Friday, May 7, 2010
Thanks to someone who loves me, I realized that I need to back-up before proceeding with these posts on "Rethinking Education" and give some qualifiers and disclaimers. As R. L. Dabney said, "the education of our children is the most important work on earth," but he didn't mention that it is the most difficult work on earth. Nobody has it just right and there's always room for improvement. Public schools, private Christian schools, and home schools can all point to particular successes and they also provide myriad examples of disasters. I know some rotten kids that have come out of public schools, private Christian schools, and home schools. I also know some shining examples of faithful and committed Christians who have also emerged from these as well. Therefore, the discussion of education cannot proceed on anecdotal evidence but must address the underlying principles involved.
Cultural conditions, educational difficulties, personal and corporate limitations, bad experiences and a host of other problems make our educational decisions complex, challenging, and often frustrating. There are personal sins and corporate sins that put sand in the gears. Nevertheless, we must know where we are going and why, and Scripture is the only rule to direct us as to how we may glorify and enjoy God. The principles of Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6:4 are universal, and so our discussion/debate must proceed along the lines of how best to apply and implement these requirements. My goal with these posts is to open the discussion among Christians and to challenge them to rethink the principles of education and to work to develop better alternatives.
As I said previously, there have been and continue to be many inadequate Christian schools. The fact that I think public schools are a bad idea (for principled reasons), is not an endorsement of bad private and home schools. Unfortunately, these are often the choices we are left with. I intend to begin with a brief history of the government schools, dealing mostly with the underlying philosophy that has driven their development. This is not unrelated to the political philosophy that we have seen in the past and that has come into its own most recently. This part of the discussion will be followed by an analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of private Christian schools and home schools.
I have no doubt that Christian children can be positive influences on other children in the public schools. My problem with Christian children in public schools is that I do not think God gave the government the duty, the authority or the wisdom (Prov. 1:7) to educate children to the glory of God. While there are some Christian teachers who are exceptions, I'm speaking of the system as a whole. Public schools are not "for Christ." They purport to be neutral, but that is not possible. Also, in principle, since God did not give the state the authority or the duty to educate children (He gave that to parents), it is wrong to tax everyone to pay for government education; it's simply not their job.
The child's heart (which includes his mind) is ultimately the issue and the home is the primary place where this instruction should occur. However, since the school is assisting parents in this God-given task, it's important that the school not undermine this by teaching that God is irrelevant to the educational process, or by denying certain truths of Scripture (e.g., creation, sin, salvation, and many more). Certainly, some families can and do make some progress in countering this at home, but the influences of a school are powerful and sustained. Moreover, I have seen many "good Christian kids" corrupted by their peers in the public schools (1 Cor. 15:33). I also oppose the idea of a Christian school being a retreat from the world (which many are). Rather, I see it as a boot camp to prepare them for service in the world. We should be producing students who have a broad exposure to the world and its ideas and who have been taught how to look at that world from a distinctively Christian worldview. We don't send eight-year-olds to the jungles of Africa to be missionaries; we train them first, and when they are well-equipped, we send them out to serve. Finally, the quality of the education must be first rate, and most Christian schools have a long way to go in this department.
A few things we can do for one another: 1) pray for each other; 2) show grace and patience toward one another as we work through these issues, knowing that many factors come into play; 3) talk, discuss and debate with each other (in love); 4) get informed.
Now with all that said, I will proceed to see if I can stir the pot a bit J