On Christian Children in the Public Schools

Sometimes I shock my friends when I tell them I would strongly consider (and possibly prefer) homeschooling for my children. There are a host of objections to homeschooling (both preposterously unfounded and practically well-founded). One objection that I would like to take up is the idea that homeschooling would require an educational and intellectual competence that most parents do not have. This is an important objection, and one that ought to be taken seriously. The objection becomes ridiculous, however, when Christians use it as an excuse to send their children to public schools.

There is a common belief that Christian parents can “complete” what is missing in public schools by educating their children in Christian doctrines and morals at home, believing that the only things missing from public school education are Christian ethics and general catechesis. The assumption seems to be that Christianity consists primarily in “faith and morals.” This is the general belief of public school education, in (for the most part) precluding any form of religious expression or influence from teaching. Religious belief becomes entirely identified with worship and catechesis, and so, when students educated in public schools go to college, they are easily able to separate these two things from the rest of their college education and experience, and they often drop their religions altogether.

I don’t find this very surprising. Christians who have been educated in such a way have not been educated as Christians at all. Far from it. They have been educated as atheists. From a young age, they have been taught to see the world as though it had no God, as though God only affected “faith and morals” and not every aspect of culture and society.

The public schools do not teach lies (and if they do, this is not usually on purpose). Rather, they, by their nature, only teach half-truths. Public schools see the world in limited dimensions and are unable to see the entirety of reality. They might be so minded as to be able to teach that history is a record of past events. They will never be so large-minded as to see history as I had been taught it (indeed, as most of Western Civilization had been taught it for hundreds of years), as “a record of man’s interactions revealing God’s plan for the universe.” They might read Shakespeare for his political or social commentary, but they will not be so large-minded as to take seriously the religious convictions that imbibe his works or the biblical references and allusions that pervade his stories. They might study monarchical governments, but they will be unable to understand why both the kings and the peasants of such governments saw their roles established, maintained, and ordered by a loving God. They might study the history of America, but they will be unable to articulate fully why Tocqueville saw religion as essential for the maintaining of the American experiment.

Public schools do not merely exclude God, but they imply by their educations that God both cannot and should not exist. They imply that the world is much too small for God, and, thus, graduates from public schools often have a very small view of the world. Public schools will necessarily be incomplete in their educations, because graduates of such institutions will only be taught to see a very small part of the world.

One might discover, then, that the responsibilities of parents increase when they choose to send their children to public schools. These parents, if they want their children to develop fully as Christians and as human beings, will have to constantly fill in the gaps that will be left by public school education. They will have to know what is taught in literature class, government class, economics class, and science class, and then they will have to know how to enlarge the minds of their children so that they may see the entirety of the world.

While homeschooling parents only have to know what to teach, parents who send their children to public schools will have to know both what to teach and what is not taught. They will have to teach and unteach, and students will have to unlearn and relearn. Their sensibilities will have to be adjusted. Faith is not a division from reason or a competitor with reason. Rather, faith perfects, ennobles, and raises reason. The Resurrection is both an article of faith and a historical fact, a Christian doctrine and a sociological cause, an act of healing towards man’s relation with God and an act of healing towards man’s relation with man, a story of the Bible and a constant theme of Shakespeare. For Christians, faith is not only one thing among many things to be believed. Faith is the foundation and source of all belief, the center of our understanding of the world, and the highest truth to which all particular truths direct us. It is everything a to which true education would point, and it is the revelation of everything that is lacking in our public schools.

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One thought on “On Christian Children in the Public Schools

  1. Thank you for sharing your view on the matter. My children have homeschooled, attended private Christian school and public school. I agree that Biblical principles and foundation are not allowed in public schools. However, it has been a very good experience for our family. We considered it a mission field and have had numerous opportunities to show the love of Christ. I believe it is my responsibility to teach my children about our faith. I believe they learn this through church, Sunday school and home study. When they homeschooled, we actually had Bible lessons and my son has Bible as a subject in High School. I see the benefit of a Christian education, but the reality is, they will enter a world who denies the existence of God. They have to learn to live in that world and express their beliefs. I believe they did that in public school. I want them to be grounded in who they are in Christ and be willing to share it with a lost world. If they are never around those who think differently, they will never learn how to live in the world. Ultimately, my hope is to teach them to be those who influence.

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