The Virginia Standard of Learning tests in Warren County were quite disappointing this year. Over half the students failed mathematics and science. The results in the rest of Virginia were only slightly better.

For historical reasons, most American public schools are inferior to most American private schools. Recently, the two major organizations of public-school teachers, far too often, have functioned more like industrial unions than professional organizations. For dubious legal reasons the public schools completely neglect the religious and moral education of their students. Of course, the major reason for the immediate problem has been a year and a half with reduced, or no, face-to-face education for public school students.

Prior to the War Between the States, there was a lot more public education in the North than in the South. In the South there were some congregations of Catholic teaching sisters dedicated to teaching black children. There was also a common practice for the owners of large plantations to hire tutors for their children. Occasionally, these tutors also educated the favorite child slave, destined for emancipation, of the master. This was the case of Senator Blanche Bruce, educated side-by-side with his owner's son.

Later, in the South, public schools, sometimes one room ones, were formed and grew to be universal.

In the North, education was sometimes carried out by the town minister and sometimes by public schools. In both cases these schools were harshly Calvinist. Unhappy with these, most Catholic parishes established a school staffed largely by teaching sisters. A system of Catholic high schools was also created. A number of Lutherans and Episcopalians, for similar reasons also established schools.

In the later part of the 20th century a number of court cases, contrary to the historical record, drove all religion and moral education, and anything favorable to religion, out of the public schools. This widened the gap between private schools and public ones, with the private ones providing the more complete education, especially the religious ones.

During the last two years the teachers’ unions consistently championed paying their members not to teach, or to engage in sham teaching over a computer, while receiving full pay. Students fortunate enough to be enrolled in a school administered by those with a religious vocation to teach, or in a school with a prestigious faculty, are now a year ahead of their public-school contemporaries.

Warren County is the home of one of the best networks of home education support groups in the country. Home schooling is developing into some of the best education in the country. I know two brothers who received the first 12 years of education at home, both of whom excelled at, and beyond, Yale. Home-schooled youth often win essay and oratorical contests.

Public school boards, including the one in Warren County, push absurdities like allowing female impersonators to use the girls’ bathroom, despite opposition from parents. Have the public schools destroyed themselves?

Mills is a retired attorney, living in Front Royal