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Private Education and Religion in the United States. Provenzo Chapter 7. Private or independent education. 10% of U.S. schools support stemmed from the belief that public schools are: not as productive or efficient as should be not meeting the needs of their clients too bureaucratic.

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Private or independent education

  • 10% of U.S. schools

support stemmed from the belief that public schools are:

  • not as productive or efficient as should be
  • not meeting the needs of their clients
  • too bureaucratic.
origins of private education
Origins of Private Education
  • Colonial education almost exclusively religious, private.
  • In general, private education predominated well into the 19th century.
by the end of the colonial period
By the end of the colonial period,
  • new type of secondary school: the academy
  • academy included modern subjects.
  • 1751: Ben Franklin founded an academy in Philadelphia.
  • Classic languages, modern languages, history, geography, chronology, logic and rhetoric, writing, arithmetic, algebra, natural and mechanic philosophy, drawing, “and every other useful part of learning.”
  • By the beginning of the 19th century, the academies had become the principal type of secondary school.
  • Private academies laid the foundation for many of today’s elite private schools.
catholic education
Catholic Education

11% of U.S. school children

A sense of community

the tradition of discipline

the emphasis on academic learning interest many parents.

Efforts to obtain financial relief—in the form of tuition tax credits and vouchers for parents sending kids to Catholic schools—have grown in recent years

June 27, 2002—InThe Association of Christian Schools International strongly applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling(Zelman v. Simmons-Harris) upholding the Cleveland voucher program, which gives educational choice to the economically disadvantaged families of Cleveland, Ohio.

catholic education6
Catholic Education
  • began in the 1830s and 1840s.
  • waves of Catholic immigrants settled in urban areas.
  • faced great prejudice because of their religious beliefs and social status
  • anti-Catholic sentiments were often synonymous with anti-immigrant sentiments.
  • immigrants provided competition to established workers because they would work for lower wages.
  • fear that Catholic leaders would indoctrinate Catholic children with antidemocratic values.
  • oppposition to those schools often became violent.
  • in 1834, a Protestant mob burned down the Ursuline convent in Charleston, Massachusetts…which focused attention on the anti-Catholic movement.
  • this was at a time of rapid development and growth of the common school movement.
early common schools
Early common schools
  • Protestant overtones.
  • Protestant teachers, textbooks, curricula from Protestant prayers, hymns, bible
  • Prompted massive system of private Catholic schools to provide alternative to the public schools.
generalized protestant christianity
Generalized Protestant Christianity
  • Many of the early immigrants were escaping religious persecution in their home countries.
  • A generalized Protestant Christianity has often been subtly emphasized to the exclusion of other religious traditions.
holding the catholic community together
Holding the (Catholic) community together
  • Way to hold the (Catholic) community together and establish shared norms and beliefs.
  • Catholics argued that since they were taxed to support schools, taxes should support private as well as public schools.
  • The argument continues today.
separation of church and state
Separation of Church and State
  • Firmly established principles of the Constitution.
  • First Amendment: right to practice whatever religion one chooses.
value laden enterprise
Value-laden enterprise
  • “Education is inevitably a value-laden enterprise.

Questions the

  • nature of the cosmos,
  • the moral foundations of right and wrong, and of the
  • appropriate roles of men and women.
  • People of goodwill differ radically in their answers to those questions,
  • Extremely difficult for a government institution to package a particular set of values and beliefs to suit everyone.”
judicial decisions
Judicial Decisions
  • Public schools: eliminate sectarian religious instruction from the curriculum, and local, state, and federal courts have been repeatedly called on to make rulings on religion in the schools.
discussion groups
Discussion groups


1. Pierce v. The Society of Sisters (1925).

5a’s, 5b’s, 5c’s

2. McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)5a’s, 5b’s, 5c’s

3. Zorach v. Clauson (1952)

5a’s, 5b’s, 5c’s

4. Engle v. Vitale (1962)5a’s, 5b’s, 5c’s

5. School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963)

5a’s, 5b’s, 5c’s

6. Educational Vouchers and Tuition Tax Credits

5a’s, 5b’s, 5c’s



Define topic using Provenzo text. Record in ten words or less.


Identify and record

a. merits and strengths or

b. limitations and weaknesses

c. questions you have about topic

using your Provenzo textbook and your group’s perspective.


Present definition, merits/limitations on overhead transparency. Then discuss this topic with peers.

pierce v the society of sisters 1925
Pierce v. The Society of Sisters (1925).
  • The first major U.S. Supreme Court decision testing religious freedom and the educational system was Pierce v. The Society of Sisters (1925).
  • In 1922 Oregon had passed a Compulsory Education Act that required children between eight and sixteen to attend public schools, effectively closing down the Catholic schools of Oregon and eliminated the possibility of choice for parents.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Society of Sisters, maintaining that the establishment of an exclusively public school system unreasonably interfered with the freedom of “parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”
mccollum v board of education 1948
McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)
  • McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)
  • “Essentially the case debated whether a church group should have access to a public building for the purpose of conducting religious instruction.
  • The Court ruled against such practices, arguing that by providing a place for religious instruction, the schools were in effect supporting a religious group and violating the principle of separation of church and state.”
zorach v clauson 1952
Zorach v. Clauson (1952)
  • Zorach v. Clauson (1952)
  • Argued that children could be released during the school day to attend religious instruction provided the instruction took place at a separate facility run by the religious group providing the instruction.
  • In this way the conflict over the use of public buildings in support of religious instruction was avoided.
engle v vitale 1962
Engle v. Vitale (1962)
  • The question was raised regarding whether prayer services should be permitted in school buildings during regular school hours.
  • The Court ruled against the decision to include prayer in the school on the grounds that it was inappropriate for the school system to be writing any type of prayer because this involved the government (through the school system) in promoting specific religious beliefs.”
school district of abington township v schempp 1963
School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963)
  • School District of Abington Township v. Schempp (1963)
  • The question was raised as to whether the schools could include the readings of brief passages from the Bible at the beginning of each school day.
  • The Court made it clear that the Bible could be used in the schools as part of the study of comparative religions or as part of a course on literature but not as a religious exercise.
educational vouchers and tuition tax credits
Educational Vouchers and Tuition Tax Credits
  • Under the voucher system parents would receive tuition vouchers to use at any eligible school.
  • Schools would compete for students on a free market basis.
  • Tuition vouchers would operate locally, distributing property taxes normally used only for public schools to private schools as well.
  • Tuition tax credits would allow parents to claim a tax deduction on their federal income tax for part of the tuition they pay to send their children to public schools.
tuition vouchers
Tuition Vouchers
  • Critics argue that tuition vouchers would seriously undermine the existing public school system.
  • Public schools would be responsible for students no one else wanted to teach: slower students, students with physical disabilities, and students with behavior disorders would be relegated to the public system.
  • Fundamentalists represent a significant sector of U.S. society—probably as large as 10 percent to 15 percent of the population.
  • They are heavily concentrated in certain regions of the country, such as the Southeast.
  • Fundamentalists are in fact asking much larger questions about the role and function of schools.
  • What is the nature and purpose of our educational system?
  • Does the educational system meet the needs not only of the majority but also of the minority.
  • What are the values and assumptions underlying our educational system?