The background of American schooling is the Protestant emphasis on the reading of the Bible. The Calvinistic and Lutheran emphasis on literacy came from its Biblical doctrine of God. God is unchanging because totally self-consciousness. his word is an infallible word because he is the infallible God; his infallibility and total self-conscious are apparent in his predestination of all things. "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Ac. 15:18). Such knowledge is only possible to a totally self-conscious, omnipotent, and infallible God. The Bible, his word, is an expression of his Being and its infallibility. Knowledge of it is thus basic to existence. Reading this has a dimension in Biblical religion not found in any other. When, as in some areas of the Christian world, literacy, tradition, or anything other than the Bible is given priority, the result is a regression into a non-Christian religion. Mystery will then often be stressed above knowledge.
The American Puritans stressed literacy to defeat "that old deluder, Satan." Education was also important to man in terms of his calling. Schooling was thus very practical. In my youth, older men with any American schooling were excellent at "figuring." They could calculate in their heads data about crops, expenses, and so on.
Early American schooling, and in the era of the early republic prior to Horace Mann, had short years, six weeks to three months. It was solid and hard training because the parents expected it. "Reading, writing, and arithmetic, taught to the tune of the hickory stick," was what they wanted for their children. Schooling discipline, like home discipline, had to be strict.
After grade school, i.e., after grade 8, those going to a college or university attended a summer academy to get foreign languages, mathematics, and science. This meant college graduation at age 17-19, and an early entry into the adult world, and earlier marriages often.
Statist educators gradually lengthened the school years, weakened its content, and lessened its discipline. However, up to the 1929 Depression, an eighth-grade school prepared students ably for a working world. They had the basic skills.
With the 1929 Depression, state compulsory attendance laws were raised, even up to 16 and 18, to remove vast numbers from the work force. Many youths, unemployed, returned to school, i.e., high school. In my high school years, graduating in 1934, many students who were involved in sports were routinely disqualified from further participation because they had reached their twenty-first birthday. A problem of the day was that some younger teachers were 20 and 21 years old, and some students were dating them.
Especially after World War II, a dilution of the curriculum followed. Young parents who felt that the Depression and the War had been deprivations sought "a better life" for their children, leading in the 1950s to the child-centered society, which meant the spoiled-brat student rebels of the 1960s.
At the same time, the influx of more students into junior or community colleges led to watering down that area of education. Next came the universities and graduate schools.
Christian and home schools must take the lead in reversing all this, in shortening the present K-12 schooling into K-8, or at most nine, grades, and by again making higher education into sound schooling.
Such a move requires Christian leadership, and it must come soon.