Dobson's Agenda for California Public Schools: 'Get Our Kids Out'
Dobson first issued his call for parents to remove their kids from California's public schools during his interview of Pat Buchanan, during a Focus on the Family broadcast which aired on March 28, 2002. Here's what Dobson said about California's public schools:
"I've been on the air here with Focus on the Family for 25 years; it's the first time I've said this. But in the State of California and places that have moved in the direction that they've gone with the schools, if I had a child there, I wouldn't put that youngster in the public schools... I think it's time to get our kids out."
Buchanan agreed, saying that children's souls were at risk and "they [public schools] are poisoning that."And a few days later, syndicated conservative radio host Laura Schlessinger endorsed Dobson's call. "I stand with Dr. James Dobson," Schlessinger said. "Take your kids out of public schools."
In the week following Dobson's broadcast, the Alliance for Separation of School and State claimed that the number of signers to its "Proclamation for the Separation of School and State" skyrocketed from an average of five per day to over 100 per day. The Alliance was founded in 1994 with an aim to abolish governmental involvement with schooling, especially the K-12 public education system.
Among the signers of the anti-public education petition was home schooling activist Diane Flynn Keith, founder of UniversalPreschool.com -- which, like the California affiliate of Focus on the Family, is now a key member of the "No on 82" coalition. According to Keith, public preschool is "toxic to toddlers."
Another anti-public education member of the "No on 82" coalition is Excellence in Education - a home schooling website run by a husband and wife team who believe that "schooling and education are mutually exclusive."
And why exactly, according to Dobson, is public preschool bad for children? Dobson delivers widely different answers to that question, depending on the tastes of his audience.
Dobson's Hypocritical Stance on Bullying
On April 30, 2002, Dobson again called for an abandonment of California's public schools on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" program. Dobson told conservative host Sean Hannity, "I said let me simply say, not for everybody, but if it were my child in California, where they're teaching homosexual propaganda, starting with kindergarten, 5-year-old children sitting on the floor, hearing about adult perverse behavior, I would get my kid out of there."
Dobson was apparently referring to a California law that includes sexual orientation in a list of illegal grounds for discrimination under state law. In 1999, California banned public schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation in order to provide new tools to combat bullying and harassment of gay students.
Dobson claims to care about bullying students. In fact, he told CNN's Larry King that that was the real reason he objects to preschools. (Dobson, like other theocratic leaders, will say one thing to his flock and another thing on a national broadcast in the mainstream media.) In an interview on Larry King Live which aired on June 6, 2002, King asked Dobson, "Do you like preschool?"
Dobson replied, "No. I'd much prefer that the child be kept in the safety of his home."
King asked if he meant "like the good old days."
Dobson said, "Yes, because children are brutal to each other. They're really tough on each other."
But King did not follow up with the obvious question: if Dobson is so opposed to brutality in schools, then why did he attack California's 1999 law aimed at preventing the bullying of gay and lesbian students? Nor did King ask Dobson, Since you are opposed to preschool, then why did you and your wife Shirley send your daughter Danae to preschool? To toughen her up?
No, admit it, Dobson: you want to take kids out of America's public education system because in public schools, kids learn life skills like tolerance and values like "equal justice under law." That means no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or ideology. That's what you're afraid kids are learning - tolerance instead of gay-bashing and scapegoating. You're not afraid that public school students will be treated brutally if there's a perception that they're gay, or if they have two Dads or two Moms - you're concerned that they won't get what's coming to them: an old-fashioned bullying, like in the "good old days."
California Family Council's Misleading Bogeyman Ad
The California Family Council (CFC) - Focus on the Family's California affiliate -- is now airing commercials on a Los Angeles Christian talk radio station, attacking a June 6 ballot initiative that would provide voluntary preschool education to all families statewide. The ads are running daily on KKLA (99.5 FM), and the station is airing them during Focus on the Family broadcasts hosted by Dobson. And behind CFC's opposition is a theocratic agenda to keep kids out of the public education system. But CFC is not the only opponent of this initiative which is driven by a desire to keep kids out of California's public schools, because they don't want children introduced to liberal concepts such as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and equal justice under law.
The misleading ad claims, "Proposition 82 would establish state sponsored and state run preschools for all California children, starting at age four." In fact, the initiative would not take away any existing preschools and would not rely solely on state-run schools, but would build on the existing network of public, private, and nonprofit preschool providers. And Prop. 82 would make public preschool available to families currently struggling to afford it. But to theocratic groups like CFC, the idea of state-run schools - the very existence of an American public education system - is a bogeyman.
"This ad is wrong on the facts, and it shows the true colors of the No on 82 campaign, which is composed of fringe groups and groups opposed to public education," said Nathan James, spokesperson for Yes on 82. "While the No on 82 campaign claims to support public schools, they support no new funding for education. In fact, the California Family Council and many of the funders and organizations opposing preschool for all supported Proposition 76 last year, which would have slashed education funding for public schools."
Most Californians favor Proposition 82, the "preschool for all" initiative championed by actor, film director, and children's advocate Rob Reiner. Supporters say the initiative represents a worthwhile investment in voluntary, high-quality preschool education for every four-year-old in California, because better-educated kids get better jobs. Kids who attend kindergarten do better in school. And, according to a recent poll cited by Prop. 82 supporters, the vast majority of kindergarten teachers (96 percent) believe that it is important for children to attend preschool before kindergarten.
But public support for the initiative is slipping, according to a Field poll released on April 19, 2006. The poll shows that 52 percent of likely voters support Prop. 82, while 39 percent are opposed. While the initiative still leads by a margin of 13 percent, its support has slipped since February, when it enjoyed a lead of 21 percentage points. The poll's margin of error is 4.1 percent.
Opposition to the initiative is led by a broad-based coalition of groups, many of whom favor the goal of universal and voluntary preschool education, but question the fairness or adequacy of the funding mechanism. Prop. 82 would raise the money from rich people, such as Reiner, by levying a 1.7% income tax on individuals who earn $400,000 or more, or couples who earn at least $800,000. In its first year, the tax would raise an estimated $2.4 billion. Although the initiative would have no cost for 99.4 percent of California taxpayers, many Chambers of Commerce are up in arms over the proposed tax on the wealthiest 0.6 percent of California's citizens. (Nevertheless, supporters note that business leaders from across California and three of the state's largest chambers of commerce have endorsed Prop. 82.)
So while it's fair to say that most Californians support the goal of providing high-quality, preschool education for all families who want it for their kids, there are disagreements on how to get there. Clearly, most Californians are committed to strengthening the public school system so that our children can learn how to weigh competing ideas, and so that our children can grow up to get better jobs and contribute to America's civil society, which is based on principles of free speech, freedom of conscience, and equal justice under law.
However, Dobson has a different vision - one based on enforced ignorance, cultural isolation, and Christian supremacy. Dobson's commitment is to weaken California's public school system so that children can be indoctrinated in Christian fundamentalist ideology, and so that they can grow up under the yoke of a theocratic society, which censors speech, legislates morality, and teaches religious ideology in place of science, doctrine in place of civic discourse.
All Americans benefit when our children are taught to evaluate competing ideas and consider multiple perspectives through our public school system. It's not clear who, if anyone, would benefit from Dobson's theocratic vision of a society without public schools, because that is not a society that could compete in the global marketplace. A theocratic society would squander America's legacies as a diverse, multicultural, and innovative society which drives scientific advancement.
In service of Dobson's theocratic vision, the CFC opposes the ballot initiative calling for universal preschool education, and also opposes any curricula that would teach tolerance of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. In particular, Dobson and CFC do not want children hearing about any positive gay role models.
In his radio broadcast of April 21, 2006, Dobson urged California parents to "rise up" against any curriculum that would teach tolerance of all people, regardless of their ideology or sexual orientation, or that would include any mention of positive contributions to American society by gay, lesbian, or transsexual citizens.
"If the parents of children in California put up with that, then they're farther gone than I think they are," said Dobson.
On the other hand, if Americans put up with Dobson's theocratic vision of an America without a public education system, then our kids and our country will be farther gone from the dream of a country founded on freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and a recognition that all people, regardless of their background, culture, creed, or sexual orientation, stand equal before the law.
The pastoral letter urges "a halt to the demonization of public schools," and calls Christians to "recommit themselves to public education, not as a means toward converting school children, but because it is the right thing to do." And why is that so? "We believe public school children are God's children who deserve the nurture of a good society, the prospect for a good education and the equal opportunity for a good life." Yes, that's it: a society that nurtures all children - including gay and lesbian children, including children who have two Dads or two Moms, including children who are atheists, or seekers, or devout followers of myriad religions.
And that is why the pastoral letter calls for a recommitment, not only to a strong public education system, but to the principle of separation of church and state. The struggle to improve America's public school system is not a struggle between believers and non-believers; it is a joint enterprise for the common good. Standing up for public education is the right thing to do, regardless of your culture or creed. I believe that as a Christian and a patriot. What do you believe?
However you answer that question, remember that the question itself, and the honest public discourse that it invites, are possible only in an educated society founded on freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and equal justice under law.
Dobson's Agenda for California Public Schools: 'Get Our Kids Out' | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden)
Dobson's Agenda for California Public Schools: 'Get Our Kids Out' | 11 comments (11 topical, 0 hidden)