Sunday, October 09, 2011

When Progress is not Progress

When this country was still a colony of England, The New England Primer was the principle textbook by which children learned to read. It begins with the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father, which art in Heaven..." and continues with a study of the alphabet. Children learned to read from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Here's a sample of sentences used to teach the alphabet. They are written in rhymes to assist memorization.
A: In Adam's fall we sinned all.
B: Thy life to mend this Book attend.
F: An idle Fool is whipped at school.
J: Sweet Jesus he died on a tree.
P: Peter denies his Lord and cries.
Q: Queen Esther in royal state to save the Jews from dismal fate.
R: Rachel doth mourn her first-born.
S: Samuel anoints whom God appoints.
U: Uriah's beauteous wife made David seek his life.

You recognize immediately the flavor of the book. Textbooks were not plentiful. They were printed in England and shipped here. So imagine a country in which the principle text book for teaching children is solidly based in the Bible liberally illustrated with Christian morals. This is the book used to teach children in Early America.

America's educational system, legal system and system of government were all founded in the God of the Bible.

Our generation thinks of itself as highly educated. By comparison we think citizens of 17th and 18th Century America were rural, less educated, and crude. But the New England Primer was written for 1st graders. And today’s American must struggle with King James English, Shakespearean poetry and the complexity of speech used by the average American who lived 300 years ago.

For example, today's typical legal student cannot reason through the Federalist Papers without a modern translation that simplifies the language. Yet the average farmer could comprehend it in the early 1800's.

Abraham Lincoln is considered by English scholars as one of the greatest men of letters ever to use the language. Yet he was self-educated in rural Kentucky. How do his letters compare with the average student of today's public schools?

The literacy rate among American children during early America was said to be 97 percent. I don't know how such statistics were acquired but I suspect they were more accurate than those we see today.

What happened?

In his book "Whatever Happened to Sin" Karl Menninger describes one overt change in Western Culture. President Eisenhower was the last president to use the word "sin" in a speech. We’ve moved on.

America is now described as "Post-Christian". The man who occupies the White House says we're not a Christian nation. For those of us who attended public schools where we began the day with prayer, read from the Bible and sang religious songs, that’s a monumental change. Morals changed. Darwin convinced the academicians that life came about accidentally. He postulated the Chaos Theory that the world began in chaos and evolved up. Now his disciples propose to return the world to chaos so they can rebuild something better.

This week America is observing 10 years since we were attacked by Muslims bent on destroying our country. People who know history see a strong religious connection to this attack. Such people do not refer to Islam as a “peaceful religion.” They also recognize that Muslims are more zealous than Christians.

America has abandoned the Protector God. So 10 years after the attack on the center of American commerce, there remains a hole in the ground where the World Trade Center once proudly stood.

As the country gathers to mourn this attack on our freedom, something will be strangely absent. No Christian minister will be allowed to participate in the ceremonies. Maybe it is appropriate that these dignitaries will gather around a hole in the ground that 10 years after the attack America seems unable to fill.

It is strangely symbolic of a hole in the heart of our people. And we seem determined to lock outside the only key that will fit.

Jim O'Brien, Sep. 9, 2011

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