Public Schools And The American Inquisition

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Matt Damon is not the only American parent to send his children to a private school, but he could be the only American who does so out of a belief that public schools are not progressive enough. In an interview with The Guardian to promote his new class warfare film Elysium, he called the lack of progressivism “unfair”:

Sending our kids in my family to private school was a big, big, big deal. And it was a giant family discussion. But it was a circular conversation, really, because ultimately we don’t have a choice. I mean, I pay for a private education and I’m trying to get the one that most matches the public education that I had, but that kind of progressive education no longer exists in the public system. It’s unfair. [1]

If the goal of progressivism is to protect young minds from propagation and manipulation, the public schools in America are certainly no longer progressive; but if the goal is the opposite, if “progressive” schools are designed for “GroupThink,” for the undermining of parental authority and traditional societal norms, it is hard to imagine the pubic school system in America to be more progressive.

In his book Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen called the monopolistic public school system like the one that exists in America “the most perfect instrument of tyranny,” a greater and more effective threat to free thought than the Medieval Inquisition:

A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficent achievement of modern times; but once it become monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the middle ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the intimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free. [2♢]

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/aug/02/matt-damon-activist-star-elysium
[2] J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, 2009), p. 12.
♢ First published in 1923

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