This article is not going to be a tirade against public schooling. I have many intelligent Christian friends who have their children enrolled in public school, and I do not think less of them for it by any means. But, I feel God leading me to say a few words about one enormous failing of public education. My intent is not to try and convince parents of publicly schooled children to switch to homeschooling or private school. (For many families, public school is the only option, period.) My goal here is to help you understand the core problem with secularized education and offer advice on how to successfully counteract it.
I need to begin by first explaining why my husband and I have chosen to homeschool our sons. It’s not for the reasons commonly thought by non-homeschooling parents or by secularists.
I do not homeschool in order to isolate my children from non-Christians. Now, it is certainly true that the vast majority of people my kids come into contact with are Christians, because we are active in our church and most of our friends and family are Christians. The fact of the matter is that a shared worldview draws people into close relationships with one another. But if a non-Christian family moved in next door, for example, those children would be welcome to come hang out at my home. This is the example set by Jesus Christ himself.
I do not homeschool in order to shield my children from certain scientific theories about the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of species. Actually, I began teaching my kids about the current scientific thought on these matters at about the age of 7, and I do this by explaining the scientific theories from the secular perspective and the theistic perspective. Furthermore, I make sure they understand the diversity of views on origins WITHIN Christendom, including the strengths and weaknesses of each position. The most important thing a Christian parent can teach their children about this topic is that there is great synergy, not conflict, between science done correctly and theology done correctly.
Okay, with all that said, what is the giant failing of public education that needs to be understood and effectively counteracted by parents of children enrolled in public school?
A secularized education communicates the falsehood that truths about the world are entirely separable from–and have meaning apart from–God and the Christian worldview. Attempts to “neutralize” education in order to accommodate a pluralistic society result in distortions that slant everything away from the truth about God, the nature of man, and objective morality. The “big questions” may not be directly addressed in the classroom, but this avoidance automatically yet subtly communicates the philosophy of relativism–that there are many “right” answers to those questions, so the school room is not the place to teach one particular view.
What does this mean for children who attend public school but are from practicing Christian families? They tend to grow up with a compartmentalized intellect. On the one hand, there’s everything they learn at school, and on the other hand, there’s everything they learn at home and at church. But this is all wrong. All truth is God’s truth, and every discipline (history, mathematics, science, literature, social studies, etc.) is related in some fashion to ultimate reality.
I’ve often heard parents say, “Well, almost all the teachers at our public school are Christians, so I’m not worried.” This shows misunderstanding about the central issue here. It’s not about what a teacher may quietly choose to skip when presenting the state curriculum to his or her class; it’s about the teacher’s complete inability, legally speaking, to present anything within the correct framework.
Take a look at this very short but excellent video:
(I highly recommend that entire video series, even if you never plan to homeschool. There are some great nuggets of wisdom in them!)
So, is there a viable solution for families that use public education? I think there is, but it involves a serious commitment of time, energy, and some financial resources.
1. Parents need to be fully aware of everything their children are learning in school and how things are being taught so that they can explain how worldview plays into each and every subject. Philosophical adjustments to the material will need to be made when instructing the child on how to integrate the facts they’re learning into the over-arching Christian worldview. This will require quite a lot of reading and preparation on the parents’ part. I would strongly suggest studying books on worldview and culture by respected Christian scholars such as Nancy Pearcey (Total Truth is a must-read, but all of her books are excellent) and at least one good book on relativism such as Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl and Dr. Francis Beckwith. If you have older children, read such books together and discuss them. Summer break is an excellent time for something like this.
2. Ongoing intellectual dialogue between parents and children is essential. Talk about their studies with them at every opportunity (car rides, dinner table, etc.) and ask them deep questions. For example, say they’re studying World War II and Nazi Germany. That’s the perfect time to have serious discussions on the sanctity of life, on the social implications of neo-Darwinism (carefully distinguishing it from common descent), the nature of man, and objective morality.
3. Go to conferences and workshops on apologetics, worldview, and classical education. If you have kids in high school, take them along with you. You will glean a wealth of information and practical tools for fostering a fully integrated worldview in your home. You could even enroll in an online course from time to time. Various universities, seminaries, and ministries offer non-degree programs in apologetics and worldview with high-caliber content. Pass along your knowledge to your children in conversation.
And last, but most importantly, no matter how you have chosen to school your children, be in continual prayer about how you can best guide them into a coherent and integrated view of reality. God will honor your efforts to bring Him glory through teaching your children to better love Him with their minds.