The Real Problem with American Public Education

Arguably, America has the most advanced educational system in human history. Who could deny that public education in America is heavily funded—and has been for many years. Indeed, American public schools have been the best financed schools in world history. American teachers are the most highly educated teachers in human history as well. More elementary and secondary school teachers have college and graduate degrees than ever before. And what’s more, American schools possess more sophisticated, technologically advanced equipment, aids, and facility furnishings than the rest of the world does.

Yet, it is no secret that American schools are in trouble. Schools cannot guarantee student performance. You’ve heard the horror stories of students graduating from high school without being able to read. Further, public schools are experiencing more discipline problems than ever before. There are more high school dropouts than ever. The list goes on. Politicians and educators have been scrambling for years to address the problem—from school vouchers to “no child left behind.”

So what is the problem? What has happened to American public education? If we have more money, more degreed teachers, and more educational tools, yet little improvement has been forthcoming, what is the problem? Could our sad situation possibly have anything to do with the fact that we have displaced God and religion from the classroom where they previously reigned for over a century and a half? The Founders of the American Republic anticipated and articulated the problem plainly. For example, Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush stated: “[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments” (1798, p. 8, emp. added). Dr. Rush further stated:

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism (pp. 93-94, emp. added).

Dr. Rush also insisted:

I wish to be excused for repeating here, that if the Bible did not convey a single direction for the attainment of future happiness, it should be read in our schools in preference to all other books, from, its containing the greatest portion of that kind of knowledge which is calculated to produce private and public temporal happiness…. By withholding the knowledge of this [Christian] doctrine from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds (1947, pp. 122,125, emp. and bracketed item added).

Noah Webster echoed the same sentiment: “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed” (1843, p. 291, emp. added).

Indeed, the central problem in American public education is strictly and solely moral and religious. Unless God and the principles of Christianity are returned to the schools, we can expect to see a continuation of the national downward spiral. As God instructed the Israelite nation of old: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9, emp. added).


Rush, Benjamin (1947), “The Bible as a School Book,” in The Selected Writings of Benjamin Rush, ed. Dagobert Runes, (New York: Philosophical Library), PA125&sig=ACfU3U0oaK9Gl39Fi7YJsyRbKPJ3VbjLRg&q= school#PPP1,M1.

Rush, Benjamin (1798), Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia, PA: Thomas & Samuel Bradford).

Webster, Noah (1843), A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary, and Moral Subjects (New York: Webster and Clark).


A copied sheet of paper

REPRODUCTION & DISCLAIMERS: We are happy to grant permission for this article to be reproduced in part or in its entirety, as long as our stipulations are observed.

Reproduction Stipulations→