Required Reading: Meet Tim LaHaye

Do you know Tim LaHaye?



If you’re interested in conservative educational thinking in the United States, you should.

Steve Fouse at AliveReligion recently offered a helpful introduction to LaHaye’s enormous influence among conservative and fundamentalist circles.

As Fouse points out, arguments about conservatism that seek to explain away its popularity miss the boat on LaHaye.  Fouse takes Thomas Frank to task for making such oversimplistic assumptions.  Fouse prefers the explanations of historians such as Darren Dochuk.  Dochuk’s more complex perspective fits better the career of a fundamentalist Renaissance Man like LaHaye.

Fouse notes LaHaye’s wide-ranging interests, from LaHaye’s role in the Institute for Creation Research, to his best-selling apocalyptic novels, to his evangelical sex guides.

Fouse mentions LaHaye’s central interest in educational issues, from sex ed to creationism.  If anything, Fouse downplays the influence LaHaye has had in late twentieth-century educational conservatism.

Fouse could have mentioned, for instance, LaHaye’s role in arguing for increased phonics instruction.  In his 1983 book The Battle for the Public Schools, LaHaye argued that abandoning phonics could be part of a massive conspiracy to “reduce the standard of living in our country so that someday the citizens of America will voluntarily merge with the Soviet Union and other countries in a one-world socialist state”   (46).   Disappearing phonics instruction showed the extent to which Christian America had been undermined.  It served as a canary in the secular coalmine.  “Some modern educators,” LaHaye insisted, “use look-and-say instead of phonics because the material enables them to secularize our once God-conscious school system” (50).

Similarly, Fouse did not mention LaHaye’s ardent activism in favor of more traditionalism in US History instruction.  In LaHaye’s 1987 Faith of Our Founding Fathers, LaHaye argued that the nation had endured a “Deliberate Rape of History” (5). Between 1954 and 1976, LaHaye insisted, a generation of “left-wing scholars for hire” worked for secularizing organizations such as the Carnegie Foundation (6).  Such authors systematically distorted the truth of America’s Christian heritage.  Thus, in order to find the true history of America’s founding, readers needed to look to older books, written by those “closest to the events they describe” (6). LaHaye insisted on the Christian beliefs of the Founding Fathers, demonstrating that “most were deeply religious, all had a great respect for the Christian traditions of the colonies, and all were significantly influenced in their thinking by the Bible, moral values, and their church” (30).

Thanks to Steve for offering his post about this important figure.  All of us who hope to understand conservatism in American education should check it out.


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