January 5, 2009

My Educational Soapbox

Preface: this post started out as a comment I was leaving on this post by Minnesota Mom. I realized how long my comment was becoming, and I decided to make it into a post. To see the video I am referencing, please click on the above link to view her post.
What is expressed below is my opinion, nothing more. It is not my intent to hurt or offend anyone who believes differently from the view I express below. What you have decided regarding your children is between you and God. I am not saying that anyone is a bad parent, or that their child is doomed. We all know the expression about opinions... I am sure that what I have to say about public school is not true for every school system. I happen to live in a state with a inferior public school system, and I taught in a low-income school. But I do believe that what I have to say concerning morality and the values taught in public school applies to public schools across the board.
The ideas expressed in the video seem very radical when you initially see the video. While I don't agree with the way they phrased some things in the video, I do agree with the overall sentiment behind them. Christianity is not present, welcomed, or allowed in the public school system, but everything contrary to Christianity is. Children are highly impressionable, and I don't think that they should be exposed to all that is present in public school until they are old enough to distinguish what is right and wrong, and WHY.
I attended Christian school, where I received a far better education than my public school contemporaries. I was surrounded by teachers and students who believed the same as I did. Thanks to the close-knit aspect of my school, I made life-long friends. I believe that if parents have the resources, and there is a quality Christian school available, then Christian school can be the best educational situation.
However, Christian schools are often seen by parents as a last-resort measure for their kids. My school had several students enrolled who were sent to our school because they had been kicked out of public school. Believe me when I say that it takes a lot to get permanently kicked out of public school. These students exposed my classmates and I to a lot of things that were contrary to what we believed. The good thing about those situations was that when we encountered a peer who believed contrary to what we believed, we were the majority and the other person was the minority. We had teachers who took a personal interest in the students and tried to teach them what was wrong with their ideas when compared to Christianity.
In a public school situation, the Christian child is the minority, and the teachers are made to explain that there is no one right way. Mommy and Daddy might teach the kid moral absolutes several hours a week, but the kid is hearing that everything is relative 30+ hours a week. It is very hard for a young child to stay strong in his faith when confronted with peer pressure. We all know about the admonition not to be unequally yoked within a marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14). This is because the chances are that the unbeliever will pull the believer down, instead of the other way around. Humans are wired for companionship and nearly everyone has a need to be accepted. When there are 1 or 2 students who try to do the right thing in a class of 25, the students will probably not stay strong in their morals. They will most likely be pulled down.
I taught public school for 3 years before BB was born, and I saw firsthand how the Christian children were treated. Even though I taught in the Bible Belt, the children who tried to always do what was right were ridiculed for being weak and were labeled as goody two-shoes. Sadly, it was other teachers who enlightened the students on what to call the Christian kids. I should explain that when I use the word Christian to describe students, I mean students that behaved as Christians should. If I had surveyed my students as to their religion (which I wouldn't have been allowed to do), I am sure that 80% or more of my students would have called themselves Christian, and probably close to half went to church each Sunday. But like I said before, children (and adults) tend to model what they see the most.
Another important factor to consider is that teachers serve as role models for many of their students. Teachers are not allowed to discuss religion, or allowed to say that something is right or wrong unless it has to do with being intolerant. Yet the same teachers are not prohibited from using bad language or gossiping about adult matters with other teachers in situations where the students can overhear.
My husband was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school. Other than his love for video games, I believe that he was probably the stereotypical homeschooler. As more people are turning to homeschool, there are more opportunities for homeschoolers to interact with others their own age. My husband's kid brother and sister attend weekly classes with other homeschoolers and they have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities with their homeschool group.
The public school system is damaged beyond repair. Pouring more money into the system is not going to solve the problems. Parents have a responsibility to God on how they raise their children. I believe that I will one day have to answer to God for how I raised BB (Hebrews 13:17). I do not want to do anything that will cause BB to question his faith, or to make him less likely to stand strong in the face of adversity. Until BB is old enough to know right from wrong and has the ability to use critical thinking skills to determine his stance on moral issues, I don't believe that he should be extensively exposed to the world's point of view.
I am not advocating a bunker mentality; I do not think that Christians should only deal with other Christians. I realize that we are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and that we are to go into the world and preach (Matthew 28:16-20). Yet Jesus was speaking to adults in these situations, not wide-eyed 5 year-olds. We are commanded to not offer our children to idols. I make the argument that it is possible to do this by sending your child to public school. An idol is certainly the graven image that was prevalent in Bible times, but it is also the worship of ideas. There are many ideas offered in public school today that children are expected to embrace. These same ideas are often contrary to the Bible, thus making the ideas false. Children are expected to learn these ideas and implement them into their thinking. Proverbs 23:7 cautions us about what we think, because what we think becomes who we are. As a Christian, I am to uphold God's teachings. I am to love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). I cannot do that 100% if part of my mind is given over to false teachings. Christians need to be able to recognize false teachings for what they are and to reject the false teachings when they hear them. If a false idea is encountered before a Christian is able to refute it, there exists the possibility that the idea will be internalized and will influence the person's development. Once an idea becomes ingrained, it is very hard to displace. I do not want to throw up a stumbling block to BB's development.
I pray that BB will come to know Christ personally at an early age and that he will have a meaningful faith; a true thirst for God while he is still a child. I am so far from perfect. I know that I will not do a perfect job teaching BB. But I believe that God does not expect perfection. I do believe that God expects me to do my work to the best of my ability (Ecclesiastes 9:10). For me, that includes how my son is educated.


  1. Heather,
    I am so glad to have found your site. Although I am not a parent yet, we share so many similarities that it is nice to see how I may one day run things in my own household, and I appreciate reading your insights!

    As a prior teacher too (I now work in the college system), I am disheartened as well at the state of the public system. Christian values seem to have no place there, and that saddens me. I do hope I'll be able to provide a sound and whole education for my future children, in whatever way that requires.

    Keep up the good work! I'll continue reading :)

  2. Well written and clear post!!! And of course, I agree with every single thing you said.

  3. Love your new theme. I hate how most Blogger themes have comments on another page...

    (Warning: the following might be strongly worded. If you're able, please take it as "passionate" rather than "bombastic" or "offensive")

    Gotta say, I agree with you on this one. The idea that we shouldn't "abandon" the public schools and be "salt and light" at the expense of our children's mental and spiritual development really gets my goat. If you don't feel like it's worth the hassle or really believe you can't give your children an alternative because of finances, just say so -- don't come up with pseudo-spiritual justification for leaving them in government schools. I want my house guarded from intruders -- so why would I station my child with a gun at the door? That's the logic behind the "salt and light" canard. We're letting hens guard the henhouse! The most valuable time for training up a child in the way they should go is the developmental phase of early childhood, and the young teen age is the time when they're the most vulnerable to outright attacks on their beliefs and values. I'm all for churning out culture warriors, but I'll be darned if I send the precious gifts God's entrusted me with out there before I've done my level best to prepare them.

    Heather said, Mommy and Daddy might teach the kid moral absolutes several hours a week, but the kid is hearing that everything is relative 30+ hours a week.

    Absolutely right. The kind of preparation I'm talking about can't be done in 3 hours on Sundays and 2 on Wednesdays, plus a family Bible story every night; if you think the other side is that lazy, think again.

    People make this big deal about "sheltering" our kids. Does this make any sense? Which would you rather your children be able to say about you one day?

    1) They sheltered me from things they were afraid I wasn't ready for.

    2) They sent me out to battle things they were afraid I wasn't ready for.

    Like I said, please don't take this as a personal attack, but as a forceful declaration of a position I hold passionately.

  4. Thanks for the back-up, Steve! And thanks zeez and Heather for your input!

  5. *cracks knuckles*

    Okay, you KNOW I've got to weigh in on this. First of all I loved that video (I was already familiar with Voddie Baucham and he's awesome).

    I, like you and Steve, feel that the "salt and light" argument is a tired one. It may make you (that is parents) feel all warm and fuzzy inside to think that your child is being a "witness for Christ"...in 1st grade. But repeat after me: he's not. I went to public school and I went to church every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night during high school. And I listened to ungodly music, could cuss a blue streak, lied like a pro, etc. So you can see which influence in my life won out.

    I have two major reasons (among others) for being pro-homeschool: my wife Lyndsay and her brother Stephen. These are two very smart (and very well-adjusted) people who never kept their parents up worrying at night and who never strayed from their faith. Those are the kinds of kids I want to raise. Uncompromising, ever-faithful, and radical.

  6. Excellently worded. I like it.

  7. Hey Heather, I have a whopper of a comment that I feel rude leaving on your blog, so I'll put it back in the comments on my original post. Thanks for taking time to answer my questions passionately!

  8. Heather,

    What an interesting discussion!

    I would add just one thing, and that is that even homeschooling cannot always protect children from bad influences, and some kids seem to seek them out or bust!

    There can be a false security that comes with homeschooling, and even a sinful pride, that makes us think we're guaranteed a good result, if we only homeschool--and we're not.

    Not to say that you or any of your commentors are saying that. But across the board, I think it's a problem in the homeschooling community.


  9. Jeanne: true, true! I almost started to include that very point in with my original post, as a way of making my post more "balanced" I declined to do so, however, because I wanted to keep the discussion centered on the main point. I do have a bit to say about the homeschooling safety fallacy, which I plan on discussing in the near future.

  10. I really enjoyed reading the post, and the comments all make very good points too. I'm having such a truly rotten homeschool day today that I am grateful to God for leading me here to renew some of my vision! Thanks for opening up this discussion!



Thank you so much for caring enough to leave a comment! I typically don't respond to each separate comment here on my blog. If you would like to ask me a question and have my reply, please feel free to e-mail me at heathershodgepodge@hotmail.com