Atheism, education, Krsna consciousness
By His Grace Krishna Kirti Dasa
One of the most important influences of atheism in the world today is education. Jules Ferry, who for most of the time between 1870 and 1885 was the French minister of education, constructed a state education system whose purpose was to break the power of the Roman Catholic priesthood and create loyal, secular citizens.
As from March 1882 education was to be free and obligatory for everybody aged 6 to 13. Through mass primary education the Third Republic would wrest control of minds and bodies from the church and this explains why teachers came to assume such a truly heroic status within republican imagery. They were the foot soldiers of the Republic, the guardians of 1789, spreading civilisation and battling against obscurantism. In this way, the Ferry revolution was uncompromisingly secular. Consequently, the Jesuit order was dissolved in 1889, all religious education was removed from the curriculum and in 1886 all clerics in state schools were replaced by lay personnel. Now children would be taught to be good citizens. They would be inculcated with a secular frame of mind which stressed loyalty and patriotism along with a healthy respect for law and order.
Although the history of state-sponsored education in other advanced, Western countries has not been as explicitly anti-clerical as it had been in France, the end result in each of these countries has been equivalent: education sponsored by the modern, secular state reinforces a secular mind-set within the general public. As suggested by this outcome, a first, important step in protecting the devout from the influence of secularism and reversing its influence in the public at large is the establishment of educational institutions conducted not by laymen but by the most religious people.
Reversing atheism in society therefore means establishing a class of brahmanas, a class of teachers, acharyas, who not only teach young children and teach young adults occupational and scholarly skills, and to the highest levels, but who can also instill in them the right values and right frame of mind. This will require the following efforts:
Identifying men who are suitable to be brahmanas, to be acharyas of different schools.
Establishing gurukulas for training society’s future leaders.
Establishing day schools for the general public.
Insulating Krishna conscious education from secular influences.
Providing brahmanas and their institutions the resources they need.
Few institutions have as a profound effect on people’s pious or impious sentiments as that of education. Unless the saintly devotees can create an educational institution that can produce expert, honest men who can be expected to become the world’s future leaders, and who are opposed to atheism in the world today, it will be virtually impossible to create a society that rises above mediocrity in both its worldly and other-worldly aspirations.
 Martin Evans and Emmanuel Godin, France 1815 – 2003 (Arnold: Lonon, 2004) 68.