Calvinism in American Schools

By Aleksey Bashtavenko

Academic Composition 

Calvinism’s influence on the American education system is evident in various ways. The Calvinists believed in the moral duty to engage in productive activities, as they often quoted the phrase “idle mind is the devil’s playground” to defend their lifestyle choice. This ideology has shaped the early education of American children, who are taught the value of being busy from a young age. Students aspiring to enroll in universities are encouraged to participate in numerous extracurricular activities, while those who don’t are often overlooked. This emphasis on busyness reflects the “psychological isolation” highlighted by Max Weber in “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” as Calvinists sought to distance themselves from individuals who did not appear to be saved. This mindset contributes to a culture of segregation and separation, where American children form exclusive cliques and mini-groups. For example, a young man classified as a “jock” would typically avoid joining the chess club due to societal expectations.

In line with the “busy rhetoric,” American teachers and professors are known for assigning “busy work” to keep students occupied, often without a clear educational purpose. Weber also observed that American religious establishments resembled meritorious sects more than inclusive churches, with a prevalence of moral busybodies or “morality police” who intrusively enforce social norms within the community. This mindset is ingrained in American children at an early age. Nowadays, rather than focusing on concerns like inappropriate content or controversial literature, educators and peers pressure students to conform to a woke ideology. Students are expected to purge any potentially sexist, racist, homophobic, or transphobic thoughts from their collective consciousness.

Moreover, adhering to the “busy rhetoric” and the lifestyle enforced by the “morality police,” the American way of life is highly standardized. Traveling across America, one will notice cities designed similarly, with the presence of identical corporations in suburban areas operating in a standardized manner. From a young age, American students are taught the value of standardization through rigid assessments of their academic and developmental progress. American students undergo more standardized tests compared to their international peers, and many are encouraged to rely on pharmaceutical drugs to keep up with the ever-evolving and arbitrary standards.

The influence of Calvinism on American students becomes especially evident when examining the maxim that “time is money.” In the United States, few students view learning as an inherently fulfilling pursuit; rather, they pursue education primarily to enhance their future earning potential. It has become a widely accepted belief that attending university is necessary for the purpose of earning higher wages. This perspective aligns with the Calvinist notion that prosperity serves as an indicator of one’s salvation. For Calvinists, amassing wealth was seen as a preparation for eternal life, rather than solely for achieving comfort in the present. Consequently, many American students see no issue with the practice of “teaching to the test” and are unconcerned about forgetting much of what they have learned after passing their standardized exams.

However, perhaps the most significant aspect of Calvinist teachings that American students have internalized is the concept of the “elect.” American adolescents are more likely to label their peers as “losers” than their counterparts in other countries. This echoes the sense of psychological isolation experienced by Calvinists as they pursued “separation from the world” and distanced themselves from individuals whom they considered worthless and consigned to eternal perdition by God.

In conclusion, the influence of Calvinism on the American education system is evident through the emphasis on busyness, the enforcement of moral norms, standardization, and the adoption of a hierarchical mentality where some individuals are labeled as “losers.” These aspects reflect the lasting impact of Calvinist teachings and their effect on shaping the American educational landscape.

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4 replies »

  1. The Calvinist preoccupation with the notion of “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” also manifests itself in the increasing amount of tedious homework assignments that are demanded from all American students. At the elementary, middle school, and high school levels, this practice seems to be almost diabolically designed to condition young people to expect that they will never be allowed to leave their work at the office (where it belongs) when they grow up, and to view leisure time as being “sinful” or “degenerate.”

  2. Jacques Ellul in 1954:

    “It is vain to aspire to live alone when one is obliged to participate in all collective phenomena and to use all the collective’s tools, without which it is impossible to earn a bare subsistence. Nothing is gratis any longer in our society; and to live on charity is less and less possible. ‘Social advantages’ are for the workers alone, not for ‘useless mouths.’ The solitary is a useless mouth and will have no ration card—up to the day he is transported to a penal colony. (An attempt was made to institute this procedure during the French Revolution, with deportations to Cayenne.)” .

  3. So you’re saying we should embrace homophobic and other bigotries? Because to do otherwise would be falling into “wokism”? Which is a Calvinist ideology?

  4. Nobody is suggesting that we should embrace bigotry. Calvinism manifests in both, the woke ideology, and the Christian.

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