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McGuffey's Readers

Have you ever heard of McGuffey’s Readers?  There was a time when these books were the most popular and widely used textbooks for schools in America.  In fact, between 1836 and 1960, at least 120 million copies of McGuffey’s Readers were sold, putting them in a category with the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary in terms of sales.  Since 1961, they have continued to sell at an average rate of 30,000 copies a year, but they are no longer found in government school systems.

If you were to read one of McGuffey’s Readers, you might be surprised by the moral and spiritual content of the material.  The reason you might be surprised is because you might not be aware that such teaching was ever allowed in government schools.  The modern humanist culture and popular media would prefer that we all forget America’s Christian heritage and embrace new pluralism.  They would prefer that we forget that the nation was once stronger and safer when Christian morality was taught in government schools.  Of course, the prohibition of such teaching is the reason for the demise of McGuffey’s Readers, and it is also a reason for the moral demise of our nation.

Consider an excerpt from McGuffey’s Third Eclectic Reader, which was first published in 1879.  This is a list entitled “Things to Remember.”  Notice that most principles in this list are taken straight from the Bible.

  1. When you rise in the morning, remember who kept you from danger during the night.  Remember who watched over you while you slept, and whose sun shines around you, and gives you the sweet light of day.
  2. Let God have the thanks of your heart, for his kindness and his care; and pray for his protection during the wakeful hours of day.
  3. Remember that God made all creatures to be happy, and will do nothing that may prevent their being so, without good reason for it.
  4. When you are at the table, do not eat in a greedy manner, like a pig.  Eat quietly, and do not reach forth your hand for the food, but ask some one to help you.
  5. Do not become peevish and pout, because you do not get a part of everything.  Be satisfied with what is given you.
  6. Avoid a pouting face, angry looks, and angry words.  Do not slam the doors.  Go quietly up and down stairs; and never make a loud noise about the house.
  7. Be kind and gentle in your manners; not like the howling winter storm, but like the bright summer morning.
  8. Do always as your parents bid you.  Obey them with a ready mind, and with a pleasant face.
  9. Never do anything that you would be afraid or ashamed that your parents should know.  Remember, if no one else sees you, God does, from whom you can not hide even your most secret thought.
  10. At night, before you go to sleep, think whether you have done anything that was wrong during the day, and pray to God to forgive you.  If any one has done you wrong, forgive him in your heart.
  11. If you have not learned something useful, or been in some way useful, during the past day, think that it is a day lost, and be very sorry for it.
  12. Trust in the Lord, and He will guide you in the way of good men.  The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
  13. We must do all the good we can to all men, for this is well pleasing in the sight of God.  He delights to see his children walk in love, and do good one to another.

I offer this to you as a sample of what our nation has lost.  Today, teaching from material such as this in government schools is considered to be a violation of the principle of separation of church and state, which is a principle that has been purposefully misinterpreted in an attempt to eliminate God from American culture.  By eliminating Christian morality from schools and neglecting to teach it sufficiently in homes and churches, we have in turn promoted the cause of ungodliness throughout our nation.  Now we are harvesting the fruit of our folly with a bumper crop of wickedness in the forms of blasphemy, promiscuity, homosexuality, divorce, abortion, pornography, drunkenness, violence, greed, laziness, etc.

It is sad to me that McGuffey’s Readers and the moral teaching that they represent are now relics of our nation’s past.  As a nation, we have decided that we no longer want Christian values to be propagated in our culture, and we consider it to be a violation of our liberty to have them taught in our schools.  This is sad to me because it means that the nation has turned from God, and without Him, we cannot stand.  No matter what modern philosophies may teach us, nothing can nullify this truth of God’s word: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Prov. 14:34).  What a sad truth this is for a nation that has rejected righteousness in favor of sin.

Stacey E. Durham




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