J. Gresham Machen on Education

via Iron Ink:

“I can see little consistency in a type of Christian activity which preaches the Gospel on the street corners and at the ends of the Earth, but neglects the children of the covenant by abandoning them to a cold and unbelieving secularism. If indeed the Christian school were in any sort of competition with the Christian family, if it were trying to do what the home ought to do, then I could never favor it. But one of its marked characteristics, in sharp distinction from the secular education of today, is that it exalts the family as a blessed divine institution and treats the scholars in its classes as children of the covenant to be brought up above all things in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

J. Gresham Machen
Education, Christianity, and the State

“The reason I am opposed to (creating a Federal Department of Education) is that it represents a very ancient principle in the field of education which, it seems to me, has been one of the chief enemies of liberty for several thousand years – the principle, namely, that education is an affair essentially of the State, that education must be standardized for the welfare of the whole people and put under control of the government, that personal idiosyncrasies should be avoided….It is a very ancient thing this notion that the children belong to the State and that their education must be provided for by the State in a way that makes for the States welfare. But that principle, I think you will find if you examine human history, is inimical at every step to liberty; and if there is any principle that is contrary to the whole genius of the Anglo-Saxon idea in government, it seems to me that it is in the principle of thorough going State contol in education….

That great aim of education – that personal, free, truly human aspect of education – can never have justice done to it under federal control. And that is the reason why the standardization of education that has already been carried on through the federal bureaus is deleterious. I have observed this in general: that when people talk about uniformity in education what they are really producing is not something uniformly high, but something uniformly low; they are producing a kind of education which reduces all to a dead level, which fails to understand the man who loves the high things that most of his fellowmen do not love. This degrading tendency is furthered, I fear, by the present federal activities in education, and it will be given stupendous impetus if this federal Department is formed….

I, for my part, think that the functions of the public school ought to be diminished rather than broadened; and I believe the public school ought to pay just a little bit of attention, perhaps, to that limited by not unimportant function which it is now almost wholly neglecting – namely, the impartation of knowledge….

So it is with the federal control of education. The better it works the worse it suits me; and if these people had their way everything could be reduced to a dead level, if everybody came to agree with everybody else because nobody would be doing any thinking at all for himself, if all could be reduced to this harmony – do you think that the world would be a good place under those circumstances? No, my friends. It would be drab and miserable with creature comforts in it and nothing else, with men reduced to the level of beasts, with all the higher elements of human life destroyed….

If liberty is not maintained with regard to education, there is no use trying to maintain it in any other sphere. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else…. No we do not want a federal Department of Education; and we do not want, in any form whatever, the slavery that a federal department of Education would bring.”

J. Gresham Machen
Education, Christianity, and the State


  1. Gratias tibi ago, Amice.

    Please keep posting your thoughts on carving out a place of our own in this crazy world.

  2. Salutatio!

    I will my friend. But more sparingly. I've got to learn French and Latin so I can teach the baby while it grows.

    I don't want it doomed to monoglottony like myself.