No influence is greater on culture than that of America’s schools. If every parent in America knew what was really going on in the public schools, there would be a revolution. I encourage parents to discover the content of the curriculum, the climate of the classroom, and the methods of the teacher in order to determine if these practices and philosophies align with their objectives for their children. To say that education is important is an understatement, yet it bears repeating that it is important for parents to know what’s going on in their children’s classroom. Biblically, this is a parental responsibility. Parents have the ultimate authority and responsibility over their child’s education (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). While a parent can delegate authority to a teacher or principal in the school, that parent cannot delegate responsibility. Parents will have to give an account to the Lord regarding the content and quality of the education that their children received (Romans 14:10, 12). As Christian parents, we must take note of the foundational principles of public education in this country and enroll children in biblically-based and Christ centered schools or commit to providing in-home Christian education. Ultimately, that which is taught in the classroom will be “caught” by your children. Before you allow any teacher or school to shape your children, make sure you determine that their vision for your children aligns with your own.
What’s going on in the public school? Most parents do not think much about the philosophical and practical moorings of the school that their children attend. They assume that their children are learning all the things that one must learn to prepare for the future. It is true that schools teach children the basics of knowledge in core subjects such as math, language, science, and history as well as complimentary coursework. This is good enough, right? Is there something more that governs the way a school operates and what it seeks to achieve? Indeed, there is. All schools operate from a philosophy of education which shapes all facets of its strategy, operations, techniques and procedures in the classroom. What has the public school provided for America? According to John Stormer’s book, None Dare Call It Education, “the faulty philosophy in public school (1) has produced schools which are failing children academically, (2) subjecting children to wrong moral influences, and (3) establishes the foundation from which education “reformers” are working to remake our children, our society and our culture.”
How did public school become this way? The architect of Progressive education, the system on which America’s schools is based, was John Dewey. For Dewey, all aspects of education were primarily concerned with the activity of experiencing. His philosophy was highly influenced by Darwinian evolution and godless pragmatism. In his “Humanist Manifesto,” he stated that “the time has passed for theism, deism,” and that teaching children the absolutes of morals, government, or ethics was a waste of time. His goal for each student was to develop them to the point where they could function and contribute to society. Superficially, this sounds harmonious with sound thinking. However, his goal stemmed from a desire to create a socialist society. He transformed teachers into facilitators and recreated the classroom to become a microcosm of a socialist state by emphasizing the good of the class over the individual (emphasizes group unity over individual success), controlling lessons through democratic regulations (children, not teachers, direct lesson plans through voting), and encouraged an “open-mind” in their studies (promoting acceptance – not just tolerance – of all world views as truth regardless of subjectivity). This is a norm in classrooms across America even all these years after Dewey’s implementation of his philosophy, and it will only continue especially as Common Core curriculum remains the standard. This is not the type of education to which I intend to expose my children.
Is there a suitable alternative for Christian parents? True education must be grounded in and governed by the Word of God. Christian education takes seriously God’s precepts regarding how to educate His people. This is expressed clearly in God’s commandment in the “Shema” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) regarding the education of the young. While the impetus is placed upon the parents, the Christian school can function as an extension of the home and support godly educational endeavors.
What are the differences between the philosophies of the public and Christian schools? The educational philosophy of the public school stands in stark contrast to the biblical view of education in the Scriptures. Here are 5 areas where the two schools are in opposition (the Christian view will appear first in each item):
1. The Promotion of Scripture vs. the Rejection of Scripture
It should be common for students to carry a Bible and open it during class. The humanistic system of education in public schools has disallowed the use of the Bible and the practice of prayer. As such, public schools will never be a custodian of God’s truth and will never be able to truly prepare children for the future.
2. The Promotion of God vs. the Rejection of God
God is the creator and originator of all aspects of life, and He wants to be involved in our lives. In the public schools there is an open movement to give preference to other religions in the name of tolerance and diversity (all with the result of devaluing Christianity). As the public school attempts to be all things to all people they become a system that no longer honors the true God.
3. Man is Made in the Image of God vs. Man is the Result of Evolution
Christian schools teach the biblical account of creation which states that mankind is the result of God’s creative act and that people are made in His image and likeness. The public schools state that evolution is a fact (though it is truly only a theory). Such teaching equates mankind with animals who must simply obey their natural impulses. Impulsive living leads to an erratic lifestyle that is not honoring to the Lord.
4. Man is a Sinner vs. Man is Good and Needs to Express Himself
The school’s approach to children will be determined by their belief about them and about their present condition. Understanding that children have a sinful nature will allow the teacher to meet the child’s spiritual needs and not just their intellectual needs. They have a need of the Saviour, and presenting salvation and sanctification in Christ is the highest priority. On the other hand, the public school views children as “basically” good. They reason that a child left to himself will make the right choice and do good. If you’ve been a parent any amount of time, you know this is naïve reasoning. Children left to themselves will have problems and difficulties. They don’t have to be taught to do wrong and then try to cover it up. Such reasoning influences the manner of discipline used in the school as well. A child who is free to “express himself” is adhering to the notion that he determines what is right or wrong, yet God’s divine law should set the standard for conduct in the school. Of course, this practice dovetails with the philosophy of authority. Many public schools do not place their teachers as “authorities” in the classroom; they are only “facilitators.” This causes students to lose respect for all authority and thus develop character traits which will hinder them throughout their lives.
5. The Need for High Academic Standards vs. No Need for Standards
Children must realize that they must do their best, and children who learn this principle will become adults who do their best. Teachers are preparing the next generation, and they need to challenge their students to become all that they can become in life. In the public schools, academics are too flexible. One example (just one of many) is the lackadaisical teaching of math. Computations are not taught in the modern classroom because students have access to computers and calculators. This is short-sighted and impractical, yet the standard remains low. It fosters the mentality that the satisfaction of immediate interest is more important (it’s easier to use a calculator than to work out the problem). Students need to learn that some things in life require hard work. Taking the easy way out doesn’t adequately prepare students for the difficulties they are sure to face in the future. Students need to be able to learn the processes and gain the determination to “work out the problems” in life that will be more significant the scenarios of mathematical word problems. These may seem like minute concerns, but actions repeated over time will create habits that can determine the results of one’s entire life.
Many will say, “My child can get a good education in public school.” Of course, that depends on your definition of good education. If your goal as a parent is simply to set career goals for your children, then the public school will equip your child at some level of competence and preparation for the workforce. However, you must consider whether or not the Bible indicates that something more than career training should be a focal point of education. In harmony with the teachings of Psalm 1, for children to be happy and to prosper in education and in life, they must have (1) Christian teachers (2) who give them Bible based, Christ centered education where Christ is given “preeminence” and (3) their lives must be saturated in the Word of God. These aspects will allow the children to unite their lives with the Scriptures and help parents fulfill their responsibility to provide biblical education for their children.
I often hear Christian parents say about their child’s public school attendance, “My child is a light to those who walk in darkness. We use it as a means of evangelism.” There are several things to consider:
1. Does God ever advocate exposure to philosophies that work against the Bible, even if it has some sort of perceive “goodness?” No. The Bible says we should mark those that teach contrary to the Bible and avoid them (Romans 16:17; Colossians 2:8).
2. Given the contrary philosophy of public education, is it ethically responsible for a parent to expose their Christian child to inappropriate teachings? No. Parents are bound to ensure biblical teaching takes place in their children’s lives (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
3. Does the importance of evangelism outweigh exposure to false teaching? No. While I advocate that all Christians take opportunities to witness to friends, loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, and anyone that they encounter (Matthew 28:19-20), there are biblical mandates that govern our philosophy and practice of education that restrain a Christian’s exposure to that which is ungodly (I John 2:15-17) and constrain a Christian’s attendance to that which is glorifying to God (I John 1:7). The question then becomes, “Can an educational system based on ungodliness glorify the Lord?” The answer is obvious.
Another common retort is, “My child has a public school teacher who is Christian.” Simply being taught by a person who is a Christian does not classify your child’s holistic educational experience as “Christian.” Furthermore, because the Christian teacher works in the public school, he will never be able to implement a biblical philosophy of education nor provide biblically based tactics, techniques, and procedures in the classroom.
Some parents fear that their kids won’t be ready for the “real world.” Let us ask this question, “Who is more prepared for the challenges of life – the Christian who is filled with the Scriptures or the person who is void of biblical understanding?” The Bible is replete with examples of prosperity for those who cleave to the Bible (Psalm 1:1-3, Joshua 1:8) and with examples of those who faltered as a result of their lack of understanding (Proverbs 1:7; 7:6-27). Education must be founded upon the Word of God, a classification that can only be an aspect of Christian education.
One of the major concerns I hear expressed by Christian parents is that they cannot afford Christian education. On the contrary, I don’t think you can afford public education. Many people, especially those of us who attended and graduated from public school, subjectively assess the effectiveness of their educational process and the resultant product. They say, “Well, I turned out alright. It can’t be that bad.” First of all, if your goal for your children is to just “turn out alright,” you have a pretty low standard for your kids. Secondly, your lethargy in attention to your child’s education is a neglect of your God-given responsibility to provide your children with a God-honoring and Christ-centered education. You must keep in mind that the public school will shape your children’s perspectives on morality, ethics, and even God Himself. The Christian school may cost you money, but the public school will cost you the Christian character of your children.
The education of our children is far too important to take a casual approach to their participation in it. The influence of education and educators on our children will not be fully realized until many years into their schooling. As a Christian parent, ensure that your child receives the best foundation for the life and lifestyle that the Lord wants for them. The best education you can ever give your child is one that is biblically based and Christ-centered. The Lord and His Word have the most solidified and most satisfying vision for your children. Do all you can to make this biblical vision your own standard of education.