Christian Dominionism and US Public Education in the Late 20th Century

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 4:30 PM
Stevens C-5 (Hilton Chicago)
Kelley King, University of North Texas
In The Other School Reformers (2015), Adam Laats argues that “Educational conservatism…has been the long and vibrant tradition of defending tradition itself in America’s schools." Like Zimmerman (2002), Laats explores conservative reactions to “progressive” proposals for educational reform. While Zimmerman and Laats consider the socio- political actions of conservative educational reformers, neither explores in depth their intellectual foundations. This paper explores the educational ideas and philosophies promoted by three of the conservative Christian writers who inspired resistance to progressive education in the mid- to late- twentieth-century: Cornelius VanTil, Roussas Rushdoony and Pat Robertson. Influenced by Van Til, Rushdoony and Robertson’s popular writings were key influences in shaping educational discourse, particularly in the United States, from the middle of the twentieth century until today.

During the mid-twentieth century, Van Til developed a “presuppositional apologetics” which argued that all knowledge claims must presuppose the Christian Trinitarian god. Rushdoony extended Van Til’s presuppositionalism and, according to sociologist, James Aho, (2012) originated a form of Christian Dominionism that promoted the belief that Christians are ‘commanded by God to ‘reconstruct’ America on the basis of biblical teachings.' Public schools are a ‘special target of hostility for Dominionists’ because they promote Darwinism, sex education, and ‘tolerance’ of human difference, a presumed ‘buzzword’ for homosexual advocacy’ (Aho, 2012). Robertson connected progressive educational ideas to global conspiracy theory, a cabal of Illumati: atheists, Satanists, globalist bankers and others, using the public schools to dumb down the population in order to maintain global control. The language of the educational discourse of the Christian far right has permeated mainstream political discourse. The impact can be seen in the election of Donald Trump and current far-right policy, particularly education policy.

<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation