Can we reverse school failure?

News and Sentinel Op-Ed
Dr. Lewis Rutherford, Ph.D
April 19, 2021

“America is great because America is good. When she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

Many U.S. presidents and politicians have attributed these words to Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political scientist who came to America in the 1830s to study the ethical foundation of our constitutional republic.

Jefferson proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that the ethical base of our government is the “laws of nature and nature’s God.”

These laws declare that “all men are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” God and government were united.

Governments secure these rights through a system of laws and a system of education. The purpose of both systems is to produce citizens who are good and are capable of self-government with little legal restraint.

Apparently, by the 1830s when “Democracy in America” was published by Alexis de Tocqueville, the American schools with the aid of government and the local churches had produced this kind of citizen.

What happened?

The U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled “the separation of church and state.”

The Court exchanged the “laws of nature and nature’s God” for “Man is the measure of all things.” So, like in the Old Soviet Union, God was removed from the functions of government and the public schools.

Before the Warren Court, according to Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance, the purpose of the public schools was to teach “religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be encouraged.”

This was signed into law Aug. 7, 1789, by President George Washington. No territory was accepted as a state without this plank in its state constitution.

Can you keep it?

God, government and the public schools were united to produce good citizens who were capable of self-government with little legal restraint.

William Rehnquist, a recent chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, said of the “separation” law: “It is bad law. It has a bad history and needs to be revisited.”

Chief Justice Rehnquist served on the Supreme Court. He was chief justice from 1986 to 2005. He knew the law. He knew that the “separation” law violated 300 years of historical precedence and almost 200 years of legal precedence.

Now, the failure of government can be observed in our streets, in Congress and in the daily news.

The failure of our public schools was recently reported by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. This congressional report entitled “A Nation at Risk” told Congress that American prosperity, security and civility are in jeopardy because the educational foundations of our society are eroded. “Our concern,” the report said, “goes well beyond matters such as industry and commerce. It includes the intellectual, moral and spiritual strength of our people.

“Our society and its educational institutions seem to have lost sight of the basic purposes of schooling….”

The report went on to say: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

What must we do?

First, repeal the “separation” ruling.
Second, dismantle the federal Department of Education.
Third, return education to local control.

Dr. Benjamin Franklin was asked as he left the Consitutional Convention, “Doctor, what have you given us?”
The doctor replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
It is up to you. “Can you keep it?”


Dr. Lewis Rutherford, Ph.D, of Parkersburg, taught at West Virginia University, West Virginia University at Parkersburg and the West Virginia College of Graduate Studies for 35 years.

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