Schools Always Seem to be the Social Battlegrounds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Yet another judge has seen fit to make our schools the battleground for social re-engineering because he decided that it violates some children’s constitutional rights if they recite the Pledge of Allegiance owing to the fact that the phrase, “under God,” is part of the recitation.

On September 14, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled in California (where else?) that the Pledge’s reference to one nation “under God” violates school children’s rights to be “free from a coercive requirement to affirm God.”

And so the beat goes on and on and on.

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Just in case you have missed some time here in the land of the “free” during the past few decades, it has been our public schools which have been at the vanguard of social movements in the name of “constitutional freedoms.” From no prayer or Bible reading in schools to under-aged children being given access to birth control methods without parental notification OR parental permission, it has been our children with all their developmental vulnerabilities who have witnessed first-hand the attempts at social re-aligning in the places where their minds are supposed to be introduced to classical ideas – their schools.

Of particular conspicuousness is the fact that these same people who want the Pledge to be out of schools have NOT attacked our monetary system – with “In God We Trust” on its currency – OR the fact that in a court of law one must affirm truth “so help me God.”

Please understand I am not coming down on one side of these issues or the other in this space at this time. Rather, my concern is that I do not believe that it must be our schools which bear the brunt of such attempts to reform our social or spiritual structure.

Our schools, and by extension, our children are just too vulnerable and in too open a venue to sprout new notions for such abstract postures as the “separation of Church and State.”

Perhaps I am the one who is too nave here but I certainly do not want to be the one to try to explain to a group of third grade students that it is “against the law” to say that we are a Nation “under God” because…well, because, you see, you can’t say “God” is what we believe in while we are at school.

Strange, isn’t it?

Do we really think a group of third graders understands such an abstract concept as “separation of Church and State”?

And yet, that is where we are at the beginning of Twenty-First Century America.

And, again, my argument is not so much that this law or that law is incorrect or too conservative or too liberal, as it is that we subject our children to the particular preferences and nuances of a group of people – regardless of the size of that group – which mandate through the courts how given social issues are to be managed, as the front line of the engagement.

This is no new concept in America.

Our schools have always been vulnerable to the whims of different interest groups, but that does not mollify the overall effect on children.

They hear at school that they cannot pray as they do at home or read Scripture at school as they do at home.

This immediately forms a disconnect between children and schools, in my opinion.

The disconnect is one of degree and not one of massive overhaul, albeit that is the net effect.

Over a period of time, our children see that their parents think that our schools seem to be taking away their (the parents’) responsibilities, and this brings about either an antipathy or an apathy on the parts of parents.

Children do not miss these subtleties either.

While they should be hearing positive reinforcement of school activity from the home, the message is that parents have become skeptical of just what is going on in the schools.

Granted, the schools feel they have been forced to take stands on some social issues because they see parents as having abdicated their responsibilities.

Nevertheless, for the most part, parents begin to feel a kind of alienation toward and simultaneously from the schools their children attend.

Plainly, this is not the contract which must exist between schools and parents.

Schools are supposed to be extensions of the home – NOT the other way around.

Still, when schools perceive a void in educating or protecting children, they are more than willing to fill that void, regardless of the consequences to the children.

I am still aghast when I reflect on a story a

fraternity brother of mine told me about his daughter attending school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in the fifth grade they were instructed just how to put on a condom using a banana as a model.

It this what our schools need to be teaching when literacy and math skills are at an all-time low in public schools across the nation?

Perhaps I am too involved with my children’s educations to let some element of social engineering go by unnoticed, but there are many parents across this Nation who do not take that kind of interest.

And I believe that here in Demopolis the vast, vast majority of parents DO, in fact, take an active interest in their children’s educations.

Elsewhere, nevertheless, the battleground for social change still remains the school rooms where our vulnerable children cannot quite grasp just what is happening.

And until parents are not willing to abdicate their responsibilities when it comes to their children’s educations, schools will feel the need to fill that void, and special interest groups will take advantage of their vulnerability.

Dr. Arthur G. Ogden is the Demopolis Campus Director of Alabama Southern Community College.

All his degrees are in philosophy.

He can be reached at