Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
I have been reading Doug Wilson’s Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education in preparation for attending a homeschooling conference – and because it has a giant subtitle. Sometimes it is mind-numbing to read a book about principles with which you already agree. In this case, however, it is refreshing and reassuring. The best part of Wilson’s book, in my opinion, is his third chapter, “The True Ministry of Education.” For a sample, here are Wilson’s thoughts on ‘Social Adjustment’:
“The response of peers and the school system to a godly student should be anticipated. Parents who send thier kids to the public school frequently do so in order to round out their social lives. Christian schools are usually smaller and cannot compete with public schools in athletics, band, dances, and so forth. But the parents of these kids also want them to stay out of compromising situations. These two desires are often inconsistent.”
While Wilson does not venture into my argument (‘social awareness’ is code for ‘make everyone the same’), his discussion of this ‘social awareness’ baloney goes deeper than conflicting desires. Parents’ worry their children will not be able to ‘fit in’ socially and will stick out in the crowd rather than being absorbed, is leading the children to public schools and the troubles therein – rampant immorality, poor educational standards, and constant messaging telling them that they need to be part of the crowd.
How about the argument that Christian kids are ‘salt and light’ in the public schools – that leaving the public schools removes any influence Christians have over the programs at the school? Wilson writes about former public school students who come to the Christian school in part because the Christians at the public were not much better than the unsaved. I can attest to this. After years of Christian school, I switched to public school and quickly my standards fell – by the grace of God, not as far as they might have – but they definitely fell. At the most impressionable ages, we are handing our kids over to people we do not even know for their education.
Wilson points out, rightly, our standards for babysitters are often more stringent than those we hold for teachers. This is where you tell me that I must have had a bad experience in high school. Actually, quite the contrary. I grew up in a very conservative and largely Christian area and to a certain degree that was reflected in the schools. I had a good number of friends and enjoyed my time at school – when I was not bored out of my mind (which was, admittedly, a large percentage of the time). I had several teachers who greatly influenced me. My experience was probably much better than most children have. Yet experience guides us very little in these matters. Experience creates bias.
So what should drive our decisions about schooling? Wilson is at his most brilliant when he gets down to the most basic: “Although there is no “sin” called “sending kids to public school,” the moral responsibilities of parents with regard to education are considerable. These responsibilities include providing a godly environment for instruction, teaching children to obey the first commandment by loving God with all their minds, evaluating Christian and secular school systems by the same standard, and recognizing the destructive impact a secular school system would have on their children. These considerations, taken together, do indicate that a good Christian education is a moral necessity.”
This is something I hope that every Christian parent struggles through, deciding what Christian education will look like in their home. Of course, I am heading to a homeschooling conference, so I do have my bias…