Saving Our Children
God belongs in our schools. In fact, He is desperately needed there. When America was founded, there was no question in our Founders’ minds whether or not children’s education would include the scriptures. The Bible was seen as a textbook and children were expected to know foundational passages. Society at the time fully recognized there were many topics covered in the Bible that were essential knowledge for life, such as ethics, government, and law. Children were commonly taught to read using the Bible.
Dr. Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was also considered the “Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution”1. Here is a portion of a letter he wrote:
“It is now several months since I promised to give you my reasons for preferring the Bible as a schoolbook to all other compositions. Before I state my arguments, I shall assume the five following propositions:
That Christianity is the only true and perfect religion; and that in proportion as mankind adopts its principles and obeys its precepts they will be wise and happy.
That a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired by reading the Bible than in any other way.
That the Bible contains more knowledge necessary to man in his present state than any other book in the world.
That knowledge is most durable, and religious instruction most useful, when imparted in early life.
That the Bible, when not read in schools, is seldom read in any subsequent period of life.
“My arguments in favor of the use of the Bible as a schoolbook are founded, [first] in the constitution of the human mind:
The memory is the first faculty which opens in the minds of children. Of how much consequence, then, must it be to impress it with the great truths of Christianity, before it is preoccupied with less interesting subjects.
There is a peculiar aptitude in the minds of children for religious knowledge. I have constantly found them, in the first six or seven years of their lives, more inquisitive upon religious subjects than upon any others. . .It would be strange if it were otherwise, for God creates all His means to suit His ends.
The influence of early impressions is very great upon subsequent life. . . I believe no man was ever early instructed in the truths of the Bible without having been made wiser or better by the early operation of these impressions upon his mind.
We are subject, by a general law of our natures, to what is called habit. Now, if the study of the Scriptures be necessary to our happiness at any time of our life, the sooner we begin to read them, the more we shall probably be attached to them.” 2
Imagine if school boards today thought like Dr. Rush.
Today we are told our Founders were not believers, and desired religion to be separate from civil society, including in public education. That was obviously not the case. Today, we find ourselves in a consistent battle over allowing Christian students to live out their faith in public schools. There was a time, however, when Christianity, the Bible, and education were intertwined. So much value was attributed to a study of the Bible, it would have seemed ridiculous to separate the study of God’s Word from the education of our young.
Noah Webster was a great statesman and penned a well-known dictionary carrying his name. He wrote:
"Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America's basic text book in all fields. God's Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct."3
Additionally, Mr. Webster fully attributed American greatness - and the continuation of it - as being founded on an education in Christianity and the word of God:
"Every civil government is based upon some religion or philosophy of life. Education in a nation will propagate the religion of that nation. In America, the foundational religion was Christianity. And it was sown in the hearts of Americans through the home and private and public schools for centuries. Our liberty, growth, and prosperity was the result of a Biblical philosophy of life. Our continued freedom and success is dependent on our educating the youth of America in the principles of Christianity."4
President John Quincy Adams gave the following advice to his son regarding his education, “I advise you, my son, in whatever you read, and most of all in reading the Bible, to remember that it is for the purpose of making you wiser and more virtuous. I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and temper of mind, which I now recommend to you: that is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue.”5
Governeur Morris (of New York) wrote the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. He felt strongly that any education of our young should include teaching on God. Morris wrote, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man toward God."6
All of these Founders, and many others, saw the Bible as foundational in providing the character men and women needed for building strong lives and a strong nation. We flounder as a country in some of these areas today because we do not follow the standard of education we started out with - God’s word. It is our history and heritage; as such, it must be recaptured and preserved.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)
Pray with me:
Father, we are thankful for our Founding Fathers who spoke freely of their faith in You, based on the Bible. These men did not separate education, government, or even self-governance from Your Word. They knew these things had to be intertwined. They designed a government based on the principles in it, and expected future generations of Americans to understand this as well.
It was clear to them, Father, that their children had to know the Bible in order to grow up as the citizens our nation would need. We would need to live and govern by biblical standards. We would need the knowledge found within its pages to give us the basis of our ethics, justice, and law. Your word would form the framework for strong family relationships and structure. All good things were seen to come from Your word.
Therefore, we ask You to restore those foundations to us. Make us bold in demanding that the premises upon which America was founded be honored in our classrooms. Forgive us for relenting and allowing the secular humanists to dictate that You - and our faith in You - has no place in school or in society. That’s exactly the opposite of what our Founders envisioned. Awaken the church to engage the culture and demand our children’s right to read their Bibles, study them, and reference them in our schools. We need You in our educational system. We will pray and we will act to restore You to the classroom. We ask You to help us turn around our education system in America. Amen.
America will once again educate the youth of America in the principles found in the word of God.
1 David Ramsay, An Eulogium upon Benjamin Rush, M. D. (Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1813), p. 107. See also Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), pp. 6-20, “Of the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic.”