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The Washington Times
September 15, 1998

Use Presidential mess to teach different values

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
September 15, 1998

Most home educators have chosen to home-school their children not merely to achieve academic excellence, but also because they have a strong desire to shape their children’s character with a strong moral base.

And since they understand that peer pressure can push children into negative behavior, they do not cringe when people accuse them of sheltering their children. They know that after school, their children get plenty of outside interaction.

But I write today to urge you to shelter your children from a source of negativity that will serve as a very bad influence indeed—at least if taken in large quantities. Do not—I repeat, do not—let your children watch or read many stories about the president of the United States. Of course, I mean stories about the current holder of that office.

For reasons that are painfully obvious, it is impossible for a news reporter to do a credible job reporting the necessary details of the scandal involving this president without conveying information that children simply need not know.

Children should be told that the president has been unfaithful to his wife and has lied. They need to know that this is wrong and unacceptable behavior. But they need not know all the sordid and perverted details.

You need to reinforce what is right and wrong here for your children. It is wrong to cheat. It is wrong to lie—whether or not one is under oath. It is wrong to give a “legally correct” answer that hides a cheating and deceitful heart.

Children need to be warned about the evil of much of the public reaction. Polls consistently indicate that nearly two-thirds approve of the president despite believing that he cheated and lied.

So long as their personal or corporate welfare checks are delivered on time, they care little about the person who holds the reigns of our legal system, which is supposed to be devoted to the discovery of truth and the execution of justice.

(Perhaps the recent stock-market dive will clear the cobwebs from the brains of some.)

But for every ounce of criticism our children hear about the president and his wrongdoings, they should receive a pound of constructive input in the form of a good examples. What better time to study some of the great men who have served in the office of president of the United States.

It’s time to turn off the television and open up a book—preferably an older, more accurate book about a great president.

I recently purchased a book called “Lincoln’s Devotional,” published by Henry Holt. It is a reprint of a book which shaped the character of one of our greatest presidents. According to the foreward by Carl Sandburg, Lincoln regularly read this book of Scripture verses and devotional poetry—probably on a daily basis.

The entry from Lincoln’s book for August 17, the day Clinton testified before the grand jury and admitted that he had an inappropriate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, reads as follows:

“Benefits of Affliction—Self-Abasement

“‘Surely after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.’ Jeremiah 31:19.

   ‘Dumb at Thy feet I lie

For Thou hast brought me low;

Remove Thy judgments lest I die

I faint beneath Thy blow.’ ”

Children who are trained with the habit of daily Scripture reading, buttressed by the power of great examples, are more likely to respond correctly to sin than a person brought up to embrace the privileges of those who are in power.

Carl Sandburg quotes a minister who took Lincoln’s own words and changed only the placement of pronouns and the like to create Lincoln’s statement of belief.

“I believe in penitential and pious sentiments, in devotional designs and purposes, in homages and confessions, in supplications to the Almighty, solemnly, earnestly, reverently.

“I believe in blessings and comfort from the Father of Mercies to the sick, the wounded, the prisoners, and to the orphans and widows.

“I believe it pleases the Almighty God to prolong our national life, defending us with His guardian care.

“I believe in His eternal truth and justice.

“I believe the will of God prevails; without Him all human reliance is vain; without the assistance of that Divine Being I cannot succeed; with that assistance I cannot fail.

“I believe in praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”

Give your child a healthy dose of the good examples of George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt to counter the distressingly bad example of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at