If you are a believer, and especially if you are a parent, I need you to put aside your biases, and all of the emotional baggage that comes with the topic of education, and listen to me for a coupl of minutes. Your children’s eternal destiny may depend upon it.
The American church is in the midst of a worldview crisis. In 2009, Barna research found that only about 9% of Americans have a Christian worldview. More shockingly, they found that only about 19% of “born again” Christians possessed a Christian worldview.
Every Christian should find these figures deeply troubling, because it tells us that not only are we losing our young people, those that stay in the church grow up to become adults who think like unbelievers, in spite of wearing the Christian label.
Increasingly, I find that I can’t discuss important moral and ethical issues with people from inside the church without first addressing the reality that their concept of God, the Bible, sin, and man’s purpose in life are fundamentally atheistic. Even more tragic is the fact that a Christian with a secular worldview is usually completely unaware of what is missing.
So what is happening? Why are we unable to produce young people that know how to see the world through a Biblical lens?
The 800-pound gorilla in the room that the church seems unwilling to address is that children are getting the lion’s portion of their education from a government school system with a legal mandate to use a secular approach.
We don’t want people to think that we are implying that they are bad parents (and we are not implying that), but this is not an argument about character, it’s a discussion of the facts that determine the best practices. We cannot shy away from reality simply because it might step on toes.
While there is no Scripture that says “thou shalt send your children to Christian schools,” we do have a mandate to teach our children the truth and not falsehood. Furthermore, the data is in, and the argument from utilitarian grounds is conclusive. Christian education significantly increases a child’s chances of remaining a believer into adulthood.
Objectively speaking, there is no question that Christian education in general is a better choice than government education. Yet, attitudes in the church often aren’t even neutral to Christian education, they are openly hostile. The moment you bring up Christian education, you are met with a barrage of canned objections and excuses.
I have heard every Christian school, private school, and homeschooling cliche that you can imagine. Every last one. Whatever one that you are thinking of at the moment, I’ve heard it. It’s not original, in fact, it’s threadbare and irrelevant.
Having never attended a government school (thank you, Mom and Dad), I can assure you that my life has not been ruined, nor has my ability to form normal social bonds been stunted. I don’t scuttle nervously around from home to church in fear of being contaminated by someone different than myself. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, most of us Christian school types are perfectly normal, and you probably couldn’t pick us out of a crowd.
Now that my oldest child is in school, she will not be attending a government school either. It wasn’t a choice that my wife and I made after hours of thought, prayer, and consideration. It wasn’t that we decided that this is “what is best for our family.” We didn’t have to weigh all of the sides of the issue and finally reach a lengthy verdict. There has never been a question whether our children will go to a government school. It was one of the things that my wife and I settled before we got engaged. I realize that may seem odd to you, but we didn’t debate whether our babies would ride in car seats either.
That’s right, I went there. I know, that you think I am being judgmental, and too black and white, but Christian education is like a car seat for my child’s soul.
Did you know that most people will probably never have a serious car accident that would require the safety features of a car seat? The vast majority of trips that you make, your kids will be perfectly fine completely unrestrained. Besides, car seats are expensive, and your grandparents didn’t have car seats. They survived. Car seats interfere with your children’s opportunities for social interaction with the rest of the family. Your kids will probably be just fine without a car seat.
If, as a parent, the above line of reasoning seems completely absurd, congratulations, you are not a completely horrible person.
Yet, in the years that I have been an outspoken advocate for Christian schools, this is precisely the type of reasoning that surfaces over and over. I have yet to hear a rational, factual reason for preferring government schools or a good excuse for why the church has not encouraged Christian education as the normal choice for families. I have heard a whole lot of bad excuses such as the ones that I have addressed below:
“Christian education is too expensive.”
I would like to insert a caveat here and say that I understand that there are people who are barely able to put food on the table for their children, who truly can’t afford the extra expense of Christian education. That is a sad reality. However, if the Church would get behind Christian education as it ought, and stop sitting around scratching its head and wondering why generations of young people are jumping ship, the cost of private education would go down and there would be more than enough resources to help those who truly cannot afford Christian education.
For the vast majority of middle class America? Just stop. How big is your TV? How many cars to you own? How late model are they? How much does your family spend on vacation? How about on restaurants, or Starbucks coffee, or electronics, or premium cable? The truth is, we afford what we want to afford. Are any of these items worth more than making the right decision for your children’s future? Scripture tells us that where our treasure is, that is where are heart is as well.
“I want my kids to be socially ‘Well Adjusted.'”
This feeds into the negative stereotypes prevalent in popular culture regarding Christian education, and especially homeschoolers. To be sure, there are ways to do Christian education wrong. Having the “Christian” label does not make a school good, or a homeschooling method right.
However, as with most stereotypes, this observation falls prey to confirmation bias. You see a weird kid, or a strange family, and someone says, “Oh, yeah, I heard about them, they’re HOMESCHOOLERS…. Then everyone nods, as if that explains everything.
The truth is, most homeschoolers don’t stand out as different, or if they do, it’s for positive reasons. Objective evidence actually shows them to be generally as socially advanced (or even more so) as their peers. And let’s face it, government schools aren’t exactly bastions of social growth and mutual support. Some children thrive in that environment, while many others merely survive, or are actually destroyed by it.
“I don’t want to spoil my child’s opportunities.”
Of the friends and family that I have known, and I have been around Christian education most of my life, I have never seen an example of a child who faced extraordinary difficulties making it in life simply because they received a Christian education. I have seen plenty of graduates from government schools that found themselves completely unprepared to perform at college level.
Once again, the data shows that private schools, even private Christian schools consistently outperform their government counterparts. Why? That is a debate for a different time. It really is as simple as asking, “Which option gives my child the best preparation for life?”
We can again observe as we did before that there are sub-par private schools, but overall, the best option is not the government school.
“I don’t want my kids to have a one-sided education.”
Finally, something we can agree upon. Tomorrow morning, you should show up at your kid’s science class, and ask them if they are going to give equal time to the alternatives to Darwinian evolution. Or for that matter, simply discuss the huge holes that have yet to be addressed in the 150 years that scientists have been trying to keep the theory afloat. Or, ask the history teacher when they are going to cover the historical account of Adam and Eve, and historical evidence for the reliability of Scripture. Or, see if they plan to cover the Bible’s moral teachings regarding love and sex in health class before they show everyone how to slip a condom on a banana.
You see, you have the freedom to choose a school that will teach your children whatever you see fit regarding worldviews different from your own, but you don’t get that choice in the government school. They are taught whatever the government deems appropriate, and you don’t get to be there to guide your child or refute falsehood. (Thus the label, government school)
And, yes, I know what you are thinking. My child's school isn’t supposed to teach him about God. That is my role as the parent along with the help of the church. Consider this: the average child spends roughly 1,000 hours in school a year. That equates to about 13,000 hours in school by graduation, if you count kindergarten. So, for some perspective, if you divided that into 12 hour school days, that is like putting the kid in the classroom at 7 am, and pulling him out at 7 pm for three straight years, no weekends, and no holidays. That is a lot of time.
During that time, though he is learning many useful things, he is getting a worldview that has been purposely sanitized of anything Christian, and is thus, decidedly atheistic by default even if that isn’t the intention of the teachers. That is history without God’s redemptive plan or His providential work. That is science where the Creator has been replaced with random chance and process. It is sex without morality, and civics without Divine law.
Even if it were the case that this education has merely been sanitized to comply with the modern secularist misinterpretation of the US Constitution and to be politically correct (so as not to offend anyone), it is still a worldview that is missing a key element. It implants an atheistic approach to the world in the child’s mind. It leaves them with the implication that the stuff that they hear at home and in church is not real enough to be included in their “real” education. Just as devastating, it is a version of reality absent key elements, which a person cannot simply re-inject later, on account of the fact that he has no idea of the extent of his own ignorance.
But this is not just a worldview that is missing key elements. Darwinism was not conceived as merely a secular placeholder for school so teachers would have something to present without teaching “religion.” Darwinism, from its very inception, was intended to be a full frontal attack on Christianity. Skewed treatments of history that misrepresent parts and leave out key elements are not intended to simply be neutral. Teaching children about Heather’s two mommies, and giving pre-teens detailed lessons on anal and oral sex, masturbation and other sexual practices is not neutral. These examples and so many others are attempts to send your child’s soul to Hell!
That is 3 years straight of pure indoctrination, in the middle of the most crucial and impressionable time of a child’s life with parents, pastors, and anyone with a dissenting argument banned from the classroom. Yet so many parents believe that an hour on Sunday at church and a 15 minute devotion is all that it will take to fill in the blanks and correct the falsehood. Tell me, does that sound reasonable? To me, it seems very much like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube.
“My school district is not that bad.”
I hear this from every person with whom I have this conversation. Yes, I understand that government schools vary wildly from place to place. Yes, I understand that your school district may be better than average, however, everyone’s district can’t be the best. But that is not the point anyway. Even the best government school gets its curriculum from somewhere else. That curriculum is created by people whose values and agendas are not congruent with those of Christian theism. Invariably, it contains the biases that I have already detailed above. Even if not intentional, it is the inevitable result of an education in an environment where some topics (i.e., the theistic approach) are off-limits. It doesn’t matter how good your school is, or how well-intentioned your teachers are, they are still functioning under a government imposed secularism.
Great! So do I. But I don’t plan to send them out by themselves without support, without guidance, into a spiritually hostile environment for three years straight and simply hope they make it out unscathed. That is like picking a recruit off the street and throwing him straight on to the beaches of Normandy because I want him to learn to be a good soldier.
Your child is hearing opinions from authority figures with anti-Christian views, both teachers and textbooks, and the vast majority of that influence is exerted in such a way that alternatives (if they are discussed at all) are misrepresented and distorted such that even an adult with a fully developed brain and a college education can have trouble recognizing the bias.
Add to that the power of peer pressure in an uncontrolled environment, and you have a recipe for disaster. I have rarely met a young person with the mental, moral, and spiritual maturity to make it out of such an environment unscathed. Remember that the goal is not for your children to survive, or merely to survive with some faith left. The question is what is best for my child to thrive?
Can’t we? They abandoned us long ago. I don’t see any scenario in which the government school system is redeemable. The cards are stacked against us. For a Christian to function in the government school system, he must always compromise. He must censor what he says, he must follow the guidelines created by secularists. When it is the well-being of our children at stake, it would seem to me that the best thing for the church to do is to abandon that environment for one that is inherently supportive of our children’s spiritual well-being.
“As an underpaid, overworked public school teacher, who wants to do my very best, it offends me that you would disparage the teaching profession.”
First, I would like to say that I admire good teachers, and thus you, if you are indeed one. You are unsung heroes doing your best with limited resources, navigating a mindless educational bureaucracy, and dealing with parents that want easy results with little effort on their part.
However, please allow me to point out that government schools have a problem with bad teachers. There are many teachers that are not doing their very best, they are just there to collect a check, and still others (admittedly, a small minority) that are in the job because they are predators. With all of the red tape and procedures that exist, getting rid of bad teachers is not easy for government schools. On the other hand, most of your private school counterparts are doing more for less, and with less job security. Just something to think about.
All of that said, the government school system’s problems that I have detailed here are systemic. In that sense, it’s not the teachers that are at fault. Those ideologies date at least as far back as secular humanist John Dewy, the “father of American public education,” and are continued today by bureaucrats behind the scenes creating policies.
I refer you to the beginning of this article. My grandparents didn’t have seatbelts and survived, but that doesn’t imply that we shouldn’t use them now.
However, I could also ask you first, when did you go to school? 20 years ago? 15 years ago? 10 years ago? 10 years ago, Hillary Clinton was still against gay marriage. A lot has changed. The schools have gotten more anti-Christian, not less. Furthermore, we are seeing things happen that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, like the federal government mandating that schools force girls to strip naked and shower in front of boys who claim to feel like girls. The school system is rapidly degrading into a cesspool of corrupt social ideology, and eventually even the rural and somewhat less liberal enclaves will be sucked in as well.
The second question that I have for you is, are you sure you came out unscathed? A person who has parts of his worldview selectively missing often doesn’t have any idea how extensive the secular bend of his thinking process. Of that fact, I am daily reminded as I interact with others on worldview topics.
Please listen to me. This is important. My argument for Christian schools is not an appeal to piety. I am not arguing that you are a bad person if you choose something else. I am not saying that you hate God, love the Devil, and want to torture little puppies. This issue is personal to me, because I see the detrimental effects of government education upon the church. I see the people that accept what they have been told because they don’t know any better than to accept it. I see a church that fundamentally sees the world through secular eyes. I know of specific case after case of children whose spiritual downfall can be directly traced to the influence of government education. I know that I would not be a Christian today if I hadn’t been given a foundation for thinking about the world that weathered the skepticism of modern society.
This is a personal issue for me, but I am not making a personal, or emotional argument. I am appealing to reason. I have given the sound reasons for why Christian education as the default choice for Christians is the demonstrably better decision for our children. If you disagree, attack the facts, attack my reasoning, but attacking me won’t accomplish anything. I am just sharing what I have learned.
I am not saying that there aren’t some situations where a particular family would be better off using government education. That would be over-selling the point. The problem is that the vast number of people with whom I have this discussion don’t disagree strongly with the facts. Instead their strongest instinct is that their family ought to be one of the exceptions. Once again, not everyone can be the exceptional case.Fundamentally, we need to change the culture of the church such that the default is Christian education, not government. That one change might be the single greatest step to saving a generation.