Epic Fail

We cast God out of public schools, and now we wonder what's wrong?



Another school shooting, but the same old debate follows. The blood of the slain and wounded children is not yet dry in the classrooms before pundits start to parrot the usual lines.

“It’s the guns!” cries the Left.

“It’s mental illness!” cries the Right.

I submit it’s the public schools. The common denominator in just about every mass murder in America, as far as I can tell, is that the perpetrator has been a product of a secular education. Not just mass murders in school hallways—not just Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Uvalde, or any of the other school-day horrors. But surely most of the other mass murders, too. Las Vegas. Orlando. El Paso. Virginia Tech. And Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Kermit Gosnell.

All of these have at least one thing in common. The killers all went to public schools. American public schools have failed miserably. This epic failure is at the root of the social breakdown we see today.

I expect that many will recoil from this suggestion and reject it out of hand. It is not fair, some might say, to mention public schooling as a factor in wanton murder. Maybe it is just correlation which doesn’t connote causation. After all, almost everyone in the United States went through K-12 at a public school. So statistically it is as meaningless to point to this shared trait as it is to say that almost every mass killer in America is an English speaker. Pinning deviancy on public schools just doesn’t add to the analysis, some might object.

This counterargument works only if one refuses to investigate what the public schools teach. On that score, I encourage everyone to read Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan’s 2018 book Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School before It’s Too Late. Here’s one of the PR blurbs on Get Out Now, by one of my favorite Catholic commentators and scholars, Professor Anthony Esolen:

“I have often said that there are only two things wrong with our schools: Everything the children don’t learn there, and everything they do. I see now that my diagnosis was far too optimistic. For Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan show that the schools are far worse than I had supposed. Get your kids out of there—now.”

If you read the book I think you will agree with this assessment. It is shocking what children go through in an average day in an average classroom in the United States.

And the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Get Out Now is a scant four years old, but already it reads like it’s out of date. Transgenderism, LGBT ideology, critical race theory, Drag Queen Story Hours, wall-to-wall grooming, puberty blockers, mutilation meatball surgery, victim-mentality brainwashing, After School Satan clubs, Planned Parenthood on speed dial—this is the public school down the street from where you live. It is much worse than it was when Hasson and Farnan were writing. A public school is a camp for creating misery and despair, for recruiting (more like pressganging) the smallest and most innocent into the service of a dark and twisted anti-culture.

If one takes seriously what has happened to American public schools, then the disintegration of America makes much more sense. It is little wonder that people who go through a thirteen-year course in antihumanism come out damaged. The only marvel is that there are not many more mass shootings than there already are.

When I read Get Out Now, I knew it was a true account, because I have friends who pulled their small children out of public schools precisely because of the things that Hasson and Farnan reveal. But I also knew that public schools were not like that long ago. The ubiquity of horrific crime today is surely linked with the decline of American culture overall, a decline accelerated and celebrated by the public schools.

In my case, I saw the old American way of education from both sides, religious and secular. I was blessed with the good fortune of attending a parochial school through the fourth grade, at St. Margaret Mary’s in Slidell, Louisiana. We went to weekly Mass. There was a crucifix in every classroom. Many of the teachers were nuns. Looking back, I guess some of the nuns were liberals, with simple habits and short-cropped hair. But whatever laxity there might have been in theology didn’t translate into coddling on the pedagogical ground. None of the nuns let us little ones get away with foolishness. One portly old sister in particular had a withering glare that put the fear of God into our six-year-old hearts. Kids need discipline, and she knew how to provide it.

But there was laughter and happiness, too. We loved going to school. We were loved there. We were safe. We were getting to know God. There was a saintly Irish priest with a cherubic smile who helped us to see that our religion was joy, no matter how the nuns scowled.

To be fair, the priest came in only every so often to our religion class to teach us the top-shelf theological stuff, like a dentist coming in at the end of a cleaning to count teeth. The nuns had to put up with us day to day. A classroom full of hooligans will knock the Beatitudes out of anyone.

There was also a principal who looked like a colonel in the Mossad. The mere mention of his name caused order to reign, caused little butts to sit in little seats.

But the principal was at Sunday Mass with all the rest of the parish, all the other kids in class, and their moms and dads. The frightful nun was there, too, perhaps repenting of having derived too much glee from terrorizing first graders. Religion held us together and lifted us up. We were a community, regular people rooted in the Christian religion.

Mass murder? Good grief. The thought never entered anyone’s heads. People who live in a good parish with a good priest and a few swashbuckling nuns wielding yardsticks against backsides don’t need to worry about Jack the Ripper. God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world, or will be soon enough.

We knew by Fr. Gallagher’s demeanor that being a Catholic was a good thing, and that we would see Jesus and Mary and Joseph in the end if we lived right. We did May Crownings and loved Our Lady with all our hearts. We didn’t know otherwise. There was evil in the world, but not on the campus of St. Margaret Mary school.

A family move precipitated my hard entry into the public schools, but, thank God, this was in the mid-80s, when there were still pockets of sanity in America and when public school teachers had not surrendered completely to the coarsening culture of the big cities. In suburban Cincinnati and rural Tennessee I still had, not a Catholic education, but a generically Christian one.

A lot of my Cincinnati teachers were Catholics; we would see them at Mass sometimes. There were also some Jewish teachers who shared our moral code. Pretty much straight-line Americana. Sit up, no talking, do your homework. The nuns would have been right at home.

In Tennessee, everybody and their brother and their dog was a Baptist. But even so, the sisters would not have been in alien territory. Some teachers in Tennessee had paddles and used them. I never once thought it odd. I had been in the company of nuns. Making the rear end of a troublemaker glow red is the foundation of an orderly society. Law is written in books but instilled with lengths of swift, whistling wood.

God bless those good men and women who tanned our hides when the need arose. We had it coming. And we knew it. Not to have met swift and stern punishment—to have been let off the hook out of weakness and moral relativism—would have been the worst retribution of all. When a teacher confesses, out of expediency or cowardice, that there is no moral code, then one’s whole world comes crashing down. But not in Tennessee, not in those days. There was right and there was wrong. Better choose the former, or you will be brought around the hard way. That is godliness, even though today most people call it child abuse. And it kept us from much, much greater harm down the line.

Even through high school, when the worst of our human natures comes to the surface, we were innocent at heart. We posed like world-wise adults. Some of us smoked cigarettes behind the school. (Wasn’t me, I promise!) But we were set straight by real adults who cared enough to look after us.

Sports helped. Our soccer coach would have made any Marine Corps drill instructor smile wryly in admiration. Soccer conditioning was a kind of religious training, too, come to think of it. Run, boys. Run some more. Run up this hill. Run down again. Run back up. Then run around the school. Fifty times. Then do a hundred sit-ups. Then scrimmage for three hours. No time to raise Cain when you can’t even lift your knees anymore.

And this was nothing compared to what the wrestlers went through. The rougher the boy, the rougher the exercise. I wonder how many jail cells are empty today because the coaches in Harrison, Tennessee, put stitches in our sides and refused to let us quit. I give thanks now for those Christian men, for those hard-nosed Baptists and those hard and wonderful days.

But this was all in a lost world, somewhere in the previous century when the Christian underpinnings of America had not given way. The public schools now are devilish places where the young are brutalized by an anti-Christian system which is thoroughly rotten. Weapons, pornography, violence—these are commonplace in public schools today.

Spare the rod, spoil the child. It’s true. But there’s something deeper. Give up your faith, and you have nothing to go by. Take the crucifixes out of the classrooms, and then take Christianity out of the culture at large, and you have death. We reap what we sow. We cast God out, and now we wonder why our children are shooting up classrooms. We act like there is no right and wrong and no Final Judgment. So, now, who are we to judge?

But we don’t even see it. We keep framing the debate about violence in false terms. It’s not the guns. And it’s not the individual with the diseased mind. It’s the public schools. Until we can build good parishes again and have real Catholic schools in those parishes with good priests and scary nuns in them, and all the Catholic kids together in classrooms learning to read while learning to pray, then we are going to keep seeing the fruits of secularism, over and over and over again.


Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan.

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