This system, or lack of it, produced a highly literate population that could read the Federalist Papers, the King James Version of the Bible and everything else that was published. All one has to do is read a Farmer’s Journal of those early days to realize the high level of literacy that was enjoyed by the general population in America prior to the advent of the public schools. Is there any wonder why private schools experienced phenomenal growth in the past few years?
So what changed all of this? What changed was the change in the religious views of the intellectual elite-centered Harvard University, which was founded in 1638 by Calvinists to train those going into the ministry. By 1805, religious liberalism in the form of the Unitarian heresy had become so strong at Harvard that the Calvinists were expelled. From then on Unitarianism reigned supreme at America’s foremost university, and its influence spread slowly over the rest of the academic world. The Unitarians no longer believed in salvation through Christ, whom they considered to be a great teacher but not divine. Salvation was now to be attained through an education controlled by government. Only government could provide the kind of secular, nonsectarian education that could lead to reason-based moral perfectibility.
By the 1870s, the public school movement had triumphed, and most private academies went out of business. Imported from Europe was the idea of Hegelian statism, the idea that the state was God on Earth. It was this idea that emboldened educators to believe that it was the state’s duty to mold its children – its “most precious natural resource” – into obedient servants of the state.
At the turn of the century the progressives became dominant. They were members of the Protestant academic elite who no longer believed in the religion of their fathers. They put their new faith in science, evolution and psychology. Science explained the material world, evolution explained the origins of living matter, not the Bible in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens ant the earth,” and psychology permitted man to scientifically study human nature and provided the scientific means to control human beings. The Bible was all wrong about man’s innate depravity and his need of a Savior. Fallen man was no longer accountable for his actions. They believed that evil was caused by ignorance, poverty, and social injustice, and that the main cause of social injustice was our capitalist system.