Wondering About the Schools
I wonder how many of my Christian friends whose kids are in public schools genuinely desire an explicitly Christian education for their children, but are unable to provide it. That is, they cannot afford a private Christian school, and homeschooling is not feasible, given our current economy. To these friends, the words of Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson hit home: “I have sympathy . . . with Catholic citizens who are compelled by law to pay taxes for public schools, and also feel constrained by conscience and discipline to support other schools for their own children.” Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing Tp., 330 U.S. 1, 18 (1947).
Then I wonder how many of my Christian friends and acquaintances have their children in public schools because they genuinely believe that a public school education will be a better education than the private Christian educations available to them, whether at a Christian school or by homeschooling. In other words, these Christians would send their kids to a private Christian school, or would homeschool them, if they thought doing so would provide a superior overall education for their children. Undoubtedly there are many mediocre or worse Christian schools open for business, and some parents simply do not have the wherewithal to successfully carry off the homeschooling enterprise. Yet I wonder how sub-standard the Christian education has to be before it becomes a larger detriment to a Christian student than are the public schools with their official agnosticism, their politicized historicism, their overt sexualization, and their unwarranted scientism, to name just a few of the larger public school deficiencies.
I further wonder how many Christian parents have their children in public schools because it is simply the least hassle. Don’t get me wrong, I do not discount this. I have three healthy, energetic (sometimes hyper) boys. I know what it would mean for them to be out of the house during the middle of the day. In my mind I picture a Christian family that is really pressed to the limit. The stresses coming from jobs, from children, from bills to pay, from laundry to do, from housework and yardwork, from extracurricular commitments, from church commitments, from relationships in general, simply cause some Christians to reason: “You know, I just want my kids out of the house for a few hours where I don’t have to worry about them. They’re at school, they’re learning, they have responsible and competent teachers, they’re making friends, and they are ‘out of my hair’ during the day so that I can simply get some things done and not be overwhelmed. And we’ll work out the spiritual kinks at home.” I just wonder for how many Christians this is truly what is going on.
Finally, I wonder how many Christian parents keep their kids in public schools for almost entirely non-academic reasons. That is, they intentionally want their kids in public schools because they believe that their children are meant to be “salt and light” in the schools, because they want to befriend non-Christians and be a Christian light to other parents who they will come to know through the public school relational network, because they fear that Christians will be ghetto-ized, irrelevant and unable to effectively reach others for Christ if Christians abandon the public schools, because they don’t want their kid to end up “weird,” or simply because their kid is a great athlete and they want him or her to play public school sports. Other non-academic motivations could be adduced. But I wonder.
And I wonder, if we’re being honest with ourselves, how much Christian conversion is going on because Christians remain in the public schools, and if the number of converts to Christ outweighs the number of Christian kids who have abandoned their parents’ faith because they were “converted” to secular agnosticism or some kind of non-biblical “spirituality” through the influence of the public schools. I wonder how many Christian parents believe that it’s a crap-shoot as to whether their child will grow up to be a believer, no matter what they do as parents. I wonder what the effect on people, on our institutions, on our culture and society would be if Christians, on a large scale, pulled their kids out of public schools, and educated them, with great rigor, with an explicitly Christian education, so that they might learn to think and act in more robustly Christian ways. I wonder if we’d actually “ghetto-ize” ourselves, if we’d become “irrelevant,” or if we’d be abandoning God’s saving purposes. Or I wonder if we might, as Talbot School of Theology is doing, train and equip Christian men and women to think faithfully, excellently, Christianly and rigorously, such that these men and women go out, as they are doing even now, and influence not only individuals, but institutions, for Christ. I wonder, on balance, which one will lead to more conversions to Christ.
I just wonder.