The Bible’s Influence on American Education
By Tim Hoy
Superintendent, Upland Christian Academy
Many Americans today think that Christian schools are a novelty; they think that schools that include the study of the Bible as part of their core curriculum is an aberration from a “traditional” American educational system. Those holding such views would be surprised to find that the opposite is true. A study of America’s educational history would reveal that the Bible was the key component in the development and success of our educational system.
The Bible was the reason that schools were founded in our nation! One of the earliest education laws in our country was passed by the early settlers in 1647, called the “Old Satan Deluder Act.” The settlers came to America to escape religious and political persecution in Europe. They believed that the persecutions (acts carried out under Satan’s delusion) were allowed to take place because of the populace’s illiteracy in general and biblical illiteracy in particular. To combat a possible repeat of history in the new land, the settlers mandated that communities with at least 50 families must sponsor a teacher; they must establish a grammar school when the population reached 100 families. The purpose of the school was to teach the children to read, particularly to read and understand the Bible. The 1690 Connecticut Illiteracy Law was passed with the same motive in mind: in order to equip the citizenry for “reading the Holy Word of God and the good laws of this (State).”
Shortly after establishment of our country, the founding fathers passed a federal law that required all existing and incoming states to establish schools that will teach “religion, morality, and knowledge.” Many of the founding fathers advocated that the Bible be the primary text in these schools.
As our country continued to grow, so did our schools. The American school system was the best in the world, and the Bible was central to its curriculum. In the early 1840’s, an attempt was made in Philadelphia to establish a school that would be free of the Bible and any Christian influence. A legal battle ensued that would reach the highest court in the land. In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court upheld the centrality of the Bible in US schools when they wrote:
“Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a Divine revelation in the (school)—its general precepts expounded…and its glorious principles of morality inculcated?…Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament? Where are benevolence, the love of truth, sobriety, and industry, so powerfully and irresistibly inculcated as in the Sacred Volume?” (US Supreme Court, Vidal vs. Girard’s Executor, 1844)
From the beginning, the Bible has been central to our country’s educational program. Even as late as the 1950’s, US public schools required students to pass rigorous Bible classes in order to graduate. The Bible was removed from the public school’s curriculum in the early 1960’s. Thankfully, Christian schools were founded so that children can continue to learn and grow from God’s wonderful book, the Holy Bible!
Tim Hoy, Superintendent
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