02) GOVERNMENT: What should be the role of federal, state and local governments in education?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young

I am opposed to free education as much as I am opposed to taking property from one man and giving it to another….Would I encourage free schools by taxation? No!1

We had to pay our own schoolteachers, raise our own bread and earn our own clothing, or go without; there was no other choice. We did it then, and we are able to do the same to-day. I want to enlist the sympathies of the ladies among the Latter-day Saints, to see what we can do for ourselves with regard to schooling our children. Do not say you cannot school them, for you can. There is not a family in this community but what we will take and school their children if they are not able to do it themselves; and we do not do it through begging in the East and telling what others have told there about this people, and about their own efforts to establish free schools here. I understand that the other night there was a school meeting in one of the wards of this city, and a part there–a poor miserable apostate–said, “We want a free school, and we want to have the name of establishing the first free school in Utah.” To call a person a poor miserable apostate may seem like a harsh word; but what shall we call a man who talks about free schools and who would have all the people taxed to support them, and yet would take his rifle and threaten to shoot the man who had the collection of the ordinary light taxes levied in this Territory–taxes which are lighter than any levied in any other portion of the country? We have no other schools but free schools here–our schools are all free. Our meetings are free, our teachings are free. We labor for ourselves and the kingdom of God. 2

David O. McKay

The Supreme Court of the United States has made it unpatriotic for public schools to teach your children to pray. By making that unconstitutional, the Supreme Court severs the connecting cord between the public schools of the United States and the source of divine intelligence, the Creator himself. Evidently the Supreme Court misinterprets the true meaning of the First Amendment, and are now leading this Christian nation down the road to atheism. 3

Education for citizenship requires more emphasis upon the advantages and blessings of the American Way of Life.  Next to life itself freedom is man’s most cherished possession . . .

Communism is antagonistic to the American Way of Life.  Its avowed purpose is to destroy belief in God and free enterprise.  In education for citizenship, therefore, why should we not see to it that every child in America is taught the superiority of our way of life, of our Constitution and the sacredness of the freedom of the individual.  . . .

Education for citizenship demands more emphasis upon moral and spiritual values.  Our government was founded on faith in a Supreme Being as evidenced by the mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, by George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the Constitutional Convention, and by a hundred other incidents prior to, during, and following the birth of this Republic.  Said the Father of our Country:  “We have raised a standard to which the good and wise can repair; the event is in the hands of God.”

God and individual freedom are fundamental principle in our glorious Republic, and our obligation is to keep in our schools a reverence for Deity and respect for the dignity of the individual man.

. . . I have faith in the Constitution of the United States.  I believe that only through a truly educated citizenry can the ideals that inspired the Founding Fathers of our Nation be preserved and perpetuated.

I believe that four fundamental elements in such an education are:

  1. the basic essentials of oral and written composition—arithmetic, social studies and science.
  2. Loyal leadership as found in men who “cannot be bought or sold, men who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold.”
  3. Open and forcible teaching of facts regarding communism as an enemy to God and to individual freedom.
  4. More emphasis on moral and spiritual values. 4

Ezra Taft Benson

The tenth plank of Karl Marx’s Manifesto for destroying our kind of civilization advocated the establishment of ‘free education for all children in public schools.’ There were several reasons why Marx wanted government to run the schools . . . One of them [was that] ‘It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from public schools what-ever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or agnostics may be. It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of popular education will be the most efficient and widespread instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen.5

There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution which authorizes the federal government to enter into the field of education. Furthermore, the Tenth Amendment says: “The powers not delegated to the United States Government are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nothing could be more clear. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to exercise any powers over education.6

Should the educational system ever fall into the hands of the in-power political faction or into the hands of an obscure but tightly knit group of professional social reformers, it could be used, not to educate, but to indoctrinate. 7

We must guard against federal control of education, remembering that the Supreme Court said: “It is hardly lack of due process for the government to regulate that which it subsidizes.” Federal control of education, the impairment of free inquiry, and the extinction of many independent and church-related colleges—these can be the consequence of an injudicious increase in federal aid to education.8

Obviiously the best way to prevent a political faction or any small group of people from capturing control of the nation’s educational system is to keep it decentralized into small local units, each with its own board of education and superintendent. This may not be as efficient as one giant super educational system (although bigness is not necessarily efficient, either) but it is far more safe. There are other factors, too, in favor of local and independent school systems. First, they are more responsive to the needs and wishes of the parents and the community. The door to the school superintendent’s office is usually open to any parent who wishes to make his views known. But the average citizen would be hard pressed to obtain more than a form letter reply from the national Commissioner of Education in Washington, D.C. 9

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 18:357
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 19–20.
  3. David O. McKay, “Parental Responsibility,” Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1962, p. 878. Also printed in the Church News, June 22, 1963.
  4. President David O. McKay, Church News, March 13, 1954
  5. Ezra Taft Benson, Improvement Era, December, 1970. p. 49.
  6. Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 298; An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 230-31.
  7. Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 229.
  8. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 299; The Red Carpet, p. 178-79.
  9. Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 230.
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