Gary North (www.garynorth.com) – August 18, 2014
This was posted on a forum.
Our local [US] Christian school proudly boasted that the junior high received a Blue Ribbon.
I always wondered, what is all this hoopla about Blue Ribbon as it seemed to me almost every govt school got some kind of award (like Calif Distinguished School) and many more. So, what a hoax???
I was suspicious (to myself) and said, what is this thing? Blue Ribbon School?
I found out it is sponsored by the United States Dept of Education.
Why would a Christian school need this thing?
When I worked in govt school, our school was trying to get one of these things or something like it. The whole staff went crazy and had to work overtime to please the masters of this organization. This took a ton of time and energy wasted on this. Tons of angst and planning and going nuts.
Why would a Christian school, in an upscale area, even worry about this? And how are the parents so taken in?
Why is the staff taken in? Parents are paying $11,000 per year to go to junior high here. The athletes win everything, it is a calm campus with no problems, what more does anyone want?
What is the appeal?
There is a very simple answer to this question. The parents are desperate for prestige through their children. Understand, they are Christians. This means they are fundamentalist Christians. They suffer from a debilitating intellectual inferiority complex. They have been told, decade after decade, that they are Neanderthals. Who tells them this? The media and the academic establishment. This is what liberal elites must do in a country in which Christians are in the majority. The elites are very much like lion tamers. Their whip is academic certification. “Through the hoop!” Snap! “Through the hoop!” Snap! But they know what can happen to them at any time, without warning. They are locked in a cage, and they are edible. In the back of their minds, they keep thinking this: “Siegfried and Roy.”
Christian humiliation begins early. It begins with four words: “Is this school accredited?”
These are the words of parents. These are the words by which everything else in a school is judged. It does not matter the slightest how good the academic program is, once a parent has uttered these four words.
ACCREDITED BY WHOM?
Here is my response, which I wrote as a FAQ for the Ron Paul Curriculum.
Accreditation: Should We Seek It from the State?
This was sent by a reader.
Hello. I just visited your site and read through the info. but did not see an answer to this important question: Is your curriculum accredited so that students will receive a valid high school diploma upon completion of required classes in all US states?
The question of accreditation has come up, especially in Christian circles, for about seventy years.
One of the most important marks of the complete surrender of Christians and libertarians to the state is the desire for academic accreditation.
Ask these questions:
1. Accredited by whom?
2. By whose authority?
3. By what standard?
4. Enforced by what sanctions?
5. Gaining what advantage?
Let us consider the assumptions and implications of accreditation.
First, the state has both the moral authority and the legal right to determine what constitutes a valid education. In other words, the moment that somebody accepts the idea of accreditation, he has accepted the legitimacy of the power of the state to determine the truth. He has also accepted the legitimacy of the state to determine the correct methodology of teaching.
Second, this acceptance of nationwide accreditation assumes that the federal government possesses this authority, too. What else could establish what constitutes a valid curriculum for all fifty states? But has the federal government ever implemented such a program of accreditation? No.
Third, no such national accreditation has ever existed. Even in the case of universities, there are multiple accrediting organizations. There is in fact, no agreement among the experts on what constitutes valid curriculum standards. Educrats squabble endlessly on this issue. They never produce a set of standards, nor do they agree on a system of national enforcement.
Fourth, the quest for accreditation means that the parent is willing to submit to the experts in the most important area of responsibility a parent has with respect to his children. In other words, the parent wants to crawl on his belly before the state or the experts, precisely when he ought to be trying to escape from state control over education. On the one hand, he is willing to spend money to make certain that his child has a form of education that is outside the jurisdiction of the state. On the other hand, he insists on bringing his children back under the jurisdiction of the state and the mutually certified experts.
Fifth, accreditation means that a committee, or a hierarchy of committees, must lay down some kind of criteria of truth. But no such criteria exist for which there is anything like agreement among parents or anybody else. These accreditation organizations never say in print that they are pursuing a pro-state agenda. They conceal this by all kinds of rhetoric about quality education, when in fact the nation’s K-12 tax-funded schools are in the process of academic and moral disintegration. The reason why people want to pull their children out of public schools is that they really do understand that the state has destroyed modern education. The parents want out because they do not trust the state. Unfortunately, however, a lot of these parents still trust the state, and they want to make certain that the state has approved the curriculum their children use. Then why should the state approve a libertarian curriculum? Why should the state — any state — approve the Ron Paul Curriculum?
Sixth, children will be hampered in their careers without an accredited high school diploma. This is utter nonsense. It is possible to earn an accredited university degree, if that is what you want, from a state university or privately funded university, and never walk into a classroom. Bradley Fish, Jr., who is on the faculty of the Ron Paul Curriculum, earned his bachelor’s degree in the same month that he turned 18. He used CLEP exams and other distance learning exams. He never had to pass the SAT. He never was asked about what he studied in high school. All he had to do was take CLEP exams, which he did all through high school. So, why does anyone need accreditation for a high school curriculum? There is no such need.
Parents are in the dark on this issue. They think that all accredited universities pay attention to what the curriculum was that a home school parent assigned. Universities have no time for any of this. They are buried in paperwork. They look at the SAT scores. They may look at high school grades. They do not look at any aspect of the textbooks or anything else. There is no national K-12 accrediting agency, so why should they bother to look for such evidence on a student’s application? Parents are completely bamboozled by the illusion that most universities care one way or the other. If a student has passed five 6-credit CLEPs, that gets him in as a sophomore. High school accreditation? Forget about it. The colleges do.
We are watching the Wizard of Oz. The educrats tell us not to pay any attention to the committee behind the curtain.
IT ALL STARTED WITH HARVARD
In 1636, Harvard College began. Congregational Calvinists screened out anyone from pulpits who was not formally educated. Harvard became the screening device. To get a lifetime job as a pastor — basically tenured — you had to graduate from Harvard.
In 1805, a Unitarian was appointed to the chair of moral philosophy. The school had gone unofficially Unitarian a generation earlier, but this appointment symbolized the change. Jedidiah Morse (Samuel’s father) then invented the theological seminary: Andover. After 1808, Calvinists were expected to earn a degree from Harvard (or even — gasp! — Yale), and then spend another three years at Andover. Result: theological liberals and Unitarians did not have to go through this extra hoop. So, they replaced Calvinists in Congregational pulpits. Their costs were lower. Six decades later, there were no Calvinists in Congregationalism. The movement had died out.
In fact, Congregationalism died out, except in New England. In 1776, Congregationalists accounted for about 20% of all American church members. It 1850, this was down to 4%. Congregationalism had become dependent on tax support. This ended in Connecticut in 1818, and in Massachusetts in 1833. After that, Congregationalism withered. The pastors had never learned evangelism. Their salaries were guaranteed. When the voters pulled the plug, Congregationalism could not compete.
Similarly, the highly educated Episcopalians experienced the same thing. Their percentage declined from 16% to 3.5%. Presbyterians also could not resist the temptation of college-certified pastors. This had always been true — back to the 16th century. They started Princeton Seminary in 1811. They experienced shortages of pastors from then on. Their percentage fell from 19% to 12%.
The big winners were the Methodists: from 2.5% to 34%. Their pastors had no college educations and worked almost for free. They were circuit riders. In between visits, laymen ran the congregations for free. The Baptists went from 17% to 21%. Their pastors were not college men. They did not get paid. They were farmer preachers.
Lesson: price competition works. So does commitment to serve common people, not upscale people who can afford expensive pastors. The great book on this is by a pair of free market sociologists — I’m serious — Finke and Stark’s The Churching of America.
Today, young men training for the ministry in most denominations have to spend $35,000 to $50,000 in tuition and fees to attend an accredited seminary. This does not count living costs. This does not count forfeited income from having to quit a job. So, many of them borrow from the federal government to get the money. The seminaries encourage this. (For a seminary’s Web page on getting government loans, click here. Fifty years ago, I paid for a year at this seminary out of my summer job earnings. Those days are long gone.) The federal government requires a receiving seminary to be accredited. The seminaries conform to the government’s requirement.
Why isn’t every seminary online? Why isn’t seminary education controlled and staffed by local pastors? Why isn’t it based on YouTube videos? Why isn’t it the equivalent or Khan Academy? Why aren’t young men trained in local congregations as apprentices — trained by pastors who know how to be pastors, not trained by classroom lecturers? Because the pastors of mainline denominations lost faith in their ability to screen candidates for the ministry, beginning in 1636. They used Harvard, then Yale, then Columbia (King’s College), and then the College of New Jersey — called Princeton University after 1896. Also, beginning no later than 1740, pastors in upscale eastern congregations wanted to keep low-wage or no-wage competitors — Methodists and Baptists — away from access to upscale pulpits. College and then seminary were barriers to entry. The result was that Baptists and Methodists established most of the congregations west of the Alleghenies. They multiplied rapidly. Old-line denominations didn’t.
Who runs the seminary accreditation associations today? People who have attended theologically liberal seminaries. In other words, the accreditation organizations for seminaries are run by men who, according to conservative theology, are all going to hell. Nevertheless, the conservative seminaries crawl on their bellies, faces in the dust, begging for accreditation. They have done this for a generation. Calvinists in 1808 (Congregational) and 1811 (Presbyterian) invented the theological seminary as an institution. They did it to escape Unitarians, who were getting onto college faculties. Today they seek accreditation from the spiritual heirs of those Unitarians who captured Harvard decades before 1805.
When people are desperate for formal recognition from their enemies, they have in principle surrendered. This has happened across the United States.
Let’s pursue this further. Where did the college accreditation system come from? When did it arise?
FOLLOW THE MONEY
This topic is rarely discussed. It began in the 1880’s. This was when a handful of universities, especially Johns Hopkins, began replacing faculty members with graduates of German universities who had the Ph.D. degree. Then these schools imitated the Germans. They also started granting the Ph.D. This was their way to replace college faculty members, who were very often retired pastors. The Ph.D. was the means by which higher education was secularized in the United States. The Ph.D. degree was explicitly a non-theological degree. It was an imitation of what was granted by state-run German universities, especially Prussian universities.
This process accelerated in 1902. John D. Rockefeller, Sr. had an advisor, Frederick Gates, who was a Unitarian in Baptist robes. He was liberal to the core. It was his goal to capture the Baptist Church for theological liberalism. He laid out a plan for Rockefeller to achieve this goal. That goal was achieved within 25 years. Rockefeller put up money to start the Federal Council of Churches in 1908. That was his main vehicle for capturing Protestantism in America. The secondary vehicle was the Sealantic Fund. It put up money to educate ministers. The strategy worked.
But Gates had a larger vision than just capturing the Protestant churches. He wanted to take over higher education in the United States. Here is how we did it. He recommended that Rockefeller set up the General Education Board. Wikipedia describes what happened next.
The General Education Board was a philanthropy which was used primarily to support higher education and medical schools in the United States, and to help rural white and black schools in the South, as well as modernize farming practices in the South. It helped eradicate hookworm and created the county agent system in American agriculture, linking research as state agricultural experiment stations with actual practices in the field.
The Board was created by John D. Rockefeller and Frederick T. Gates in 1902. Rockefeller gave it $180 million. Its head Frederick Gates envisioned “The Country School of To-Morrow,” wherein “young and old will be taught in practicable ways how to make rural life beautiful, intelligent, fruitful, recreative, healthful, and joyous.” By 1934 the Board was making grants of $5.5 million a year. It spent nearly all its money by 1950 and closed in 1964.
Remember: the dollar from 1902 to 1917 bought 20 times as much as it does today. From 1918 to 1940, it bought 15 times as much.
There were strings attached to the money. To get the money, the college had to put a Ph.D. on the faculty. That was the camel’s nose into the tent. The Ph.D. degree had only been around in the United States since about 1885. Woodrow Wilson was one of the early recipients. You had to go through a graduate seminar. Does that word sound familiar? It was derived from “seminary.” It was a counter-seminary. In the United States, retired pastors were the main teachers in American colleges. Gates understood that they had to be replaced. Wilson began replacing them in 1903, when he became president of Princeton University after he engineered a coup against Rev. Francis Patton, the long-time president. (Patton then became president of nearby Princeton Seminary, which had begun in 1811.)
The colleges wanted Rockefeller’s money. All it took was one Ph.D. to get the money. That set the pattern.
THE STATE INTRUDES
Accreditation was initially private. Private regional accrediting associations were set up. Today, there are state laws governing the use of the word “university.” A university must be accredited.
This is the foundation of the collegiate academic cartel. What is a cartel? A group of private producers who gain state protection from newcomers. This creates a legal barrier to entry.
The move to accreditation by the U.S. government came after 1945. The government began the G. I. Bill of Rights: federal money to send ex-military men to college . . . and keep them out of the labor force, thereby keeping wages higher for union members. To qualify for this money, the ex-G.I. had to attend a college that was screened by the private, regional accreditation agencies.
Once again, follow the money.
The United States based Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a non-governmental organization, maintains an International Directory which “contains contact information of about 467 quality assurance bodies, accreditation bodies and Ministries of Education in 175 countries. The quality assurance and accreditation bodies have been authorized to operate by their respective governments either as agencies of the government or as private (non-governmental) organizations.” In September 2012, University World News reported the launching on an international division of the CHEA.
This system governs education over the world. This system is the basis of the liberals’ control of higher education. This system is the basis of the state’s control of higher education. This system is the number-one barrier to entry. This system controls the thinking of virtually every parent in the world who wants to get his child certified.
A century ago, the great German sociologist Max Weber made the point that parents do not want education for their children. They want certification for their children. They want certification because they believe that the certification will enable their children to enter a special elite, and this elite will reduce competition for jobs. Their children will then get bureaucratic salaries for the rest of their lives. Nothing has changed since he wrote that.
We are back to the original question. Why did some school that charges $11,000 a year to Christian parents with more money than common sense compete to get a blue ribbon certification from the federal government? It did it because the parents love it. The parents will not shell out $11,000 a year to a bricks-and-mortar Christian school unless that Christian school can prove that it is favoured by the state.
Christian parents are utterly schizophrenic. They demand that the school not be connected to the state, and then they demand that the school compete for awards handed out by the state.
The parents are desperate for social status. They get it through their kids.
The accreditation system is the last major barrier against price competition and diversity in education. The television networks are losing market share. The newspapers are losing market share. But liberals retain control over education. They control it with tax money and tax-funded education, and they control it through the accreditation system.
Naïve Christians seek a refuge from the liberal worldview. But they don’t really seek it. They still believe that the liberal world of academia has the legitimate power to impose negative sanctions on anybody who will not conform. They conform.
They pay $11,000 a year per child to conform.
This is manifested in the four words: Is your school accredited?