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article imageObama’s Health Care and Public Education: Are They Socialism?

By Carol Forsloff     Jul 22, 2009 in Politics
RNC's chairman Michael Steele calls Obama’s health care plan socialism. Public education was called socialism once too. But out of the struggle for public education came a symbol of patriotism, written by a socialist.
More than a hundred years ago, President Harrison worried the American people wouldn’t accept public education because some called it socialism. Today the same arguments are used against universal health care that were made against public education, that it is socialism
.
A man by the name of Francis Bellamy understood the value of education, as did McKinley in helping America progress. So he decided to help the President in a memorable manner . He wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
President Harrison in 1892 wanted America to change and to provide more universal education for its young people. The Civil War wounds still festered, as Harrison worried about the great debate over education. President Harrison wanted to see education expanded as a way to benefit people universally. Francis Bellamy, an educator and writer, was asked to help put together a campaign to help sell public education to Americans. He did this with his writing of the Pledge of Allegiance and the program that introduced it for a Columbus Day celebration, according to John Baer, one of the major biographers of Bellamy’s life.
Francis Bellamy had been a Baptist minister who was called a Christian Socialist. He was forced to leave his church because of what some members declared were his “socialist” sermons. He was the brother of Edward Bellamy who wrote the famous novel Looking Backward.
Bellamy originally wrote the Pledge for a magazine called The Youth Companion, likened to a type of Readers Digest for those days. The editor, Daniel Ford, had been an admirer of Bellamy’s sermons and asked him to be his assistant.
Francis Bellamy also a chaired a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. In that position, his responsibility was to prepare the program for the quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day for the public schools. To do this he centered the program around a flag-raising ceremony, along with the Pledge of Allegiance.
The original text was as follows:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation, indivisible, with equality,
liberty and justice for all.
The word “equality” was later removed because critics worried that equality would be extended to women and African Americans.
Bellamy s Pledge of Allegiance
This is the handwritten Pledge of Allegiance from Francis Bellamy's own hand. He wrote it in support of Harrison's public education programs called socialism in 1892 as Obama's health care program is today. Perhaps this Pledge that meant something then might be revisited regarding health care or something new created representing the ideals promoted by the writer.
Rochester Library.
Bellamy was controversial during his life and after his death, identified with both Nazism with pictures of the straight-arm pledge resembling the Nazi salute and the German Socialist Party. His philosophical ideas, however, seem to dim in the light of what he gave the country that the patriotic view as sacred words.
Public education continues to be part of an ongoing debate about how much governmental control there should be in the institutions of America. Has public education brought widespread education to more people? History shows it has. The following is a summary of educational status prior to the turn of the 20th century:
Before the 20th century, a bewildering variety of schools existed for the small number of teenagers who had the ability or the desire to pursue education beyond the elementary level. These schools offered students opportunities to prepare for college, or to learn a complex skill instead of competing for one of the rapidly decreasing number of on-the-job apprenticeships. Only a relatively small number of teenagers had the ability or desire to pursue secondary education. In 1900 only 10 percent of American adolescents aged 14 to 17 were enrolled in high schools. Most of these students were from affluent families.
The United States adopted a common school program, expanded to high schools, stressing the value of public education, according to history. It also has private schools so people have a choice.
The Obama plan outlined before the President’s inauguration was well favored by the Urban Institute, a non partisan economic and social policy organization. Although the Institute expressed some concerns, this is a brief summary of its opinion: “The Obama health care plan would greatly increase health insurance coverage, substantially increase access to affordable and adequate coverage for those with the highest health care needs, significantly increase the affordability of care for the low-income, and reduce the growth in health spending through a broad array of strategies.”
Like President Harrison faced challenges over public education, Obama faces them in a barrage of negative opinion from those who believe his health care proposals are socialist. Harrison didn’t preach socialism but increased access to education, as the Urban Institute underlines is the core of Obama’s proposals for health care, with both public and private sectors involved. But some arguments continue as the history of education and the present debate over health care reveal.
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