Utah private LDS school is thriving

Take a look at this story.  Apparently, an LDS-themed private school in Pleasant Grove is thriving even amid the recession.  One of the reasons?

more and more conservative families around the nation, put off by increasingly liberal textbooks and public school curriculum, are looking for established alternatives with a Mormon bent.

My question is:  what is going on with Utah public schools (where presumably Mormons are the majority) where anyone would want to spend extra money to send their kid to a private school?  Please note:  My kids are all in the public schools, and I plan on keeping them there, but I’m carefully monitoring what they’re taught.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

45 thoughts on “Utah private LDS school is thriving

  1. Rather than lose good students, and noting their increasing roles, the DeGraffs said they decided to double their hardship scholarships from six to 12 this year, rather than lose some students whose families could no longer afford the tuition

    Aha! That’s why they are thriving. They’ve increased the burden on whoever is giving them scholarships to keep the poor in school. And frankly, $300 a month on a private school is, well, heh, really really cheap, shall we say. My wife and I have looked at private schools here in New York City. You can expect to pay $400 A WEEK!

    I actually am surprised that there aren’t more Mormon private schools, subsidized by the church, or rich members, in Utah. They live in such a bubble there, and feel such the victims in their us vs. the world mentality.

    Geoff, I’m glad you are keeping a close eye on what your children are taught. That’s a great thing to do. Keeping active with the schools is something that teachers and principals want of parents. My wife just started a new public school here in New York this semester. She likes how involved the parents of her children are.

  2. Take a look at the school’s website. Their texts begin with the White Horse Prophecy and end with Cleon Skousen.

    My guess is that parents who are that far off on the right end of the political spectrum would find much that is objectionable about public education, even in Utah County.

  3. I wonder about the whole issue of being “in the world but not of the world.” Personally, I think being in public schools is part of being “in the world,” even though I may object to some things that are taught there. If I were in California or Massachusetts, I would have serious second thoughts about some of the things children are taught, but the schools my kids have attended in Florida and Colorado have been really quite good.

    Look, people can make their own decisions about education, but there is a danger of isolating your kids from the world so much that they can’t function normally in society. I don’t think we are being told to do that — yet.

  4. I’m really torn on this issue. I agree that children need a “rounded” eduation, which includes seeing both the good and the bad prevalent in our public schools. This is essential for them in the developmental years so that they can choose for themselves and grow. We, as parents, should teach and warn our children of the dangers and, as Joseph Smith taught, “let them govern themselves.”

    On the other hand, a privatized school does not have to play by the rules of our ever-increasing socialist society. Public school texts will likely be altered in the near future heralding President-elect Obama as the country’s greatest President; global warming will be taught as a proven science, and our Founding Fathers will be portrayed as religious zealots. And don’t even think about reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or any mention of and God.

    My brother sends his children to that school, and I have clearly seen a difference in their intellectual and spiritual attitudes since.

  5. I don’t know if they’re still doing it, but Alpine School District was using a “Math Explorations” program a couple of years ago with disastrous results–two cousins of mine in the fifth grade still had not been taught how to do long division.

    I can see why some parents would prefer pulling their kids out of a school district implementing bone-headed programs like that. Of course, whether Liahona is an improvement is up for debate.

  6. Jeremy, just to back up your point, my kids have spent most of their lives in public schools in Miami. They have no idea about Plato, Socrates, Roman history or Charlemagne (except what I teach them) but they can go on for hours about Rosa Parks, GW Carver and a long, long list of native American heroes. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good that they study African-American and native American history — we spent much too long as a country pretending these things didn’t exist. But in my opinion the pendulum has swung WAAAAY the other way to the point where their educations are suffering for lack of the basics of our culture.

    Don’t even get me started on the garbage they are fed by their teachers re: global warming, how awful all Republicans are, how wonderful Socialism is (and this was in MIAMI, where Cuban-Americans dominate, mind you).

    Personally, I don’t mind all of the leftist propaganda, because my kids have seen the other side of the argument, seen what propagandists their educators are and have been smart enough to reject the garbage spewed by their teachers. I think seeing the other side makes them stronger, personally. I like the fact that they are challenged to come to their own opinions and learn how to defend them. But many kids cannot see through the propaganda, and they have suffered.

  7. Jeremy,

    Where the heck do you get this from?

    Public school texts will likely be altered in the near future heralding President-elect Obama as the country’s greatest President; global warming will be taught as a proven science, and our Founding Fathers will be portrayed as religious zealots

    1. If Obama acts as the greatest president, then he will be considered the greatest president. If he doesn’t, he won’t.

    2. There is no such thing as a “proven science.” Everything regarding science is still theoretical. I learned this in public school.

    3. Our Founding Fathers have never been portrayed as religious zealots, because, well, frankly, they weren’t. In fact, most of them were Deists, non-denominational.

  8. Dan, can’t speak as to texts, but I had a high school English teacher who actually said that the Puritans were horrible people and that James I was right to drive them out of England.

  9. Jim,

    Well, were they? I mean, think about it, those “Puritans” put women to death because they thought they were witches! Is that really a “pure” thing to do? Let’s not glorify them as saints. Puritans were intractable Protestants who had a very strong hatred of Catholics. They had a good work ethic (it was definitely needed to handle New England winters), but please, let’s realize that they were far from perfection. They were regular people.

  10. Basically, my point is that your argument against a public educator, in this case, an English teacher, is do your perception of Puritans versus his/her perception. You were raised up to believe the Puritans were the good guys. Good here is very vaguely defined because it is part of a nationalistic narrative. Maybe they weren’t all that good, Jim, as a whole.

  11. I can’t offer much on the Utah School Systems, except that I taught in American Fork about 25 years ago. You guys were probably all little squirts back then. 🙂 The Utah schools were great with wonderful teachers and students. The Utah schools have a problem with disasterious experimental programs. This has been a problem since I was a child. I don’t understand the thinking behind all of that. The major problem was, and still is, that there are too many kids per teacher in the classroom. If you lower the ratios; the scores and quality goes waay up. 25 years ago the public schools were full of BYU educated teachers. Unless something has drastically changed, if the teachers in Utah County are considered too liberal than the private school is a nutcase school IMHO.

    My children (ages 20-4) are in a top-notch school district here in the southeatern USA. They take No-Child Left Behind seriously. The student to teacher ratio is 15-18:1 for K-2 grades, 22:1 for 3-4th grades, and 27:1 for 5-12 grades. Our taxes are not as high as up north. We don’t get a lot of frills just good solid reading, writing and math. The older ones know about Rosa Parks and Socrates. There is time to learn a diversity of thought and experiences.

    Personally I like for my kids to be exposed to a diversity of opinions. They have learned to figure things out in their own mind. They have had a variety of friends and have learned how to get along with all sorts of people. These skills will serve them well in life. They will be better missionaries, employees and employers and citizens of our country and the world.

  12. Dan, I’m not saying the Puritans were “good”. I’m saying that a liberal teacher was teaching her own value judgments as fact. (I won’t even get into her advocacy of ethnic/religious cleansing.)

    Which supports Jeremy’s point was that liberal dogma is being/will become enshrined in the public education system.

    Your response, aside from linguistic hair-splitting, appears to be “well, yeah, but it’s OK for us to do it, because we’re right“.

  13. What bothers me is the school’s claim to have a gospel-based curriculum, when in fact what they have is, in JA Benson’s phrase, a “nutcase school” teaching for doctrine the philosophies of men.

    That’s especially dangerous when the young students are taught in an environment where questioning in history or English or science class could be viewed as questioning one’s faith. At least in the public schools, a child can dissent in good faith, knowing it’s the godless state thta he or she is fighting.

  14. exactly Mark B. I am tired of the “nut case” members of the chruch who often hijack the Gospel and infuse their own beliefs. Kids should be taught how to think. They need the good and bad to learn discernment. The only way to do this is to practice in a controlled environment i.e. with parents talking with them about what they are learning and what is being said by peers and teachers alike.

  15. JimD, I think the larger point is that educators today are told to directly challenge the prevailing narrative of American history and American exceptionalism. There are things that are truly exceptional about the process of founding the American republic that are being drowned out in all of the attempts to be politically correct.

    So, when you look at the Puritans in the context of what roles their thoughts and experiences played in the founding of the American republic, you get a better picture of who we are as a nation and why people came to the Americas and what makes America special. When you concentrate on scarlet letters and witches, you get a warped and incomplete view. I have heard many young people say today, “all of the founding fathers were rich slave owners” because that is what they learn in the schools today. Well, leaving aside the fact that John Adams, John Hancock and many others who were NOT slave owners, a statement like that shows a complete ignorance of the context of the day. Virginia was the most important state of the Republic in the late 1700s, and if you wanted to be important in Virginia you needed to have a large plantation and if you wanted to have a large plantation you needed slaves. So, yes, some of them were slave owners, but you need to keep things in context. If you want to go down that road, you need to start asking yourself, for example, why the Savior Himself did not liberate all of the slaves in Jerusalem (where they were pretty common in 30 AD).

    It is this context that is lacking in public school education today, and it’s too bad.

  16. Mark B and JA Benson, I don’t disagree with you. Still, there may come a time when I will personally choose the “nutcase school” over the public schools because the public schools will have decayed to the point of becoming completely degenerate. That time has not yet arrived in Florida or Colorado, and it may never arrive in some areas of the country. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  17. Jim,

    Reality does have a liberal bias. 😉

    That is to say, conservatives aren’t happy with the direction of education because it tends to press the boundaries of ethical/moral lines they set ages ago. For example, take the idea of blacks as an inferior race. It was an idea that tainted even prophets (Brigham Young for example). It is uncomfortable for those who set particular lines in the sand of education to see those lines crossed. Where do you draw a line for your children?

    There is a risk in life. It is a risk we all took when we chose to come here in the first place. The risk is that we may actually lose eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom. We chose to come here into bodies devoid of knowledge, but with an understanding that we would gain that knowledge through time and experience. It is a risky venture we are on. Our children take that same risk we took. Whether we put them in a Mormon private school, or public school, or home school, they will eventually face the risk of failing. I’ve not seen, yet, a tried and true situation that guarantees success. I’ve seen home schooled children eventually lose their testimony in Christ. I’ve seen public school educated children do the same. There is no guarantee.

    Personally, I don’t really care where people send their children to school. What just irks me is the constant attack on liberalism in education. Frankly, get out of liberalized schools and build up those conservative schools and let us eventually see which ones produce the better citizen. I’m putting my money on the liberal educated student.

  18. “Where the heck do you get this from?”

    1) Just one exemple: Marion, Alabama has already voted to observe the second Monday in November as “The Barack Obama Day.” County offices will close and its workers will get a paid holiday. Shouldn’t we wait and see if the guy is capable to be president before we go giving him a holiday? That said, some leftists already celebrate Obama’s Day on December 25th.

    2) Al Gore stated that the science on global warming “is settled.” The biggest proponent of global warming seems to think that it is a “proven science.” He also indicated that “there is no debate” when it comes to global warming, and that those who do not believe it are “holocaust deniers.” I guess I’m a Holocaust denier since I believe the latest climatology reports indicating that average temperatures have actually consistently decreased since the year 2000.

    3) Admittedly, a few of the signers may have been non-denominational, but that makes no difference. It cannot be debated that these men believed they were guided by the Almighty, and were God-fearing men.

    “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” Patrick Henry

    “We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

    Notice that Mr. Adams did not say morality and “spirituality.” Without religion, freedom cannot exist and without freedom, religion cannot exist. Indeed, they must coexist with each other! Sadly, the “spiritual” views of many in these last days have made it a point to demean the views of our Founding Fathers as religious zealotry.

  19. Jeremy,


    That said, some leftists already celebrate Obama’s Day on December 25th.

    Who? Who is this straw man?

    2. And Al Gore is right about everything, yada yada

    3. Please show me who considers the Founding Fathers “religious zealots” within the world of education.

  20. “Please show me who considers the Founding Fathers “religious zealots” within the world of education.”

    Seriously? Did you only attend Utah schools? It’s no secret that mainstream universities have liberalized all views of the founding of this country and have pawned off phrases like the ones I quoted above as religious zealotry.

    Try speaking up in a college-level U.S. History class in Denver or Seattle about the Founding Father’s love of God and see how many self-pontificating professors shut you down. I tried it once in a Constitutional Law class in Concord, NH. I didn’t dare speak my mind again in that class.

  21. “Any faculty questioning the liberal party line get “expelled.” Check out http://www.expelledexposed.com for some more information about the movie, including how the makers of the movie dishonestly tricked prominent scientists into interviewing for it.
    That being said, I’m pretty sure if I went to this private school and taught the kids what I learned in biology classes at BYU, I’d get kicked out within minutes.
    Actually, they’d probably have qualms about hiring a biology education major to teach their science classes in the first place…

  22. I don’t disagree with you Geoff B. #16. I have noticed that when the public schools become worthless the priviate schools spring up in abundance. We won’t have to choose beween bad schools and nutcase private schools. There will be plently of wonderful private schools, but how affordable might be the problem.

    Dan #17 nicely said.

    Jeremy #18 your first point: one little town in Alabama does not a make a consensus. I look at President-elect Obama as this, I didn’t vote for the guy, but if by having him in office, it leads to pride, responsbility and family values for some in the black community—great. It is amazing for me as a middle aged white lady ( who is btw 97% more north african than the average citizen of the USA) to remember how things were when I was a child during the civil rights movement. Even after to remember as a teen when the blacks got the Priesthood, that in my lifetime, which is not all that long ago (so far), that there will be a black president of the nation soon; it thrills me on some level. I say this as a Republican. Perhaps in this case it is the work of God.

    Your second point: Al Gore is a moron. Don’t take him so seriously. It will all pass.

    Your third point Amen and Amen.

  23. Tim #22 It is just sad that the students at that school will not get a good science education. It is also ironic to note that President Monson is on the board at BYU. If this is true, being too right of the Gospel is just as dangerous as being too left. Perhaps more so as it is more insidious.

  24. Geoff, Colorado is a pretty liberal state. Wait until your kids are in high school, and you may have second thoughs on having them attend public schools.

    Note to commenters: Remember the saying “Don’t feed the trolls.”

  25. Dan, I agree with much of your #17 but would note the following:

    1) I don’t have a problem with each successive generation questioning the morals of those that went before it. What worries me is when the educational system postulates–and conveys to its students–that those morals are, ipso facto, wrong. Ted Kennedy’s pontificating aside, it is often fruitful to look at what is and ask, “why?”. Things are very often the way they are for a reason. Some of the time, it’s even a good reason. 🙂

    2) I have no problem with liberal and conservative schools going head-to-head. It would be nice, though, to see them do it on a level playing field. As it is now (postulating for a moment that public education does tend to drift leftwards) the status quo biases the former because parents of students at conservative (read: private) schools are still forced to subsidize both types of schools. That’s part of the reason I like the idea of a private school tuition tax credit.

  26. Jeremy,

    Seriously? Did you only attend Utah schools? It’s no secret that mainstream universities have liberalized all views of the founding of this country and have pawned off phrases like the ones I quoted above as religious zealotry.

    Are we talking about elementary/secondary education or college? I thought we were talking about the former.

    And no, I went to a public school in the Bay Area in California. Apparently my high school was one of the best because I learned well there, and never noticed any real problem that has been talked about here or there or anywhere on the blogs.

  27. What’s fascinating to me is how diverse the founding fathers were, in their religious thought, in their ideas of how government should be. And yet they still managed to put their differences aside long enough to create this great nation. That’s a great example for us, I think, both as us citizens and as members of the LDS church. It’s also fascinating to see how imperfect men and women can still do great things, despite their imperfections.
    I hope anyone who teaches US history would consider these things. I’m afraid that in some schools, both private and public, these things are not being taught.

  28. JimD.,

    I doubt we will ever see a level playing field. The problem arises from the fact that if conservatives try to set up their own schools of thought, they won’t be taken seriously by the current establishment. There are two reasons. 1. Conservative ideology tends to set the rules first and hope the facts fit the rules. This is the case in the conflict over intelligent design. Conservative ideology states that God surely created the world though the proof is hard to convey. Most everybody on this planet believe that a Supreme Being created the world, but that’s not helpful in gaining an understanding of established science. The methods used by liberalist ideologies gain a deeper knowledge of why things work the way they do. It is hard to take the conservative ideology seriously because it is afraid that pressing too far would undermine its core principles.

    That said, I am fairly moderate, myself. I believe liberal ideology tries to press too hard into the unknown, disregarding established rules and traditions, as if they are outdated. I believe, in terms of education, that you have to press against the unknown, but to a limit. It’s okay if this generation doesn’t gain that extra knowledge that we could have had if we pressed further. The next generation will. We sometimes are just not ready to go further.

    The second reason why I don’t think conservative ideology based schools won’t go far is because they cling to disreputable sources. Take Cleon Skousen, as this school purportedly does. Who the heck in the established world will ever take what he had to say seriously? You cling to such ideologues and you will remain outside and not make much gain in this world.

  29. Tim,

    I hope anyone who teaches US history would consider these things. I’m afraid that in some schools, both private and public, these things are not being taught

    Do you have any examples of schools that don’t teach this?

  30. I don’t, not for a fact. I imagine some certain religious private schools would teach that all the founding fathers were faithful Christians with few if any faults, and some certain liberal schools would teach that all the founding fathers were doubters who were full of faults and probably not good men.
    I attended public schools in Utah, BYU, and now a law school that’s not conservative or liberal, so I don’t have experience with either, but my guess is the private school discussed in the post would be one of those “certain religious private schools.” I can’t say for sure though.

  31. My sibs when to this school (in SLC) before they went to Mr. Taylor’s school in AZ. It’s a great school. They didn’t go there necessarily because there was anything terrible taught in public schools, but because the academics at Liahona are so impressive. DeGraff is a great teacher. The school offers rigor an thought that you can’t find in public school. It may be a “Mormon” school, but that can be misleading.
    As I noted about Heritage in the other thread–I don’t like it. DeGraff’s school is much different.

  32. My kids all graduated public schools. They read Like Water for Chocolate and 100 Years of Solitude. I read Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet and Macbeth. I hope that my grandchildren will have better options.

  33. My children all graduated from public schools. And, they learned something about reading good literature and speaking proper English at home.

  34. Oh Holy One of Grammar please accept my humble obeisance for offending your sense of the English language.

    But this begs the question why does your sentence not offend since it doesn’t have a from after graduate?

    In former times I would have been forced to say my children “were graduated from” public high school. Gradually, we accepted the locution My “children graduated from” public high school. It seems that if we really want to allow a change from passive to active voice we wouldn’t be so half-hearted about it.

    The locution “The public schools graduate approximately 60% of ninth graders ” is perfectly acceptable. A search for the exact phrase “graduate high school” in Google yielded over 800,000 hits. A quick survey of the results showed that the individual graduating was very frequently the subject. Perhaps we could say that fussy grammar puritans don’t really rule the language especially when the meaning of a sentence is absolutely clear.

  35. Can I just say that people correcting the grammar of other people on a blog should be forced to watch “Get Smart” or some such show over and over again for 100 Years of Solitude or until they internalize that they are pedants and need to repent, whichever comes first? Thank you.

  36. I am so happy that there is an LDS private school. I think the LDS church should start private schools for K-12 in all states.

  37. I’m very thankful that there is a school for my son who’s been having substance abuse, but at the same time really work on being more spiritual. I had enrolled him into west ridge academy in utah. He’s been improving since the change in schools.

  38. My kids have gone to pre-school and kindergarten at Challenger in Utah. The school is disturbingly political. In addition to sending home newsletters with screeds about how our nation is going to hell in a bucket they have two 4 ft by 6 ft campaign signs up for a GOP house candidate. They refuse to let the kids watch the president’s message to school kids but have a 9-11 assembly for kindergartners where they scare them to death with stories of planes being flown into buildings. These kids were years away from being born when that happened. Of course they also “celebrate” Pearl Harbor day too. It is as if they want the kids to feel like they are under siege.

  39. I moved all of my kids to a private LDS faith-based school in Northern Utah this past year. They are excelling in all areas of learning. I can’t even compare it to what the education was like in public school. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. I just have to say this…that I moved them because I wanted more…a better education. Not because I wanted to shelter them or because I think they need religion 27/7. It is plain and simple….the education they are receiving now is far superior to what they were exposed to previously.

  40. There are some fantastic public Utah schools too. I just enrolled my son, who has sensory integration disorder, into a montessori school here in Utah County and am thrilled. There’s limited enrollment but it’s public so you don’t have to spend and extra few thousand dollars for the schooling.

    My worry about “faith based” schools in Utah is how they teach science: especially topics contentious to certain fundamentalist factions like evolution. I’ve long wondered how these institutions deal with such. That said there are also some fantastic private schools in the area that focus on a strong science education.

  41. Clark,
    Yea…I confess….I had my worries too about “faith-based” education. I discussed these concerns with my children’s teachers and with the principal before I enrolled them into the program. I am a very active member of my faith, but having said that, I am fully aware that there is a different world out there (especially outside of the Utah bubble). The school’s goal is not to be super chuchy…they just believe God is a part of out history and that we should have a right to talk about it. I have attended lessons with my children, and I love that this school only studies religion for 1/2 hour in their mornings (this year they are studying the New Testament) and then religion is over….really. They pray before lunch, but the rest of the day is devoted to Montessori learning! YAY for Montessori schools. I cannot say enough good about it. As for evolutions, I really don’t know if that is something they discuss, I will look into it immediately! I do not particularly believe in evolution, but I think our kids need to know what is out there regardless. They will study in universities that will teach these ideas and I believe that they need exposure to all ideas regarding science. Science–so far this year–they have been studying philosophers (Socrates, Pluto, Archimedes…) of the past and learning about various scientific discoveries.
    BTW…we are in Box Elder County…Most of my family is in Utah County and they have ALL be extreemly satisfied with their public education.

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