The Public School Environment
Scripture leaves no doubt that God’s people are to live in spiritual distinction from the world.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).
When covenant parents place their children in the public schools, they subject their children to rampant ungodliness and worldliness. They force their children to live in spiritual harmony with their ungodly peers. They force their children to speak the language of Ashdod (Neh. 13:24). Jehovah’s children are forced to agree with Belial.
We are all too well aware of the principle of peer pressure. Young children and teenagers are especially susceptible to the influences of their peers. When their schoolmates live a life of thorough wickedness, our children are tempted in extremities to live like them because sin always appears attractive. Sin is always attractive to the sinful flesh which our children are bound to. In such an environment, we allow the wicked iron of ungodly children to sharpen the countenance of our covenant seed (Prov. 27:17).
The moment we place our children in the public schools, we destroy the spiritual distinction that must always be maintained between them and the children of this world. Covenant children are to be separate from unbelieving children. Describing the antithesis between covenant children and unbelievers, Prof. Engelsma writes:
First, the life of the believer is subject to the Word of God, whereas the unbeliever’s life is independent of the Word and in rebellion against it. Second, the goal of life is different. The believer directs his life towards God. His life is God-centered. The unbeliever leaves God out. His life is man-centered (pg 57, Reformed Education).
Prof. Engelsma is precisely correct when we place our children in the public schools:
The antithesis is abolished, and the culture of the ungodly swallows up the children of God (pg 14, Reformed Education).
If they wisely refuse to integrate with their worldly school mates, our covenant children are bound to face persecution. They will be tormented in great measure because the world will hate those that do not belong to it (Jn. 15:19). The wicked shall revile, persecute and say all manner of evil against them falsely because they belong to Christ (Matt. 5:11). Instead of a place of learning, the school will be a cold and cruel environment to our covenant children. They will be left alone to fend for themselves in a spiritually hostile environment. How we allow our covenant children to be tormented like this is simply unimaginable.
We must understand that our children need friends as much as we do. Our responsibility as covenant parents is to choose the right kind of friends for them and the right environment for them to foster those friendships. The psalmist declares with great joy that it is good and pleasant for brethren—brothers and sisters who have and love the same God—to dwell together in unity (Ps. 133:1). Friendship cannot exist between God’s children and the devil’s. The seed of the woman is always at war with the seed of the serpent.
On the subject of friendship I have not found a sharper definition than one provided by Prof. Engelsma in another book:
Friendship with the unbeliever is both impossible and forbidden. Friendship demands oneness in Jesus Christ. My friend and I must have God as our God together. Whoever is an enemy of God is my enemy (pg 70, Common Grace Revisited, RFPA, 2003).
At a young and tender age, covenant children do not possess the spiritual maturity or developed faculties necessary to understand this distinction. They are young and easily impressionable. Naturally they make friends with those who are around them.
The evil environment to which our covenant children are daily exposed has tremendous repercussions on their spiritual development. Covenant parents may not be surprised when their children turn to the ways of this world and forsake their faith. The temptation to conform to this world is almost unbearable in such an environment. I have never felt more alone, more frightened and intimidated than during the years of my public schooling where my Christian upbringing and principles were tested and shaken to their very foundations. The evilness of the wicked environment is radically opposed to all that the Christian faith stands for. And in such an environment covenant seed lose their covenant identity.
- The Goal of Public Education
A discerning parent would realize that the government is only interested in educating our children to meet its own needs. A government like Singapore that places economic progress as its chief priority will necessarily train its children to be economically-minded. All other aspects of their upbringing are subservient to this cause. One who is educated by the government must necessarily become a product of the government.
Inherent in the thinking of the public education is its message to its students: study hard, establish a good career, contribute actively to society as responsible and productive citizens. There is, of course, nothing wrong or sinful with such a message. God’s people are called to render their debts to the government of their land (Matt. 22:21), to obey those whom God has placed in authority over them (Rom. 13:1-2). What is wrong about the public education is the ultimate or higher purpose it strives for.
From a spiritual perspective, the goal of public education is to raise up men and women for this world. Scripture calls it earthly-mindedness. Because the government only has its progress in mind, its citizens are naturally trained in the education system to be part of this earthly pursuit. Its aim is to train our children to construct an earthly kingdom for themselves, for the good of society and the country. An earthly pursuit like this causes our children to set their affections on this earth (Col. 3:2), laying up treasures where moth and rust corrupt (Matt. 6:19). It produces covetous, materialistic, greedy children who, like the rich fool, live to eat, drink and be merry (Luk. 12:19).
When earthly pursuits find strong roots in the lives of covenant seed, they will sacrifice their spiritual growth and find little delight in spiritual things. A weak attendance in church meetings is proof of this amongst other things. Why should studies take priority over spiritual activities? Why should spiritual activities be confined only to Sunday worship? Should not the child of God yearn for the fellowship and edification of his saints rather than burying himself in textbooks?
What is so dangerous about the education in the public schools is that it forces our covenant children to view this world like a playground, where they can fellowship and cooperate with unbelievers for a common cause. Scripture repudiates this idea when it instructs God’s people to live as strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13). God’s people are aliens in this mad world of unbelievers and sin. They are called to hold loosely to earthly things, for no man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier (2 Tim. 2:4).
Covenant parents are training their children to be heavenly-minded. They are training their children to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God (Col. 3:1). Their hearts are not settled on earthly mansions, but mansions which Christ has prepared for them in glory (John 14:2). Why train our children to fight the corporate battles of the business empires when Christ calls them to fight the battles of faith? Why seek the crown of earthly success when Christ has promised us a crown of glory that fadeth not away (1 Pet. 5:4)?
- Assessing the Damages
That public education has done severe spiritual damage to our covenant children ought to be clear for all to see. We must assess these damages from a biblical viewpoint to understand them better and in order to find a spiritual solution to these problems.
Covenant children brought up by the public education system are bound to be confused, if not frustrated. Religion placed alongside a secular education often creates great conflicts. Where the Bible teaches the world made in 6 days, the public schools teach evolution in millions of years. Where Scripture insists that sin is the cause of all the evils present in this world, society calls them social evils that can be solved through social education. Where the church teaches a day of final judgment where all things shall be brought to an end, the world promotes a perpetual earthly paradise. How, may I ask, will our children not be a confused lot when schooled in such a wicked education system?
Because of the high demands of an education system like Singapore, our covenant children inevitably cave in to its pressures. Studies come first; God and his church come later. That they cave in to such sinful temptations must not be surprising. They are, after all, untrained and inexperienced soldiers forced to fight a fierce spiritual battle. Shaped by an ungodly education and piled with pressure, their young and easily impressionable minds cave in.
Spiritual ignorance is an immediate consequence of public education. Because such a system rejects the true knowledge of God, our covenant children who go through it are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). Where the only form of spiritual instruction our children receive comes from family devotions and the weekly hour-long catechism classes, their spiritual knowledge will be shallow at best. The evident lack of a spiritual vision in the public education causes our covenant young to perish (Prov. 29:18).
Doctrinal ignorance is another product of such an education. Where academics hold the high ground, knowledge of Reformed doctrine is lost. Covenant children grow up without a strong grasp of Reformed doctrine, without a good understanding of the Reformed faith. I speak the same for myself. Instead of learning the doctrine which is according to godliness (1 Tim. 6:3), public education teaches a doctrine of vanities (Jer. 10:8).
The controversy that destroyed the ERCS revealed beyond a shadow of doubt that doctrine was loosely regarded in our midst; so loosely that the peace and unity of the church were not established upon doctrine. In the minds of many, doctrines are cold, abstract ideas which do not apply to the life of the church.
Where the only lessons on history are secular, the history of the church is unheard of. Our covenant children know not the old paths that their spiritual fathers walked in. They know not the sweat and blood these spiritual warriors sacrificed to deliver the Reformed faith to us. They know not that the greatest battles in history were fought by faith and not by sword. They know not of the great debt they owe to the church of ages past for the blessed Reformed heritage they now possess.
When church friends hardly see one another during the week, their spiritual bonds of friendship will be very weak. I often questioned during the years of my schooling why covenant young people had little else to talk about other than studies, school life and the trivia of this world. Why were spiritual discussions amongst covenant youths so rare? Why were doctrinal discussions only present during the weekly hour of catechism? Rarely do friendships like that of David and Jonathan exist in the church.
In an education system like Singapore where students are forced to devote excessive amounts of time to their studies and school activities, covenant homes suffer. Family worship caves in to the high demands of the children’s school timetable. Time for family bonding has to make way for academic pursuits. No wonder covenant homes are spiritually weak.
It must also be evident that public education is the channel by which the floods of worldliness rush into the church. An ungodly education drains the spiritual life out of our covenant young and moulds them to become servants of mammon. The ungodly education breeds covetousness in their hearts. It formulates materialism in our covenant young, teaching them to seek the treasures of this earth rather those of heaven.
Heavily under the influence of ungodly peers, our covenant young follow after their ungodly ways. When we allow the wicked iron of ungodly peers to sharpen the countenance of our covenant young, we must not be surprised when our children learn from them. We must not be surprised when our young people begin to speak, dress and behave like them. God is not mocked when He warns his people to be separate from the ungodly.
The long-term effects of such an education are not difficult to foresee. Covenant boys raised under this system are bound to be ambitious, career-minded men whose priorities to do not lie with the church and their families. Boys trained to be great leaders for the world will be weak leaders in the home and church. Covenant girls are lured into the evil trap forsaking their homes to enter the workforce. It is alarming that the newspapers often heap praises upon women who are able to balance work and family life. Scripture knows nothing of this nonsense when it commands covenant mothers to be keepers at home (Tit. 2:5).
In the final analysis, an ungodly education produces spiritually impotent, doctrinally indifferent and ecclesiastically unconcerned children. This accounts for so much of the spiritual weakness present in the church today. How poignant and true are Rev. Ronald Hanko’s words,
Children who are taught in the unbelieving world and by the unbelieving world will seldom be a blessing to the church of Jesus Christ. Even if in time to come they do turn to the Lord, they will be beginners in the faith, having learned little or nothing of Christian doctrine and of the Christian life. And how few of them do turn from the way of the world! (Christian Education, http://www.cprf.co.uk/pamphlets/christianeducation.htm).
I have much sympathy for our covenant children who are needlessly placed in such a system where they suffer daily torments from its wickedness. They suffer needlessly. We as covenant parents can do much to remove this needless suffering. We can and must give them an education that is radically different—one that is based on Scripture alone and experiences the joy of knowing God in every subject.