A Blast From the Past...Prayer In School
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." These were the first words to flow from Bill Anders' mouth on the Apollo 8 mission December 24, 1968. The most watched television broadcast at that time, the Apollo 8 mission paused to read the opening verses of the Bible as they announced, "We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all of the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send you."
This broadcast caused Madalyn Murray, an athiest activist who was denied asylum in communist Russia, to file a lawsuit against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), trying to force the government to ban public prayer in outer space. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the case, stating they didn't have jurisdiction beyond the troposphere. However, Murray's work was already accomplished when she successfully banned prayer in public schools in 1964, one year after she successfully banned Bible reading through a Supreme Court decision.
The humanistic earthquake felt in the banning of prayer and Bible-reading was the plot of an education reformer named John Dewey. Bearing the title, The Father of Progressive Education, Dewey is most famous to many people for his library organization system The Dewey Decimal System. A strong proponent for education reform, Dewey praised the Soviet Bolsheviks by stating, "marvelous development of progressive educational ideas and practices...(counteracting) the influence of home and church". three years after receiving a lifetime membership in the NEA (National Education Association), Dewey was awarded the honor of president for his role in Character Education, in which he critiques the church for employing "outworn dogmas of the past" and states "relativity must replace absolutism in the realm of morals...the citizen of the future must be a citizen of the world."
Dewey's ideas sound like the trumpeting of today's college and universitie student. Charles Potter, a man mentored by Dewey, recognized the battle in education between the church and the state. Potter notes in Humanism: A New Religion,
"Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school's meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?"
The statistics show that Potter and Dewey are right, the battle for the mind of America is fought in America's education system. Statistics show between 60-80% of church going students will turn their back on Christ in the first 3 years of their college experience.
This week we celebrate a time-honored tradition at Hillcrest called Prayer Day. Being founded in the 1930's, Hillcrest witnessed a changing climate in education and sought to provide a haven for students to be built-up in their faith and wrestle with big issues through Godly mentoring. This foundational premise has been retained and honored as we paused this week to focus on the spiritual discipline of prayer. This blast from the past, paused contemplation on the Creator, is what makes the Hillcrest experience unique, and gives families so much more than a diploma.