CHURCHES, CIGARETTES AND CHILDREN by Perry Mann

CHURCHES, CIGARETTES AND CHILDREN
A lawyer for Catholic institutions writes a piece dedicated to tuition vouchers. He finds no end of reasons and arguments for vouchers, including that they “have liberated thousands of poor families from bad public schools;” that they have “revitalized democracy in the trenches for low-income families;” and that they have made it possible for private schools to achieve higher reading scores for minorities by more than three to six percentage points than those of comparable public school students. Further, he saith that the “duopoly of teachers unions and school board bureaucracies has an unrelenting stranglehold on public discourse about the way West Virginia educates its children” as compared, say, to other states that have a larger Catholic population. He opines that the advent of tuition vouchers is the single greatest revolution in public education in 40 years, without revealing what revolutionary event happened 40 years ago.

I question the Catholic lawyer’s ingenuousness; in fact, I suspect that he is being deliberately disingenuous aforethought. I would go so far as to assert that what he has written is not inspired primarily out of a concern for the education of children but is inspired out of a concern for the future of the Catholic Church. He is an advocate for and of the Catholic Church, an institution whose overriding preoccupation is the indoctrination of children in its religious dogma, liturgy and canons early and the earlier the better in order to assure the future of the church.

The church and the tobacco industry have this in common: the former needs to indoctrinate children, to instill in them as early as possible the belief that the church is a divine institution, whose ministrations of sacraments are indispensable to salvation and to eternal life; and the latter needs to addict children, to get them by hype and hokum and romantic enticements as early as possible to use tobacco, to assure it of a viable industry and of greater future profits. In so doing the church closes the door on intellectual and moral enlightenment and the tobacco industry cuts the chances drastically of a long and healthy life. And both do so at the expense of children for the sake of an institution or industry in which many have a vested interest in its longevity and in the power and profit it brings to them.

The church lawyer uses every argument regarding tuition vouchers that is current and that is voiced by the conservatives and ultra-conservatives in this country, those who cannot rest until every institution and undertaking is privatized. He and they propound that since competition and privatization have produced malls whose walls are stuffed with junk and treasure, with glitz and glitter, the answer to the production of literate youth is to expand market economics into classrooms. Anyone who has even a superficial understanding of learning and the educational process knows that true learning is not the product of the assembly line or the profit motive or competition. And certainly not of indoctrination.

Most parents, unfortunately, are not interested in educated children. They are interested in trained children, children who have mastered technics and acquired information that are marketable and will bring to them high incomes straight from graduation ceremonies. It takes a different kind of school to train children from one designed to educate children to be able to think and to orient themselves fully to nature, to truth and to the universe. Many of America’s problems can be traced to minds that have been trained instead of educated. And the upshot of tuition vouchers is that schools will do more training and indoctrination and less educating than ever before.

The greatness of America is without question owing to the establishment of free public education divorced from ecclesiastical control and indoctrination. Education through the ages was at a price and under the control of churches. Horace Mann changed that and established free, non-sectarian, co-educational schools. Now the Christian Coalition, Evangelical Fundamentalist churches, Catholic Church and many other religious sects, cults and denominations, all of whom believe in the absolute truth of their particular dogma, clamor in support of tuition vouchers for the same reason: to have the opportunity to inculcate, to indoctrinate, to brainwash children in the dogma of their particular brand of religion while teaching them the Three R’s; but, as does the Catholic church, they advance every reason for them but the real one. They veil the real reason, I suspect, because they feel a certain guilt from indoctrinating instead of teaching a captive audience of innocents.

And guilt they should feel; for to do other than to encourage and inspire children to fashion a philosophy of life from scratch is to deny them not only a great adventure but is to condemn them to the acceptance of second-hand philosophies and to reduce them to intellectual eunuchs. To be born again in the truest sense is to evaluate with a critical eye and mind every dogma, canon, law, custom, tradition, saying and word uttered by man and to separate the wheat from the chaff, the real from the romantic and to recognize rote Indoctrination of children stifles early any such adventure and retards any such growth.

Cigarette manufacturers and religions do not want a population of critical thinkers; for thinkers are less susceptible to indoctrination and addiction and thus harder to sell the products of tobacco factories and religious institutions. They want to get to children early so that they can bring their influence to bear when it can make an indelible impression. Tobacco peddlers need to get to children with ads to insure their future and churches need to get to them with indoctrination to insure their future. Capitalism is the vehicle of choice for cigarette makers and the tuition voucher is the vehicle whereby the churches can enhance greatly their chances to maintain control of the minds of future generations and fill their pews with them and with their children and with their children. The history of the lethal intolerance spawned by competing religions throughout the history of mankind and today in Palestine, Ireland, Bosnia, India, Sudan and elsewhere should give pause to proselytizers wherever.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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