Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On Public Schools and Christian Education

Out of Ur started a discussion of Al Mohler's Culture Shift and specifically the chapter that calls for an "exit strategy" from public schools. (HT: Scot McKnight)

This issue is important to me because I've got two young girls who will be starting school fairly soon. After considering a lot of people's responses, I wanted to sum up where I'm heading.

Are the schools in trouble? Yes. For a variety of reasons. Set aside the question of whether your kid will get shot or if they'll ever learn to read, the public school system in many areas is actively promoting ideals that are completely opposed to Christianity.

What about Christian schools? A complete pullout of Christian children from public schools could be accomplished if we were to commit sufficient energy and money to the endeavour, but I don't think that is likely to happen. And all too often Christian schools focus so much on being Christian that they forget to be a school.

Can we keep our kids in public schools without losing them to the culture? I think it's possible -- if we're willing to commit ourselves fully to the path we need to take.

It's said that you can't have your kids in school 30 hours a week and expect to counter it with 2 hours a week of church. That's true. But all 30 hours of school is not necessarily spiritually poisonous, and we can commit our evenings to focused attempts to counter whatever damage was done during the day.

The homeschool advocates frequently quote Deuteronomy --"Teach [the law] to your children, talking about [it] when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (11:19). If we actually did that, as opposed to shuttling them to and fro for every activity from soccer to dance to Bible club, we might actually be able to fight the effects of the public schools on our children.

What?! Did I just include church activies in my list of unnecessary time wasters? I think a great many of them are. Looking back at my childhood, I think a lot of the church stuff we did was just trying to keep us occupied, and some of it was more influenced by the world than the Bible. If you've got your kids at home talking about the Bible, maybe that Tuesday night youth activity isn't necessary.

What will this take? Nothing less than a transformation of our lifestyles. All of your and their evenings devoted to the formation of a Christian mind and worldview while deprogramming the anti-Christian garbage they've been fed the previous day.

Did they read about Heather and her two mommies? You've got to talk about God's design for the family as well as how to respond to "non-traditional" couples and families in a Christ-like manner.

Did they get fed a load about how important their self-esteem is? You've got to drum into them the importance of a Christlike humility and devotion to the good of everyone else over yourself.

Can we do this? Probably not. I think putting your kids in a school that's not fighting against your values is a much more effective and efficient way to educate your kids.

I don't think we have a responsibility to send our kids to the "mission field" of public schools. They're not ready for that fight. If we do not equip our soldiers for battle before the war they are nothing but cannon fodder. I want better for our kids than that.

So what do we do? My suggestion is to evaluate your local schools carefully. If you can deal with what's going on there, feel free to do so. If you can't, I suggest protecting your kids' souls.

My local schools are in a small town in the Bible belt. We can probably deal with them, though that doesn't mean there will never be anything we have to worry about. If I was in the urban northern US or on either coast, I'd probably have to go with private or home schools. Judge carefully and choose wisely.

Good luck to us all.

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