Opinion: Investigate religious schools for indoctrinating students, not universities

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When Trump appointed anti-public school lobbyist Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, he made it abundantly clear that he detests America’s public education system.

On Friday Trump ordered Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to review American universities’ tax-exempt status after he threatened to cutoff federal funding to any schools that refuse to reopen despite the virulent Trump plague ravaging the nation.

For starters, Trump has the same level of animus and blatant contempt towards public schools as he does the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, and the lives of American citizens – including U.S. soldiers.

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According to Trump, institutions of higher education are facing his wrath, and in serious jeopardy, because instead of educating Americans, they only focus on “radical left indoctrination.” Trump used his official communications office, Twitter, to rail against higher educational institutions thus:

“I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-exempt status and/or funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be educated, not indoctrinated.”

Throughout this author’s two-and-a-half decades in every level of education in the private and public sector, it was clear that for conservatives and the radically religious “Indoctrination” entails any education that is not bible-based and founded in radical conservatism. In simpler terms, giving students a well-rounded education founded in historical facts and empiricism is considered “radical left indoctrination.” And, it is considered un-American, radical, and just plain evil; simply because those educated students are less-inclined to fall victim to a con artist like Trump or whichever Republican attempts to pedal nonsense.

If Trump is seriously interested in stripping non-profit, tax-exempt status from “educational facilities” that are definitely indoctrinating their students, he must immediately order Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to investigate religious schools, such as a staunch Trump supporter Liberty University, and its ilk.

To get an accurate view of what kind of monumental scam a “non-profit indoctrination institution” Liberty University really is, consider that in 2016 the Jerry Falwell non-profit private religious school made some very serious profits while indoctrinating students. 

That year the so-called non-profit school “generated $215 million in net income on nearly $1 billion in revenue.” Add to that amount of “non-profit” the tax-exempt Christian university’s “net assets now exceed $2.5 billion.” That profit is substantially subsidized by taxpayers’ largesse in the form of student grants and student loans from the US Department of Education and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Additionally, Americans should be outraged that the $2.5 billion indoctrination school reaped a whopping $15,205,124 from the COVID-19 relief package, known as the CARES Act. On top of providing relief to student loan borrowers, the CARES Act stimulus provides about $14 billion in grants to higher education institutions; including those so-called “non-profit” tax-exempt private religious schools such as Liberty University.

It is noteworthy to mention that all religious schools exist to “indoctrinate” students and it is apparent that Trump is happy with that kind of “indoctrination” or he would order the Treasury Secretary to immediately “re-evaluate the tax-exempt status, and/or government funding for any educational institution guilty of indoctrination.” Trump did say,  that “children must be educated, not indoctrinated.”

Only a brain-dead zombie believes that Trump cares one iota about education, or indoctrination for that matter. However, he seriously cares about parroting the religious right’s favorite complaints about America’s education system being founded in reality and truth as opposed to archaic religious mythos. Trump is not the first Republican to complain about, especially, higher education institutions teaching students to think critically and form a worldview founded on facts and reality. Republicans are well aware, as is Trump, that when people examine any issue critically, particularly issues that affect their well-being, they would reject Republicans out of hand.

It is obvious that Trump’s sudden interest in America’s education system is based on how best to use it to incite his base during an election. He has had three-and-a-half years to attack higher education’s tax-exempt status for its so-called indoctrination crusade and he owned a majority Republican Congress that would gladly have executed his order. It is noteworthy that besides labeling a rounded education as indoctrination, Trump claimed that kind of education is “propaganda and against public policy.”

Most Americans who are educated understand that Trump does not have the authority to withhold funding from schools, or unilaterally end their tax-exempt status. What they may not be aware of, though, is that the Internal Revenue Service allows non-profit, tax-exempt educational institutions to teach whatever they want. If that was not the case and if indoctrinating students warranted losing tax-exempt status, every religious school in the nation would lose that status in a heartbeat.

Trump is, as many pundits and commentators have noted, terrified of losing an election; his only recourse is grasping at anything he believes will inspire his base. However, if he is really intent on stripping the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt status from schools for “indoctrinating students,” his precious religious schools will be eviscerated  for indoctrinating students in ancient mythology and superstition instead of offering a well-rounded education founded in reality and facts.