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Training Up a Child: Comparing Public Education to Parental Education

I was raised in the Protestant Reformed Churches and educated, kindergarten through twelfth grade, in our PR Christian schools.  Following high school, I spent four years at a Christian college.  When I later returned to school to get my teacher certification, I attended a public university, where I was required to do my teacher assisting and my practice teaching in a public school.  Getting my classroom experience in a public school would certainly not have been my first choice.  It was a valuable experience, though, chiefly because it strengthened my love for Christian education.

Although the field placement director was sympathetic to my desire to do my student teaching in a Christian school, we were unable to get permission to do this.  She did, however, place me in a school district which she knew to be quite conservative.  “I think you’ll fit in there,” she said.  She certainly was right.  At the school where I was placed, the principal is also superintendent of Sunday school at a Reformed Church.  He, in turn placed me with a fourth-grade teacher who shares our love for the Reformed faith.  The fellowship of these and other Christians was a great encouragement to me throughout the semester.

Nevertheless, my faith was strengthened most when I confronted things with which I disagreed.  Ultimately, I disagreed with the values and morals that were being taught.

In the realm of public education today, you hear the idea that we should be giving American youth a “values-free” education.  Just give a student all the facts and options, it is said, and he can create an ethical framework that is right for him.  We may not try to “force our beliefs on others.”  What’s right for one person might not be right for everyone…and on and on go the relativistic homilies.

The ostensible goal of the public schools is a religiously neutral education.  Advocates of such an education cite the constitutional separation between church and state as the basis for this.  What in fact happens, though, is that they eliminate Christianity and Judeo-Christian morals—religion associated with a church—and replace them with humanistic religions, which are not associated with a church.  They fail to acknowledge that humanism, materialism and all sorts of new age “relaxation techniques” are also religions, since they include moral standards, as well as beliefs about who and what God is.

Student teaching is a time to make mistakes—and learn from them.  (In fact, one of my former teachers, upon hearing that I would have to do my student teaching in the public schools, told me that I ought to be thankful that I could make my mistakes in front of strangers.)  The kinds of mistakes that a student teacher may make in a public school, though, differ greatly from what we in our Christian schools might consider to be mistakes.

Obviously, starting the school day with prayer in a public school would be more than a faux pas—it would be illegal as would be teaching the students any morals that could be remotely identified with the Christian religion.  On the other hand, though, the attention and deference paid to minorities and revolutionaries amount to a religious reverence in many public school classrooms.  Textbook publishers are caving in to the political pressure of these often small but always vocal minorities.  Thus, they publish textbooks (especially social studies) where accuracy takes a back seat to giving each minority equal time.  As a public school teacher, you can probably curse the name of God and get away with it—but just mind that you don’t make disparaging remarks about ethnic minorities, homosexuals or social revolutionaries.

I draw several conclusions from my experience in the public schools.  First, I think we ought to pay attention to what goes on in the public schools.  For one thing, it is our money that is being spent (and squandered) there.  Also—and more ominously—I think the day is coming when our Christian schools may be shut down.  When and if this happens, we ought to have at least an idea of how the public schools are run, so as to anticipate the problems that we will face if our children are educated there.

Second, and closely connected with this, I can see the strangle hold that Satan is tightening around the Christian schools, with deceitful rhetoric about a religiously vanilla public school curriculum, and of making laws concerning this.  Through teacher certification requirements, minority hiring quotas in private schools, and the pervasiveness of slanted curriculum materials, he will put tremendous pressure on our schools to conform to godless philosophies and ideals.  Only God’s grace can keep us off this broad way to destruction.

Third, I see the importance of parental involvement in education.  God established his covenant with parents and their children.  The goal of Satan is to break up families.  If he can use public education to separate covenant children from their parents, he’ll do that.  Christian parents may teach their children what is right, but the public schools are being taken over by people hostile to Christianity.  In the public schools, Christian students are taught to abandon or at least question the beliefs of their parents.  God’s command to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6) is given to parents; parents should not forfeit this privilege to the state—especially a state which is becoming increasingly hostile to family and Christian values.  Granted, many Christian parents send their children to public schools, where the children recognize and refute the lies of Satan.  In the public schools, I found many students who were firmly grounded in the Bible and recognized the errors of evolutionism and humanism.  But I think that with our parental Christian schools we have an unmatched opportunity to educate children in the fear of Jehovah all day long.

Finally, I see the necessity of teaching Christian children “the fear of God, which is the beginning [or principal part] of knowledge.”  After I showed my fourth graders a film which was heavily weighted with evolutionary theory, one girl raised her hand and asked, “How do they know that this all happened millions of years ago?”

“They don’t,” I answered.  “That’s just one theory—and not a very good one, I’d say—they can’t prove it.”  I stopped there, although I longed to add, “…and besides, the Bible tells us that evolutionary theory is just a lot of hooey.”

Without teaching children the principal part of knowledge (i.e. the fear of the Lord), I don’t find it worthwhile to teach them any knowledge at all.  Some Christian parents send their children to the public schools so they won’t grow up naïve, knowing nothing about the ways of the world.  I don’t worry that the children of Christian parents might grow up not knowing the ways of the evil world; I’m concerned that they might grow up not knowing the good ways of Jesus Christ and His kingdom.  Paul spoke to this issue when he said “…I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19)

My experience with public education has only strengthened my resolve to become a teacher in our own Christian schools.