Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Switch From Education

Part 1
Part 2

My interviewing hasn't worked out so far to find out how Sunday school was in earlier times. So we'll move on....

So by the time I was born it was understood that schools had the responsibility to teach academics and Sunday schools had the responsibility of religious training. Now two major things have happened to change this arrangement somewhat.

First of all, public schools do not include religious undertones at all. Fifty years ago, schools might have even read from the Bible to begin the school day. The Lord's Prayer and the 10 Commandments could be found on classroom walls.* When I was in elementary school around 1977, we began our day with the pledge of allegiance, a patriotic song, and a "moment of silence." This was done school wide on the P.A. system. When I was a teacher the moment of silence was gone. So, where as Sunday schools began as a means of teaching poor children how to read, using the's public school is still charged with teaching, but without any religious means of doing so.

And here is where, apparently, private Christian schools and homeschooling began to really come into play. Parents who wished to have their children's education NOT be separated from their religious education began looking at these choices more and more. Ironically, what began as a mission for poor children now did not serve them at all. Poor children have been left to the public school alone.

Next....the second change.



  1. This is a great series. Hope you're not sick of hearing from me, Brenda. I am old enough to remember saying the Lord's Prayer in public school when I was in the first grade in 1958. Wow, a long time ago!

    Trouble was, we were taught the Protestant version. If Catholic parents didn't like it, they could send their children to Catholic school. If Jewish parents didn't like it, too bad. We lived in the New York area, so there were loads of Jewish kids in school, not just one or two -- and many of the teachers and staff were Jewish.

    What do you do then? Those Jewish folk were born here, as were their parents, way back, and they pay taxes, so what do you do then?

    Force the Jewish kids and teachers to participate in Christian Christmas plays, etc? You see the problem...

    By second grade, I was in Catholic school, till 8th grad. Then public high school. We didn't have prayer in the school, as there were lots of Jewish kids and teachers and staff, as well as lots of Catholics and Protestants.

    There was always "time release" for Catholic kids in public school, so that they could come over to the Catholic school with us and practice for First Holy Communion, and later, Confirmation. Then the Protestant and Jewish parents started complaining, "Hey, where's OUR time-release?" So, then there was time-release for them, too, only they didn't seem to have as many ceremonial things like us Catholics.

    People from the South and Midwest, where I live/have lived, find all of this hard to comprehend, as there is not quite the diversity of nationalities or religions. Most people there, black or white, are some form of Christian. However, that is changing.

    This does not really have to do with Sunday School. IMO, it started out to evangelize, but then pretty soon Christian parents were putting their kids in in it. Unfortunately, today (maybe it was always this way), lots of parents don't teach their children anything about religion at home (mine didn't), so if the church doesn't do something, the children will have nothing. Mary R.

  2. We had prayer in public school when I was in elementary school (I think my comment was confusing), but by the time I got to public high school after Catholic school, there was no prayer -- either because it had died out (1966-1970) or because in high school there happened to be a diversity of students (which we didn't have in my public elementary school). Sorry for any confusion. Mary R.

  3. Mary I'm glad you are sharing b/c you have a different experience than me! You bring up a lot of things to think about.....
    Also, is there another version of The Lord's Prayer?

  4. Yes, there is the Catholic version, where "for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory" is left out (at the Mass, the priest finishes that part). So, I learned it the Protestant way in my early elementary years because I was in public school, then the Catholic way in Catholic school, then back again when I became a Protestant.

    Yes, when you come from the N.Y. area (or California) where there are many different groups of people, it becomes more difficult. I don't really have the answer. I guess in our country, we are trying as hard as we can not to offend anybody or shove a particular religion down anybody's throat, since we are officially a "secular state" although yes founded on Christian Biblical principles.

    Speaking of Sunday School or public school, perhaps they came about for people to fill a void that was neglected by parents, I don't know. Wasn't Sunday School started by somebody like Moody, to evangelize unchurched children? I don't remember. My personal experience with Sunday School (as a teacher) is that it is like a zoo where the poor teacher is trying desperately to control children who don't want to be there. I pity the poor teachers (I pitied myself when I had to do it, lol). Mary R.

  5. Speaking of Catechisms, which are becoming popular again: We had them in Catholic school, with memorization, however, the stuff we memorized was never EXPLAINED to us by the nuns. We simply memorized it and parroted it back, which is why once I got out of Catholic school, I remembered nothing, although I used to get all A's (up in the 90%) in Religion all the time.

    A better way, imo, would be to EXPLAIN what you are teaching the kids in the catechism and talk about it -- what it means, etc.

    And about Sunday School -- my husband always tells people, "If it is the church's job to teach your children about God and the Bible, then at least see to it that you get them here." Sunday School attendance is down everywhere.

    With our children, they went to Sunday School at church. At home we read through the entire Bible with them -- my husband did it at breakfast and they could ask questions or talk about it, and they got through it twice before the kids graduated school. They went to a Christian college after that. We always talked a lot about spiritual things with them. My husband always preaches right from the Bible. Very important.

    A fascinating series, Brenda, like yours always are! Sorry for the multiple comments. Too much time on my hands these days.

  6. I called my husband's 90 yo grandmother yesterday after reading your post. Her dad was a Church of God minister. She remembers Sunday School as being divided by age, small chairs for little kids, and Sunday School Papers with Bible stories, morality stories, and maybe some puzzles. She was the Sunday School Superintendant for many years and can't remember any changes until about 7 years ago when our church changed format (and she totally freaked out about it- let me tell you!)



I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)