"The Christian, Biblical Roots of Early American Education"

What You Need To Know:

THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM is an hour long documentary about the history of Christianity and education in Colonial America and the first 100 years or so of the United States. The movie contends that the Puritans, the Pilgrims, early educators, the Founding Fathers, and the American people saw Christianity and the Bible as essential to a good education. For example, all of the early educational systems and major colleges in America were based on a Christian, biblical education. For example, Harvard University’s motto in Latin translates to “Truth for Christ and the Church.” The movie cites Christians like Noah Webster, creator of the famous dictionary, William Holmes McGuffey, creator of McGuffey’s Readers, and the Rev. John Witherspoon, a college president and the spiritual leader to the Founding Fathers drafting the Declaration of Independence.

THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM is a highly informative, profound and inspiring documentary. It makes a strongly convincing case for its premise that American society, liberty, social order, and good government depend on an educational system based on Christian and biblical truth and values. THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM is must viewing.


(CCC, BBB, PPP, V, N): 

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
  Very strong Christian, biblical, moral worldview makes a convincing case that American society, liberty, social order, and good government depend on an educational system based on Christian, biblical truth and biblical values, as was the case for Colonial America and the first 100 years or so of the United States;

Foul Language:
  No foul language;

  Brief images of someone burning an American flag, an arson fire and a protestor throwing a rock show the degradation of secular society;

  No sex;

  An image of a sculpture with nude men is shown briefly;

Alcohol Use:
  No alcohol use;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
  No smoking or drugs; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
  Nothing objectionable.

More Detail:

 THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM is an hour long documentary showing the strong Christian, evangelical worldview of America’s Founding Fathers and the people who led the way in creating educational institutions in Colonial America and the beginnings of the American Republic. Despite two minor factual flaws, THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM is a highly informative, profound and inspiring documentary showing that, unless a society and its training of children are founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and biblical truth and biblical morality, including self-control, the society will start to crumble.

The movie begins by showing the importance of a biblical-based education among the Pilgrims and Puritans in colonial New England, the Catholics in colonial Maryland, and Anglicans and Baptists in the southern colonies and other parts of the colonies. Protestants and Catholics not only created educational programs for younger children; they also founded Christian colleges like Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, New Jersey University aka Princeton, William & Mary, and Kings College aka Columbia University. The Rev. John Witherspoon, one of the early presidents of Princeton, was one of the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence. He also was a spiritual mentor to at least one third of the Founding Fathers drafting the Declaration and the spiritual leader in the Continental Congress. In fact, he educated President James Madison, considered to be “the Father of the United States Constitution.”

Learning to read by reading the Bible was a vital part of Colonial America’s early educational systems. To instruct children, New England educators used THE NEW ENGLAND PRIMER, which was filled with biblical references. Both John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were brought up on this instruction book, which included the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Also, some of the colleges required an understanding of Hebrew and Greek so students could read the Bible in its original languages. “The Pilgrims and Puritans wanted an educated populace,” says William J. Federer, author of the book AMERICA’S GOD AND COUNTRY and THE AMERICAN MINUTE blog. “Schooling is at the heart of both freedom and faith,” says Os Guinness, author of THE GREAT EXPERIMENT:  FAITH AND FREEDOM IN AMERICA. The Founding Fathers believed religion, morality and education went together, but they gave no role in education to the federal government, historian Walter E. Williams says. In fact, of all the books that the Founding Fathers quoted from, the Bible was the most prominent, especially the Book of Deuteronomy.

Despite some growing Non-Christian and even Anti-Christian sentiments in American society, the Bible and the Gospel was still at the forefront of American education in the first half of the 1800s. After becoming a devout Christian and Calvinist in 1808, educator Noah Webster began developing an expanded edition of his first dictionary, which was eventually published in 1828 and contained many biblical definitions. There were also the McGuffey’s Readers for children in Grades One through Six, which was created in 1836 by William Holmes McGuffey, a presbyterian minister and chair of moral philosophy at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His readers continued to be used in the early 20th Century and are now used in homeschooling.

Sadly, the famous Christian colleges of the East Coast began to move away from combining Christianity with education. For example, Harvard’s motto went from a Latin version of “Truth for Christ and the Church” to just Truth, or Veritas in Latin in the early 1900s. Then, in 1962 and 1980, the Supreme Court removed prayer, the Bible and the Ten Commandments from the public schools (strangely, many private schools and colleges did the same, even though the rulings really didn’t apply to them). After the removal of prayer in 1962, America’s children in one generation “went from blessing their teachers to cursing their teachers,” author Dennis Prager says in the movie. 

The movie’s last part takes up this mantra. It argues that, if you take away religion, you destroy morality and eventually you destroy society. Education must be based on a religious framework, the movie’s narrator says. Morality, liberty and self-government rely on a religious education, argues Eric Metaxas, author of IF YOU CAN KEEP IT. “America certainly needs a great transformation,” The Rev. Dr. Alveda King adds.

THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM is part of Providence Forum’s Foundation of American Liberty series. It’s a highly informative, profound, inspiring documentary. The movie’s message is that the health of American society, liberty, social order, and its private and public institutions, including its local, state and federal governments, depend on an educational system based on Christian, biblical truth and biblical values.

THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM makes a strongly convincing case for its premise. There are two minor factual flaws, though.

First, Thomas Jefferson’s establishment of the University of Virginia did not really encourage religion or faith. In fact, Jefferson wanted the university’s curriculum to be divorced from religion totally. Ironically, when the university opened in 1825, a year before Jefferson’s death, many if not most of the school’s first students were “wealthy, spoiled aristocrats with a sense of privilege which often led to brawling, or worse.” Jefferson tried to speak about the problem publicly at the campus on Oct. 3, 1825, but was too overocome to speak. He later wrote that the incident was “the most painful event” of his life (History of the University of Virginia, Wikipedia and “Bad Boys” by Carlos Santos, UVA Magazine, https://uvamagazine.org/articles/bad_boys). Eventually, the University of Virginia became a pro-slavery hotbed and a strong proponent of succession. As such, it didn’t fit the ideals of liberty and equality that Jefferson expressed in the document that made him most famous, the Declaration of Independence, even though the Declaration favored succession from England. To paraphrase the Scottish poet, the best laid plans of mice and men, especially non-religious men, often go awry.

In the same sequence, the movie mentions that William Holmes McGuffey, the Christian author of McGuffey’s Readers, was a professor at the University of Virginia. That is true, but he didn’t become a professor there until 1845. So, it was probably best if the documentary would have left out McGuffey’s connect to the University of Virginia because of the university’s poor reputation. His leadership at Miami University and two other colleges was more important. As THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM itself suggests, Jefferson’s passion for removing education from religion is actually something that has proven to be one of the main problems behind America’s recent moral and political decline. Christianity, the Bible and American liberty go together like love and marriage.

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