American Education: Curriculum for a Constitution

by Verna M. Hall and Rosalie J. Slater

One of the modem myths, due to our ignorance of history, is that the educational level of our pre-Constitutional period was very low. Consequently it follows that most Americans believe the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were written by and were representative of only a small minority of educated men. On the contrary, the educational level of our pre-Revolutionary population was considerably higher than our national level of education today.

At the time of the Declaration of Independence the quality of education had enabled the colonies to achieve a degree of literacy from “70% to virtually 100%.” This was not education restricted to the few. Modern scholarship reports “the prevalence of schooling and its accessibility to most segments of the population.”

How did American education produce such a remarkable people–even before we became a nation? The answer begins with the predominance of the Bible in American life and learning.

Dr. Lawrence A. Cremin in his study of American education from 1607 to 1789 credits the high quality of American education to the Bible, “the single most important cultural influence in the lives of Anglo-Americans,” The Bible, states Dr. Cremin, “contained the means to salvation, the keys to good and evil, the roles by which to live, and the standards against which to measure the conduct of prince and pastor.” From the time of the Pilgrims and Puritans, men had set the standard of God’s Word before them to measure the tyranny and despotism of their times. American life began with the flight of men, women and children who sought civil and religious liberty—a vision inspired by the Bible. The New World was to be the habitation of liberty and law. Literacy—the first promise of education—has always been associated with the Bible.

The schools taught a classical education built upon the Bible. The primary purpose of the early colleges was to turn out Christian men who knew God’s Word thoroughly and could reason from its principles to civil government, economics, and all national concerns.

When our republic was established and we began our first years as a new nation, it became important to clearly distinguish those aspects of curriculum which would help us maintain both the character and the conscience which would perpetuate our form of government under the Constitution.

Christians have allowed this Christian Republic to deteriorate into a socialistic democracy, and we have put our religious and civil liberties in jeopardy.

As has been shown briefly, America’s form of civil government is the product of the Bible in the hands of the individual, and the individual endeavoring with the Lord’s help, to live every aspect of his life in accordance with the precepts given, which were summed lip in the two commandments of our Lord. It has also been shown we have failed to maintain the quality of education practiced by the Founding Father generations, and the failure to do so has undermined our capacity for self­ government with union.

American Christians should earnestly begin to learn the Biblical principles of government which made us a Christian Republic, and the events which made us this unique nation under the Providence of God, and humbly beseech God to withhold His Hand.

Let us, as Individuals, and as a nation, rededicate ourselves to the restoration of the home—as a nursery of character—for all—adults as well as children. Let us restore home as the educational center for learning Christian self-government with union, so that we may carry out this principle into all avenues of our nation and thus restore the efficacy of our Constitution. Home is the first sphere of government.

Lastly, let us pray that some pastors in America today will be willing to study their pastoral heritage. For it was the pastors of Colonial and Revolutionary America who led our nation in forming both the character for Christian self-government with union, and the Constitution.

If American Federalism—Christian self-government with union, the State and the Nation—is to work effectively, we must have the restoration of Biblical and governmental leadership from our clergy we once had. Oh, that our present day pastors would preach the quality of sermons preached by our Founding Father pastors in their election sermons, fast day sermons, weekly lectures, artillery sermons, as well as their Sunday sermons!

© Used with permission of Foundation for American Christian Education,

  1. Verna M. Hall and Rosalie J. Slater, The Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America (Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, 1983), pp. 26-37.
  2. Ibid., p. 39.
  3. Ibid., p. 39.
  4. Ibid., pp.40-41.
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