, two days before they signed off on the Constitution, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention partied at a tavern. According to the bill preserved from the evening, they drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer and seven bowls of alcoholic punch."

    Tomas Jefferson was noted for screwing his slaves.

    Benjamin Franklin fathered many children outside of marriage.

    Sam Adams was a brewer.

  7. "These guys started the first public school in 1642 and cited Bible verses on why they were doing it. "

    Shit &whiskers! Den dose guys started the
    Salem Witch trials in 1692 and cited Vile Bible verses on why they were doing it. Sheesh, now I really need a beer!!!

  8. Okjimm -- You and me both. If I hadn't taken an ibuprofen earlier for a headache, I'd have a beer with you!

  9. I think Barton has a point. We should base everything in society on the Bible and the irrational fear of god that it instills.

    Let's be honest. This world would be a better place if more men raped women, then had the option of either marrying or killing them. Eeny meany miney mo. Also, what happened to the good ol' days when we had male slaves and we neutered them so they wouldn't be able to reproduce or get any strange ideas about their civil rights? I want one of those.

    Also, I miss the those good times when people who stole bread for their families had their hands cut off; and when we could gouge out each others' eyes and knock out each others' teeth; and impose capital punishment on Sabbath breakers - oh, and all their wives and children just for being related to the sinners.

    And oh my god! I love the story of Esther. Who doesn't want a husband who has the right to kill her if she speaks to him in the wrong way or at the wrong time? She's my hero. And Ruth! Tricking Boaz into marrying her so she could have some sense of self-worth. What a role model!! I'm all verklempt.

    Ah. The good ol' days. ::wipes a nostalgia-induced tear::

  10. Cognitive Dissenter -- Funny how so many fundamentalists forget how brutal and arbitrary the "good ol' days" were. Oh, and if you think this was wild, can you believe that Barton thinks women are treated best in "Biblical" societies? I think my irony meter just exploded.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.