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Responsibility for School Education: Not the Government, School, or Church

Parents are responsible for the education of their children. This basic principle and truth is being called into question today. Many people and groups would like to seize this responsibility of educating the child. What is even worse than this is the compliant parents who almost willingly let someone take over the duty that they have been given.

God has given the duty and responsibility of education to the parents. God explains this in Deuteronomy 6 verses 7 through 9,

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

The Bible is so clear that it is the parent’s duty and responsibility to teach their children. Later in this same chapter Moses says, “Then thou shalt say unto thy son.” Call your son and daughter to you and teach them for it is your duty. Besides these verses there are many others that speak about this parental duty and responsibility. It is not that the parents share the responsibility with a person or an organization, rather they are solely responsible. This duty, right, and obligation should frighten some parents who say, “I hardly see my child, they are always gone here or there.” These parents have a right to be frightened if they have lost control of their child, because God requires that they perform this duty. It is not the truth: when the children are at home the parents are responsible; when the children are at school, the teacher is responsible; and when the children are at church, the elders are responsible. No! The parents are responsible in every aspect and in every sphere of this child’s life.

We must ask ourselves if this is also true for the formal education of the child? By education here we mean the three R’s that are taught usually in the school setting. Three groups today more than ever would like to usurp the parent’s responsibility. The three institutions or organizations that we have in mind, as identified in the title of this edito­rial, are the government, the school, and the church.

First, the government would like to take the responsibility for educating children in government approved schools. But nowhere in the Bible does God talk about the government’s role in educating the children. We shudder when we think about mandatory attendance of government schools.

Second, the schools, even Christian schools, would sometimes like to take on the responsibility for educating the child. The parents may hire someone to teach the child. You could say this is their right as parents. The parents may be unqualified or unable to teach, so they hire a teacher to educate their children. The Christian schools today are made up of parents coming together for a common purpose. They come together to edu­cate their children and form a Christian school. There is nothing wrong with this if it is done properly. But, our concern is for the schools and the teachers to realize that they are assisting the parents. If hired, the school or the teachers do not take the responsibility away from the parents. No, the parents remain responsible for every aspect of the child’s life whether a school is involved or not.

A danger that must be avoided by parents is to give the total responsibility of the child to the teacher. The parents renounce their duty to the teacher. I suppose you will always have parents who write a check, mail it to the school, and feel the responsibility of educating their child is off their shoulders. It is a danger that the parents almost eagerly give up as much responsibility as possible to their teacher, so much so, that the teacher may feel that he or she has adopted the child. This danger is to be avoided at all costs.

Thirdly, the Church may want to take responsibility for the child. It is interesting how someone could conclude that it is the church’s obligation to teach the three R’s in educa­tion. The church must not fall to the notion that this is its duty and try to take the responsibility away from the parents. The baptismal vows are sometimes misquoted but they are very clear. They state:

“Thirdly, Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power?”

The church body here as witnesses agree to help bring the children up in the afore­said doctrines. And the question then is asked, what are the aforesaid doctrines? For someone to conclude that the aforesaid doctrines are mathematics and reading is a complete mistake. Aforesaid means something that was previously mentioned. Mathemat­ics and reading of course were not previously mentioned. The second point of the baptis­mal vows sheds light on this. It states:

“Secondly, Whether you acknowledge the doctrine which is contained in the Old and New Testaments, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and which is taught here in this Christian Church, to be the true and perfect doctrine of salvation?”

Here you have some of the aforesaid doctrines in which the child must be instructed.

Also frequently misquoted is Article 21 of our Church Order that states, “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.” The church should pray for the schools, and encourage the parents, but may not take away the responsibility that the parents have been given. The Church Order Commentary by VanDellen and Monsma is specific,

“The wording of this article might lead one who is not fully informed to think that our Church Order stipulates that Consistories, (1) must organize and maintain Christian Schools, (2) must see to it that parents send their children to these Church Schools. This however is not the meaning of article 21.”

This article of the church order means that the consistories shall encourage the parents to have their children instructed not in the philosophy of the world but in the principles of the church.

God instituted the family and we must remember that He has told us in the Scripture that we should teach our children. So, we can only conclude, that formal education remains solely the parents’ responsibility. Parents are the heads of their homes, and they are responsible for their children. Only with God’s help can parents fulfill this incredible, encompassing responsibility.