If you are inclined to peek into the brains of the mad dads, you can start with educational psychologist David C. Berliner. The Arizona State professor delivered the E.L. Thomdike Award Address for the Division of Educational Psychologyy of theAmerican Psychologist Association, August 1996, in Toronto, on the mad dad's interest. The speech was Educational Psychology Meets the Christian Right: Differing Views of Children, Schooling, Teaching, and Learning. In our terms, it might be What About Those Loonies Who Want to Control the Schools?
Among Dr. Berliner's conclusions is:
The antagonism of the Christian Right to these programs is based on a fear of losing control over their children's thinking, rather than any compelling empirical data. It is concluded that many among the Christian Right are unable to engage in politics that make a common school possible. They may be unable to compromise and live with educational decisions rejecting a pluralistic democracy keeping separate church and state.The 24-page HTML version of the address details his research, other reports and his conclusions.
He cites some scary sorts, such as Christian Right advocate and educator Robert Thoburn, who has a popular book in this subculture, The Children Trap (Dominion Press, 1986). The gist is that public schools "are immoral" and "they breed criminals." "I imagine every Christian would agree that we need to remove the humanism from the public schools. There is only one way to accomplish this: to abolish the public schools. We need to get the government out of the education business. According to the Bible, education is a parental responsibility. It is not the place of the government to be running a school system." Then much like Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals (Vintage, reprint, 1989) does for leftists, Thoburn offers a blueprint for infiltrating and crippling the local school boards to do just that.
It seems clear that our mad dad has read the book and believes this. To the vast majority of us, the questions are why do they think this way and what can one do to deal with them?
A key insight that recurs in the findings of those who study such folk is quoted from Mel and Norma Gabler, the self-identified first couple of conservatism. These delightful folk have asked fellow Christians to pray for the deaths of local school-board members. A peek into Norma's mind reveals a critical element of this group. She said, "Too many of today's textbooks leave students to make up their own minds. Now that is not fair to our children: What some textbooks are doing is giving students ideas, and ideas will never do them as much good as facts."
That's right. Independent thinking is the mark of this educational beast. If you keep this in mind for this set, much becomes clear.
Dr. Berliner commented:
In addition, whole-language teachers believe that children should choose their own books on the basis of their own interests—a well-established motivational strategy. This practice, of course, is unacceptable to the Christian Right for the same reason; parents lose control of what their children read.To most of us, that seems as irrational as it is self-evident to these folk. Dr. Berliner states that "their world allows no politics, no negotiation, and their views are often irreconcilable with those held by most of the educational community."
...whole-language educators believe that the development of language occurs through the processes students choose and the decisions they make. Reading is not so much taught as learned; it is an act of volition. Thus language development is a process of personal "empowerment" of the students. This too is unacceptable because the Christian Right prefers an obedient, not an empowered, child.
He concludes that educators and parents need to keep in mind that they want to destroy public education. "All who are interested in the preservation of our public schools must be polite to the Christian Right and respectful of their concerns – some of which are shared by all of us," he said. "But we must also be extraordinarily vigilant to prevent them from gaining control of the public's common schools."
At the least, mainstream parents need to speak up about what should be taught. Berliner suggested, "If we find their demands unreasonable, a proper response is to remind these adamant school critics that by law and by tradition, public schools cannot accommodate narrow sectarian beliefs. If the schools now operate in ways that are unacceptable to these people, they should be told to remove their children from the public schools."