The Churches, the Public Schools, and Moral Education: A Historical Perspective.

Bass, Dorothy C. “The Churches, the Public Schools, and Moral Education: A Historical Perspective.” Chicago Theological Seminary Register 79(1):34-44, Winter 1989.

Dorothy Bass explores the history of mainstream Protestants and American public education with particular attention to how Protestants approach the integration of religion, morality and education in a pluralistic society. She traces how nonsectarian Protestantism in the 19th century went from being a de facto establishment in state-supported education to its disestablishment in the 20th century concluding that, while some conservatives have abandoned the public school system, mainstream Protestantism continues to support it. Today many mainstream Protestants, such as the United Church of Christ, National Council of Churches, and some Presbyterian groups, have moved away from promoting a specific moral/religious program in the schools to supporting public education itself as a moral action representing inclusiveness, mutual respect, and tolerance. Acknowledging the important step of “relinquishing the ‘illusion’ of ownership” of American public education in a pluralistic society, Bass interprets the contemporary scene as an auspicious occasion for churches to look more closely at the resources they bring to issues of moral education as well as an opportunity to search for new American partners with whom they can work.