Learning can be something like a chalkboard. When we are young, we have, essentially, a clean slate. Once we begin using it, writing things down, it becomes more difficult to start over. No matter how fervently we try to erase a wrong answer, we are almost always left with chalk traces. How much harder is it after thirteen years of chalk answers?
A few weeks back, Matt Walsh posted an eye-opening blog titled, “Christan Parents, Your Children Aren’t Equipped to be Public School Missionaries.” I confess I’m a bit of a Congruist on practically every issue, and the matter of home-schooling versus public schooling is not an exception. I truly believe that most dichotomies are false, that mostly common ground between two extremes is where the answers lie. However, I also truly believe that it is the responsibility of each parent to prayerfully consider whether the best educational atmosphere for their children is public or private/home, so I tend to shy away from any position that takes the approach of “I’m right—not only for my children, but also for yours.”
When I was a child, I longed to be in public school. My mother made no expectation upon me to “serve” as a “missionary” or anything like that, but somehow I came to the conclusion on my own (at a fairly young age) that the calling of mission work—sharing Jesus with those around me—was not merely a call to adults, nor was it merely a call to overseas work. It was a call to every believer, and it was a call to every place where men, women, and children needed to hear of God’s love. Granted, in my young childhood, I didn’t put all of this together. But by the time I’d reached fifth grade, I was well aware of the needs around me in my public school classes as well as the very real spiritual battles that were taking place, and I was praying for my friends and teachers and administrators. My best friend, on the other hand, had naturally been immersed in home-schooling as her parents served as missionaries in Papua New Guinea. Even at our young ages back in the early 90s, I remember hearing the argument that home-schooled kids were less “socially equipped” than public school kids, and I saw it for what it was: Hooey. Lou was, without question, the more social (and more socially functioning) of the two of us! She certainly still is. So for me, it’s very easy to take a middle-ground position on the matter. I know that home-schooling works well for many people and I know that public schooling works well for many others.
Even within one family, what is right for one child may not be right for every child. My younger brother did end up home-schooled because the public school system was a state of ridiculous failure for him. And guess what? He has grown into a well-functioning, well-educated adult who serves his community and is, just like Lou, still far more social than I!
So, why are we talking about Walsh’s blog? Why does it matter what he says, if I’m telling you that everyone has to decide for themselves?
It matters because the game has changed and is ever-changing. Public schooling is not what it was in my formative years. It was late in my public school existence when we began to see a rise in school shootings. That was the problem of my high school years. Today’s struggles are not worse; they are drastically different. Rather than weapons, the threats today are more subtle, far more wide-spread, and far less reported by media. First, the threat of ideology opposed. There is hardly any room in society at large for Christians to stand up and say, “I don’t agree; I don’t stand for this.” What makes us think our children have the safety to do so in public schools? They don’t. Second, the threat of bullying is magnified with the prevalence of social media. While it is not specifically tied to public schooling, the local story I shared with you recently about a child who took his own life after a social media prank has made me realize that the public school system can never be the solution to bullying. Yet we seem to throw money obliviously at “the system” in frantic attempts to make the problem go away!
Here’s a hint: It’s not going to go away with money. It’s not going to go away with increased patrolling by our school administrators. It can only begin to decline in severity when we begin to parent our children again, teaching them how to love and respect life, and when we, ourselves, reject the cultural norms that say it’s fun to laugh at another’s expense.
Sadly, here’s the part that Matt got dreadfully right: It’s not our responsibility to feed and maintain “the system,” and it most certainly is not our children’s responsibility.
As Christian parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, our responsibility is to raise our children in sound teaching and godly principles. We all know the Proverb (22:6): Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. I think the converse is true, also. A child who is taught ungodly principles for thirteen (or more) years in a row is not going to unlearn these principles easily. Learning a truth that opposes some fundamental thing that’s been instilled in us since childhood is a difficult transition, and I don’t think it happens as often as we’d like to believe—whether good or bad.
So the question is not whether it is okay for the children of the Christian community to remain in the public school system. The question is whether we are obligated to continue feeding our children to the State for indoctrination. Make no mistake, they are learning foundational ideas that will be incredibly difficult to unlearn in their adult lives. If we hope for a remnant of Christians in this nation, a remnant of ideals and principles we hold true, it’s time we train our children in those truths—because they won’t be learned from our culture.