Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Public Schools and the Christian Family

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).


  1. Wonderful post! We've stuggled with private, homeschooling (last option for us) and public. We chose public for the same reasons as you. It can be argued that we could give our kids better education at home or even in a private school. For us, though, education isn't the only thing we want our kids to learn during the next 12+ years. Life is so much more than just classes, though if the school system in our area wasn't good, we probably would look elsewhere. Interesting tidbit: A Bible professor from our college said that all the Bible professors sent their children to public school, but all the engineering professors did homeschooling. That was at our college, but I would've been interested to know why they chose those different routes. And yes, the financial aspect did play a role into our decision as well (I didn't mean to post that at the end of my comment!) Thanks though for the great post. Would it be okay if I copied and pasted it into a doc that I could save?

  2. Of course! My scattered thoughts are out for the world to see and use as people see fit.

  3. As for me I e-school. This is a public school done via computer at home. This is free! They send the computer, all the work books and any tools they need! There is no expence ecause they also help with internet costs.

    My considerations are as follows
    1. we suffer no colds and flus during the school year!
    2. We do not worry about the children on the roads in the winter!
    3.Our children have that personal touch they never get in school.
    4. We can put a Christian spin on every subject we find objectionalble in school.
    5. They are not bullied.
    6. There are many social events with the online school and our church.
    7. We can instill faith in our children without the anti-religion comments of the educators of our public schools.
    8. Also, the hours are flexable and if we need to leave town, a laptop allows us to access the classes very well.....

  4. Lightwriter -- that's interesting. I haven't heard of such a program. I assume it's unique to your state?

  5. Great article. My wife an I have struggled with this very issue. Both of us strayed away at very young ages and went down the road of drugs and alcohol while in public schools. However, just like the article we too have chosen to have our children go to public schooling for the very same reasons.

    The wonderful part of our story is that we are now Christ followers and are raising our children in a Christian home. Just recently our 9 year daughter was telling us that she was sharing with one of her friends about her church and learning about Jesus - praise the Lord.

  6. We too shared that struggle, and chose public school. In fact, my youngest just graduated and walked in commencement last night as the family all watched and applauded. Though we chose public school, we did homeschool our daughter for 1 1/2 years because she had fallen behind due to some health reasons, but then we reintegrated her to the public school system when she was caught up.

    One of my biggest concerns with Christian schools was eloquently expressed by my 16 year old son when he dated a girl from the local Christian school. He started hanging out with kids from the Christian school and attending their parties, and he came to me because he had some confusion. He said "Dad, pagans are supposed to act like pagans and Christians are supposed to act like Christians. At least at public school you know who the pagans are and you know who the Christians are. At the Christian school, aren't they all supposed to be Christians? If so, why do they act like pagans?"

    There were kids that attended the high priced Christian school because they were forced to go there by their conservative families and were choosing to rebel, and kids that attended because they had been kicked out of public school and had no place else to go, or those that were there because the family liked the status of private school, not necessarily because they had a deep abiding relationship with Christ. When those kids acted like "pagans", it caused confusion and cognitive dissonance for other Christian kids who had a hard time understanding why “Christians” behaved the way they did.

    I must add that my children, particularly my rowdy, outspoken, no-holds-barred middle child, became apologists in the public school. When my middle son was told to stop passing out flyers advertising an event at our Church, he asked why he couldn’t do so since every other flyer in the world could be passed out. There was never a good answer given, only that they would “kick him out of school” if he didn’t stop promoting a Church event. His response was “Go ahead. Kick me out and make me a martyr for the cause. That will REALLY get people involved!” The school backed down and the event was very well promoted. Would we have seen that kind of passion had we sent our children to Christian School?

  7. Although my son goes to public schools, I'm always mindful of what Dr. Ron Gleason, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Yorba Linda said,"If you're going to send your kids to Caesar, you're going to get Romans back.

  8. I've read through the posts and appreciate the information. My first choice is homeschool, second is a Christian school. Our public schools are decent I hear and the finanical piece is definitely a concern as a single-mom. However, with regard to the culture-at-large, I think part of my responsibility as a shepherd of my son, is to make sure he learns about sin in us and in the world with the plethora of daily examples we all encounter so that he is prepared. My first priority is that my son learns to love and fear the Lord and follow and obey. In this he will be prepared for all things to come. My concern is based on the culture's negative influence on an immature Christian and wanting him to be solidly supported as he grows.


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