Seth has started a firestorm over at Contend Earnestly (and on Facebook) over the issue of public schools. It really is quite remarkable how this issue gets so emotional. Here's my take.
Like Seth, I came up in public schools, but then we weren't a Christian family until I was in high school (when Presbyter and I came to Christ). By then I'd been exposed to plenty: alcoholism, two divorces, racial tensions and violence, emotional breakdowns ... you get the idea. Moreover, many of the teachers and subjects I encountered in school were openly secular. Of course, atheistic evolution is taught as fact; premarital sex is inevitable so make it "safe"; homosexuality is genetic, etc. I distinctly remember my disdain with which my sex education teacher talked about the so-called "Christian view": "Sex is for reproduction". Period dot.
So when we sent our kids to school, we chose ... public schools. Really. Let me explain why:
1. I have no beef with people who make other choices. We have often considered them ourselves, and reserve the right to go another direction based on the circumstances. So far it hasn't come to that.
2. There are financial considerations. I thought about putting this last, but that would communicate a false high-mindedness ... frankly, the alternatives aren't free, and some are quite expensive.
3. Family dynamics also play into it. For us, home-schooling just didn't seem plausible given our family's temperament. For example, my son has a hard time concentrating on schoolwork at home (he generally gets his homework done at school). My wife finds it much easier to teach other people's kids than her own. I can be borderline ADD (brilliantly self-diagnosed). Home schooling just didn't seem like the best option for us.
4. There is a reason for Christians to be in the public square. I touched on this idea in a couple of places, including my recent posts my high school friend George and about the secessionists. In the former, I spoke of the impact a faithful Christian boy had on my early spiritual growth (George had transferred in from a private Christian school). In the second, I quoted 1 Peter 2:12 and asked how we can live good lives "among the pagans" if we don't actually live our lives among the pagans. Even kids can be a light to their world.
5. There is something to be said for kids having the opportunity to learn how to live and defend their faith from an early age. They will need to learn it eventually. Believe me, I met my share of private school kids during my early years in the military. Many had led such sheltered lives that they were completely unprepared for the onslaught of peer pressure that hit them once they had left the nest.
Now, let none of this suggest that I look down on anyone who makes choices different than ours. Chief teaches in a private Christian school. As mentioned in my previous post, Jailbreaker's kids went to Japanese public schools and received supplemental home-schooling (and have turned out wonderfully). This is clearly a place for Christians to make informed judgments based on Scripture, the Spirit's leading, good advice, and their own particular circumstances.
One final note on this--for those who make the same choice we did, I would encourage a lot of classroom involvement by the parents. My wife has remained very involved in the kids' schools from the early days. Even as she has gone back to work, she has maintained close contact with the kids' teachers (of course, it doesn't hurt that her work has been as a public school teacher).