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Issue and Interchange

Simonds: It is Permissible to Educate Our Children in Public Schools

A Biblical definition of morality would be: to know right from wrong and to do what is right. For the Christian, the Bible is the only infallible book of right and wrong. It is also the Bible which guides a true Christian in "how" to do what is deemed to be absolutely right -- or moral.

It is my belief that parents can (not necessarily should) morally send their children to public schools. I have five children. All have gone through our public schools (one is still in the seventh grade) from Kindergarten through medical school. They have been outstanding witnesses and evangelists through school. All are walking with Christ. All adore Jesus and live from their Bibles daily. They are all grown (except our darling little twelve-year-old tag-along) and established in Christian professions or ministry. How did this happen, when according to my learned brother Doug Wilson (whom I deeply respect and largely agree with), I have been committing sin by sending them to public schools? Granted, what works for one Christian family may not be recommended for all, and granted that what works is not necessarily right (bribes work, but the Bible says they are not right). So let us analyze the reasoning and morality of the thesis and antithesis.

First, there are basically three ways to educate your child: (1) Home Schooling -- and this is the only clearly explicit method of educating children mentioned in Scripture; (2) Christian (or other private) schooling -- which in our day and age of corrupt public schools, is still the second most preferred method of educating our children; (3) Public schools --which is the least desirable of the three options but most used.

Therefore, I would argue for the only purely scriptural method of educating our children to be home schooling. Not only do you control the curriculum, the reading materials, and the moral and spiritual worldviews your child would learn, but you control the pedagogy (methods) used to teach them.

Naturally a home school is a "Christian school," but that is not the environment implied in Mr. Wilson's thesis. Therefore, if we hold to a strict Biblical directive, home schooling, by Mr. Wilson's own definition, would be the only option. However, while contending only for Christian schools, he skips over the only purely Biblical option -- home schooling -- which severely undercuts his general rationale.

The Christian school is the more practical option for most Christian parents, because of many parents' feelings of inadequacy for handling home schooling or perhaps both parents may be working.

In any case, parents still have the primary responsibility for educating their children -- whether at home, in Christian schools, or public schools. As good as Christian schools are, generally, we constantly find many using atheistic public school materials and even textbooks. Children are not necessarily safe there. Some home schooling is the only true safeguard.

After all our promotion of Christian schools to Christian parents, only ten percent of our church children attend Christian schools. Ninety percent of all church children today attend public schools. Of 44,000,000 K-12 children, only ten percent attend private schools and only five percent of those go to Christian schools (2.5 million), according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Statistics do not prove that something is right or wrong, but they point out where we are. Public schools are most used because they are free, convenient and (mistakenly) trusted. Christian schools are less used by Christians because of cost, inconvenience, and lack of information.

Let us analyze our brother's rationale, which would leave Christians who choose to send their children to public schools with a very big guilt trip. Not that guilt is not proper concerning sin. But to imply or explicitly state that it is immoral to send a child to public school may indicate an unscriptural attitude of judgment in an area of choice for Christians.

Now a brief look at Doug Wilson's rationale. First, Mr. Wilson defines public schools as "an officially agnostic, tax-supported institution of education for dependent children." And he rests the greatest weight of his argument on this presupposition and says, "any Christian who grants this definition will immediately concede...." Please note that this statement is inaccurate. That then weakens his entire thesis. Officially, public schools exist "to provide education to all America's children. The schools must remain neutral on teaching `of' religion, but not be inhibited in the teaching `about' religion."

In most cases, teachers try hard to follow this dictum. Of course, not always -- and we hear more about those who don't than those who do.

Secondly, the author says the "Scriptures expressly require a non-agnostic form of education." Agreed! But the Scriptures do not explicitly say where the theistic (Godly) education must come from. Obviously, though, the Bible makes it clear that it must come from the Christian home. The Scriptures admonish us to train up our own child -- not someone else's child. The schools may "teach" a child -- only a parent can "train" up a child. Teaching is only the first half of training. Teaching may cover the "about" portion of religious training, but training is the second and higher plane of indoctrinating a child into an automatic response action.

A pilot may be taught how to fly an A-15 jet fighter airplane. But if he is not trained before flying it he will surely die. Even so, Christians must learn the difference between teaching and training.

Every parent must accept the moral responsibility to teach and "train-up" their own children in their own home -- no matter where they may attend day school -- public or private. To do otherwise would not fulfill God's law. We would miss the mark. It would then be sin and not moral.

It should be pointed out that Daniel grew up in an environment of a hedonistic, occultic culture -- Babylon. His home training completely protected him. Mr. Wilson argues that parents can't help their children at night because they don't know exactly what their children learned that day. Really? Why not? We question our own children thoroughly. We read every single text and reading assignment. We provide them with overview, Scriptural truth, and point out errors. Christian parents' real moral obligation is to be available to help them as "you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up" (Deut. 6:8-9). Those are all done in the home.

In II Corinthians 10:4-5, we have a call to Christians to bring down the strongholds of the enemy -- not by keeping our kids out -- but by exercising good citizenship and being "salt" and "light" in our schools. We should be taking the entire system back to the control of Christian parents, not abdicating our moral and spiritual obligation to protect our own children and all of America's 44,000,000 K-12 students.

We have been copping-out for thirty years now. And what has it gotten us? From 1979-89, one third of all church children have dropped out of church -- largely because of an atheistic, no-value system in our public schools. Now that makes a great point for Mr. Wilson's thesis to put our children in Christian schools, right? Wrong. Why?

Because Christians are not putting them in Christian schools, in spite of our urging them to do so. Why not take another approach to this dilemma and make our public schools and our children's education the number one priority in every church. We could elect a majority of school board members in every one of America's 15,700 school districts.

Christian parents could then control all curriculum, textbooks, reading, teaching, and administration in just three short years. A dream? Hardly. We are already doing it by organizing a Citizens for Excellence in Education chapter in all 15,700 districts. The only thing stopping us from complete victory is a lack of funding. It can be done if we believe in God.

Why aren't all churches jumping in and making this total victory possible? Because we are still holding on to this archaic philosophy that it is immoral to send your children to public schools -- or even to be involved with public schools. Thank God that is changing. We have 75,000 Christian parents now involved with over 600 chapters and 1500 school districts now under local Christian influence.

And shouldn't Christian parents be trained to protect their children from bad education, no matter if it's in public or Christian schools? I could write a nice little book just on first hand counseling I've done with Christian parents with children in Christian schools, whose children have been taught everything from "values clarification" (no values -- all things are relative), to the occult -- and even child molestation. Are all Christian schools safe? Certainly not. Is a Christian "immoral" to send his child to those Christian schools? No! They should work to correct the problem, not run away and hide. This is true also in the public schools.

If it is "immoral" to send our child to a public school, then we must ask ourselves some very serious question. Is it "immoral" for a Christian to work for a secular company -- an ungodly and worldly bunch? Is it immoral for a Christian to vote for a person who is not a thoroughly born again, godly, Christian? Do we opt for the lesser of two evils or do nothing and thereby often choose the most evil of all? Shall we never use public facilities of any kind which are financed by taxes or run by civil authorities? Shall we stop paying taxes which are subsidizing public schools?

Our dear brother says that when we send our children to public schools we are subsidizing evil by our own taxes. But do you not pay those taxes whether you use the schools or not? Does not a Christian who pays taxes for his child's education get double-taxed when he must pay for his child's Christian school education? Is that good stewardship? Is it justice? No!

Mr. Wilson calls Christians to conquest: "The goal of the Christian church must be nothing less than intellectual conquest." I agree! Then why should we try to put a guilt trip on Christians as "immoral" for doing exactly that -- teaching their children to "conquer" evil in their own lives and resist the world's sins. If that kind of Christian reasoning long endures, you will see the demise of the church in our nation in just two more generations. May our loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ help us all to be rational, accurate, loving, patient, and kind to one another. How I love God's dear people! May we all commit ourselves to loving all innocent children who need our love, hard work, and victories in their behalf. Selah!

Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1991
1-17-96 tew
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