Here in Chicago, we are very proud of our world-renowned Sears Tower. Early in the 1960s, architects in the Chicago area began imagining how they could build the tower. Their creative minds led to sketches and blueprints. Experts were brought in to evaluate potential problems of erecting such a tall building on the sandy underground layers of the Lake Michigan shores. Before long, the planners began to gather persons who could help them transpose their dreams into reality. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians and welders were enlisted to contribute their expertises. Over the years, the Sears Tower became a massive tribute to those who helped to build the dream.
A culture-changing movement is similar to the construction of a skyscraper. A shift in societal ideas always begins with a few visionaries who philosophize and debate the issues. As the concepts begin to formulate, more and more people join in the discussion. After a while, others begin to find ways to transform the theories into practical applications. Finally, the joint effort results in an historical revolution.
The Separation movement seems to be following the same course. After years of theorizing, the time has arrived for more "carpenters, electricians and welders" to be enlisted. Without those who are able to transform theory into reality, the separation of school and state will remain a dream. The question is, how do Separationists get experienced, skilled activists to catch the vision of this educational movement?
Last April, I was invited to a private gathering on the north side of Chicago. There, with about 22 other people, I learned about the idea of separation of school and state. That evening, I caught a glimpse of the Separation vision and signed the Proclamation. So it was a joy to run into Marshall Fritz at an education conference in January. I knew that his idea would give real hope to those who are working so hard for the cause of our nation's children and their future.
At this conference, Marshall was directly challenged with the issue of convincing conservative education activists to get involved in the Separation movement. While many seemed supportive of the idea, only 30 of the over 300 attendees chose to sign the Separation Proclamation.
This experience caused Marshall to begin evaluating how to more effectively reach these experienced activists with the Separation message. "I think our movement will be greatly enriched as some of these people join us," Marshall said in a recent conversation. As the founder of the Alliance, he understands that there is a need for ideas and theories to be put into practical applications throughout the nation. There is no question that the Separation movement would benefit from these conservative education reformers' expertise in researching, communicating and networking. So, how do we reach them?
One of the 30 new Proclamation supporters, Earl Gough of Brookfield, Ill., feels that it is important for Separationists to "meet people where they're at." Because the message of "getting government out of schools" seems so easy to understand and support, Separationists may, at times, lose patience with those who choose to continue attempting reform of the system. Earl suggests that Separationists work to establish a common ground with the reformers, and work from there, emphasizing the historical development of the government schools. He believes that the intellectual arguments will win more supporters to the movement because that is what convinced him to sign on.
Author and speaker Cathy Duffy believes that Separationists need to convey to the education reformers that they appreciate and respect the activists for "holding their finger in the dike" for all these years. Cathy thinks that there is a need for caring people to protect the children who are caught in the system today, while Separationists work toward the long-term goal of ending government schools altogether.
A former presidential appointee in the U.S. Department of Education, Donna Hearne, agrees with Cathy Duffy. Donna states that, "People concerned about education need to hear about the Separation idea; all ideas must be on the table. We should not close off debate." When asked about whether reformers should halt their efforts and join the Separation movement, Hearne cautioned, "Many children are not being given an honest, intellectual and moral education in today's public schooling system, and for people of the traditional American worldview to leave school boards and teaching would be wrong. Until enough people understand that we're basing our schooling system on a faulty premise, I think we need to work at reaching those students in the public system who are being given false promises and political correctness instead of a decent education."
Pam Hoffecker has not chosen to join the Separation movement yet. "Unless someone fundamentally agrees that the system should be annihilated, you will not win over that reformer," says Mrs. Hoffecker, one of the nation's leading education activists. In reviewing Marshall's Separation presentation at the conference, she cautioned all those with this message to maintain a smile and a casual demeanor when someone in the audience challenges them. As a frequent speaker herself, her experience is that if the speaker reacts negatively to a critic, the audience may become confused and concerned, leading to distrust of the presenter. This must be avoided as much as possible. Mrs. Hoffecker also commented that "humor in the presentation is appealing," especially in that "the (Separation) message is powerful."
Others are convinced that the public in general responds to emotional appeal. A collection of individual family stories reflecting on why the parents felt the need to remove their children from the government schools would be a powerful tool. It would be especially effective if the stories included ideas on how the children were educated successfully outside of government schools, which would provide the activists with "safe" alternatives.
On the other hand, Ray Stalker of Mount Prospect, Ill., believes that the Separation movement will probably be carried by a whole new group of activists, those who may be energized for the first time with the Separation vision. "I think it's like the story of the church who set up an ambulance service for the people being injured after going over a cliff at the edge of town. The church membership was 'community-minded' and concerned about their neighbors, so they organized volunteers and developed the service to the injured. Before long, someone came up with the idea of simply widening the highway, and straightening out the curve. The people at the church were appalled and protested the changes in the highway. After all, hadn't they given of their time and energy to help those falling off the cliff? Hadn't they left their homes and volunteered to help? Weren't all the programs and help they offered appreciated?"
Education reformers, like the church people of the story, will need to be fully convinced that the best way to end the overall misery of our nation's schools is to "straighten the curves and widen the road" by getting government out of the system completely.
As a mom who chose to teach our children at home 12 years ago, I have long known that the current public system is a disaster. Shortly after we began homeschooling, I became an education activist to simply preserve our educational freedoms. The more I learned about what was going on in our tax-funded schools, the more hopeless I felt. After fighting against outcome-based education, school to work programs, Goals 2000, sex education, vouchers, charter schools and other ghastly government experiments, the uplifting Separation message was refreshing. The Separation premise gave me a new, more positive outlook for the future of our educational system. Many more tired and weary reformers are sure to join the movement in months to come.
The Separation movement and the Sears Tower in Chicago have much in common. The tower stands in its glory today as an awesome landmark to remind us of what creative minds and willing hands can accomplish. While many said the Sears Tower would never be built because of its numerous obstacles, it was finally completed.
Frances Eaton is Director of Communications for the Christian Home Educators Coalition of Illinois. She may be reached at
P.O. Box 47322
Chicago, IL 60647 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Separation idea has met with its naysayers, too. But some day, when the Separation sweeps America, all those visionaries and activists who worked together to end government schooling will be honored for their work by the tribute of a better world for our heritage.