The Intrinsic Problem With Public Schools

J. Gresham MachenJ. Gresham Machen is perhaps best remembered for his stringent opposition to the rising tide of liberal theology in the 1920s. In his academic works, such as The Origin of Paul’s Religion and The Virgin Birth of Christ, as well as in his more popular writing, such as Christianity and Liberalism, Machen took a flame-thrower to the so-called liberality of the liberals of his era, and ours as well.

Less well remembered is Machen’s opposition to the creation of a federal Department of Education––roughly fifty years before such a federal department was established. Machen wasn’t known for pulling his punches, and he certainly didn’t on this subject:

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 when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised…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 then 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.

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