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Should Christian Parents Send their Children to Public Schools?

Dr. Albert Mohler: For Christians who take the Christian worldview seriously and who understand the issues at stake, the answer is increasingly no.

by
Paula Bolyard

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October 6, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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It’s not really new for Christian leaders to advise parents to remove their children from the public schools. James Dobson encouraged an exodus in 2002, and in 2004 the Southern Baptist Convention introduced a resolution urging parents to remove their children from government schools (it was soundly defeated at the group’s annual meeting that year). At the time, the question was almost always framed as “should Christians remove their children from public schools?” Many argued that Christians should maintain a presence in the schools — that schools could be redeemed, both as an institution and spiritually. Christian children could — and even should — be missionaries in the schools, many argued.

Now, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has turned the question on its head, instead asking, “Is Public School an Option?” In a recent article, Mohler, an influential evangelical Christian cultural and intellectual leader, wrote:

The growing chaos in society is forcing Christians to rethink even their most cherished assumptions about their relationship with government institutions.

Mohler begins with the reminder that parents are responsible for the education of their children — that God will hold parents accountable for the decisions they make regarding their children, including on their education. “The duty of Christian parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord cannot be delegated to anyone else—not to the state, not to the schools, and not even to the church.” So regardless of how or where children are “formally” educated, the responsibility for spiritual training ultimately rests with the parents.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, most American children have attended public schools. Mohler looks back nostalgically at the American century:

Evangelical families sent their children to the public schools with confidence and with eagerness. They had little interest in other alternatives for the simple reason that they saw little need for any alternative. Evangelical Christians were happy with the public schools and saw them as both effective and efficient in the delivery of an American education. They also saw the public schools as safe and healthy places for children, and they grew to love the athletic programs and extracurricular activities that grew along with the schools in the American Century, as the last century came to be known.

But by the end of the twentieth century, evangelical Christians began to leave public schools by the millions as the country witnessed an explosion in Christian schools and homeschooling.

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Top Rated Comments   
It's not just about values and philosophy (Christian or otherwise) - it's also about simply getting an education. The public schools are dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. If you have an above average child, that means he or she will be bored much of the time. Even for an average kid - using whole words to teach reading (vs. phonics), new math, etc., will seriously hamper your child's progress plus impede his or her ability to continue learning. Additionally, they don't seem to teach logical thinking skills at schools anymore, judging by the inability of leftist teens to defend their arguments rationally (vs. by going off on name-calling rants).

Add to that - if your child tends to fidget, etc., when he or she is bored, or if your child is simply an active boy (or girl) then there's a chance they'll diagnose with ADHD and prescribe drugs. If your child has a learning disability, or is being bullied, or shy... again, these are all situations in which the public schools have been proven to be problematic.

And that's just on top of the political and moral brainwashing.

Home school your children. Even if you are intimidated because you are not all that educated - you can learn along with them. The advantages you have - you really love your children. You WANT to push them to do their best (vs. making sure they are easy for you to manage). You want to encourage them to think rationally and make good decisions. You have practical skills you can impart that are of value to them - everything from balancing a checkbook to cooking a meal, sewing on a button, changing the oil in the car, etc.

You can make reading fun for your child instead of discouraging by teaching them with phonics when they are as young as 3, and reading them stories they enjoy. You can be aware of when they are getting fidgety and instead of forcing them to stay in a seat, you can introduce active learning exercises or intersperse periods of play with periods of desk time. You can make sure they are not bullied, that they have nice friends and wholesome social activities.

If your child has a learning disability you can spend more time with him or her to overcome it. If he or she is brilliant in one or more areas, you can help him or her find resources to stay challenged. You can join home-school organizations or groups through your church or synagogue or temple or whatever so your child has plenty of play mates; you can also check the local YMCA, the local schools, etc., for sports teams, after school programs, etc.

IN other words - there is no reason not to home-school. OK maybe you give up an extra income. But your child is more important than a new car, annual vacations, etc. There are very few middle class families who really need two incomes. Most families WILL struggle with only one income, but it can be done. I have neighbors with 4 kids where the Dad is a nurse, Mom stays home - Mom cooks all meals from scratch, Dad does most home repairs, they don't have cable, vacations consist of driving to visit family, etc.

My Mom stayed home when I was a kid. My parents kept only one car, Mom clipped coupons and sold veggies from the garden, etc.

In other words - for most middle class parents, you can manage to home-school, you just have to be willing to give up some stuff. For the working poor - it's a lot harder. However, that's when your church, community, etc., might be able to help. If churches or other communities of like minded people work together - it could make it easier for even working class parents to home school.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Is it fair to put a young child in the position of choosing between what their teacher is telling them and what their parents and Sunday school teachers say?"
That's exactly what we've had to do at times. I told my kids bluntly that if their teachers tell them anything contrary to what they are taught at home or church, that their teachers are wrong. Period.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know why anyone who claims to be a conservative or libertarian sends their child to public school. To pontificate against intrusive and tyrannical government, and willingly hand your children over to that same government is as hypocritical as anything President Obama has ever done.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (56)
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I admit the discussion somewhat baffles me. Right in the third paragraph, “Mohler begins with the reminder that parents are responsible for the education of their children – that God will hold parents accountable for the decisions they make regarding their children, including on their education.” Agreed. God has given the responsibility of educating their children to their parents. Nowhere in Scripture does God grant the civil government with this authority – whether we like the local schools or not. It is patently clear to me. Why the question?

Perhaps it is because, deep down, we don’t want to let God be the final authority over our faith and life. We don’t want to know His Word and will and submit to it. We still want to do what is right in our own eyes and rationalize it. Well, sorry. We can’t live like the world, in contravention to God’s commands, and then complain that we don’t like the results. We can’t send our children off to be catechized by Baal and Mammon for 8 hours a day and expect disciples of the risen Lord. When our “cherished assumptions” about our “relationship with government institutions” does not match with the revealed Word, then perhaps we need to change our cherished assumptions.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey, not all states are like the other 49. My kids are in public school in Texas. In six years of elementary, the oldest had 4 Sunday School teachers, all of whom were more conservative than our family. The teachers prayed with the kids. They sent home books about kids going to church with their family. The principal kept an " They pass the standardized tests- and what I don't know, I can't testify to" hands-off approach.

The middle had one rough year with a veteran teacher, but five good years with Sunday School teachers, military vets, and very demanding male teachers.

The little one- who can tell? So far, two Sunday School teachers, and then this one, who is organized, affectionate, and demanding.

Texas regularly fights with the entire rest of the educational establishment- lawsuits, public hearings, civil disobedience, and all. The textbooks the district sends stay stacked up, outside the teachers' classrooms- they don't use them. They give them away at the end of the year.

The librarians are conservative, too. Laura Bush was a public school librarian. Do you think she's a flaming liberal?

I have issues with the current principal. But she's going to be leaving at the end of the year- she's had a rough, unsuccessful tenure- and she's not enjoying the power, I guess?

The middle school- again, iffy principal, good teachers.




41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Public schools should be closed, they are simply organizations to profit unions. There is nothing associated with education in public schools, they are immoral.

I have four daughters, they are all doing excellent and never needed public schools. Actually get an education in a Private school of your personal choice.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the 19th century, Protestants rendered their schools and all the children therein unto Caesar.

What is present is epilogue.

Now ya gotta ask yerself, why were the Catholics alone among Christians in resisting government schooling of their children for so long. (Joshua 24:15)
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
MarkInf: I told my kids bluntly that if their teachers tell them anything contrary to what they are taught at home or church, that their teachers are wrong. Period.

On one hand, I tend to agree with you. But that knife is double-edged: In some schools, for example when the Holocaust is taught (especially in Europe where it is sometimes a required course), Muslim kids tell the teachers, "My imam says it isn't true." Often Muslim students just fail to show up when the Holocaust is the subject. In some cases, teachers have simply avoided the subject or have failed to follow suggested guidelines when a majority of their students are Muslim.
Needless to say, this could apply to many other, less emotional subjects in the classroom as well.
I have discussed with my daughters the possibility of home schooling for my four grandchildren, but they are themselves very liberal and think their own public schools are just fine. For my part, at the moment all I can do is add interesting and more conservative books, games, and activities to my gift list for them. As they get older, we can also discuss what they are learning and I can hope to inspire more critical thinking. I fear it is not enough.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Public schools used to teach the three Rs. Now they teach the three Ss: sex, self-esteem, and social justice.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The answer is quite simple:

Parents who value their children should not send their children to public schools unless there is quite simply no other alternative.

Sometimes the best choice is still a pretty bad one -- certain recent presidential elections come to mind -- but better a bad one than a worse one. And homeschooling outcomes are typically pretty darned good, and private school outcomes are typically significantly better than public school outcomes for the same kind of kid.

So, public school? Last resort.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The idea of children as "missionaries" in the public schools has always struck me as, frankly, insane. Insane in the same way the Chilren's Crusades were insane.

Children are by and large, not strong in their faith. They lack experience of the world and of evil. Throwing them into the public schools and expecting the schools and the non-believing kids in them to change because of your Christian kids is madness. You might as well throw your kids to literal wolves. Occasionally God comes forth with a miracle like Daniel in the lions' den, but going in expecting one is the height of foolishness.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, the public schools cannot be redeemed unless and until conservative parents take over the school boards and start making sensible decisions for the local schools instead of knee-jerk or left-wing decisions. Meantime, people with appropriate skills should volunteer to help home-school parents help their children to get the educational requirements they need to fulfill and save the children from the indoctrination camps.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am tempted to say I agree. And I do, in concept. But I suspect that local school boards are so far down on the education totem pole that they get very little, if any, real say in content or choice of curriculum. I think that pretty much all they do is set the calendar, bus routes and assign staff and teachers. I don't think boards get much leeway in what is taught, when, using what books & other materials, and to what standard. I could be wrong, but I think that's how it is.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I like the idea of homeschool and private school, but our kids are in public school. We are Evangelical Christians, and feel good about the choice. My wife and I think it is important to not stay away from the world but to be in it and live in it with a loving, Christian lifestyle.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, we did the same and for the same reasons. As I wrote down below, conservative values were only strengthened in our kids by their public school experience as they saw first-hand on a daily basis the consequences of liberalism and immoral lifestyle. De-programming around the dinner table usually involved lots of lively discussion and much laughter!
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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