Densic: Separation of the inseparableWritten by Robert Densic | | email@example.com
Do you enjoy working on a project without full knowledge of the subject? Does half a story convince you to act without regard to further scrutiny? Or do you subscribe to the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” Jefferson furthered this principle in discussions of the freedom of religion in this new nation: “Question with boldness even the existence of God. Because if there be one, He must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”
Jefferson was not questioning the existence of God. He knew of Him because of his efforts to find Him through reason and inquiry. Similarly, Jefferson knew of two possible futures for the young republic he was now entrusted with as the president of the United States of America. He knew of a future of lost liberties and the gains of tyranny, or one of the freedoms of man preserved and oppression checked. Like his fellow patriots of the day, he knew the high price that was paid for the freedoms they now enjoyed. His highest wish was for this ultimate freedom to flourish and prevail throughout generations. How best then do we secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity? It is here we must heed the words of Jefferson, among others, and become fully educated on the issues of the day.
Prior to the founding of our nation, 13 independent states, nations themselves, coalesced into a confederation … a union of specific and limited purposes. The people were fresh from a war of independence. The marks and bruises from the heavy hand of King George’s oppression were still healing. Distrust of centralized power was foremost in the minds of the citizens. Their confederation was a loose gathering based upon state sovereignty, tempered with federal efforts only on behalf of the states.
The Articles of Confederation stood as the document of understanding among the 13 states for nearly eight years to the day before the trade disputes and near interstate wars brought about its replacement with the Constitution of the United States of America. The Articles did not fall as a result of foreign involvement or through the actions of war. They fell through the failure of man to maintain the gifts of freedom granted them.
From the dust and rubble of the Articles rose a new document and a new ideal. The formation of a republic based upon maximum freedom for the people. The framers learned many lessons from history, and took great care in saving the spirit of the confederation — state sovereignty — while creating a union of strength. The framers knew something else … the nation would expand through the Western territories.
One of the first actions of the Congress under the new Constitution was to affirm the most important act performed under the now-defunct Articles. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was reaffirmed as the method by which territories become states in the newly formed union. The original document echoed the concerns of Jefferson in the matters of reason and inquiry. The Ordinance also carried on the words of John Adams who, on speaking on the future of the Constitution, stated, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance states: “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Our founders so closely tied the ideas of education with religion as to almost find them inseparable. Alexis de Tocqueville in writing on his observations of the new American nation, “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for it in the fertile fields, and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought it in her rich mines, and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.”
For the formative period of our nation, this ideal held true. Religion, morality and education were the answers to the question of the great American experiment; “Can man govern himself?”
As the states’ “encouragement” of schools and education gave way to the state-created institutions of education, these missions and core principles also came under attack through the revision of history. In 1892 in response to these attacks, a paper was printed stating, “If the study of the Bible is to be excluded from all state schools; if the inculcation of the principles of Christianity is to have no place in the daily program; if the worship of God is to form no part of the general exercises of these public elementary schools; then the good of the state would be better served by restoring all schools to church control.” This statement by the National Education Association (NEA)of 1892 grants us today a light into the nation that was, and a illuminates a principle that we must fight for yet again.
Tyranny appears in many forms; the oppression of freedom, the destruction of our heritage, the revision of our history and the separation from that which allows us to govern ourselves.
Email Robert Densic at firstname.lastname@example.org.