Would you send your children to a Muslim school? I have yet to find a Christian parent who says yes to that question — and the reason is obvious. We don't want our kids indoctrinated into Islam. We want them to become Christians.
Yet, currently in the United States, 84% of Christian parents send their children to schools teaching an alternate religion. These schools may be billed as religiously neutral, but make no mistake: public schools are religious institutions, enthusiastically promoting the religion of secular humanism.
Now, I realize that may sound extreme or fundamentalist. But trust me, I'm not making this up.
In addition to reading widely on this topic, I've also raised two adult children who regretfully spent several years in the public school. But, my greatest insight into public schools has been through my husband, who has taught in them for more than 30 years. He is the one who opened my eyes to the religion being promoted in the public schools. And interestingly, when he shares this view with students, they wholeheartedly agree.
In recent years, my husband has had the unique privilege of visiting a comparative religions class at his school to explain Christianity. And, each time, he presents Christianity as a comprehensive worldview and contrasts it with what he perceives to be the prevailing religious worldview at his high school — secular humanism. Based on the framework described in Nancy Pearcey's book, "Total Truth," he explains that every worldview has three components — an origins narrative; a "fall" or explanation for the cause of suffering; and a redemption story, or way to end suffering.
He then argues that in his school, the origin narrative is evolution: you are the result of random processes and are no different than an animal. The cause of suffering is socially-constructed rules that inhibit your freedom, especially your sexual freedom. And, the way to end suffering is to reject these rules, which typically stem from Christianity. So, in essence, salvation is found by rejecting Christianity.
"Yup, that's right," students typically respond.
Interestingly, no student has ever objected to my husband's description of his school's religious worldview. In fact, when he describes it, most experience a sort of "Aha!" moment.
So, in light of this reality, I ask you: Should Christians send their kids to public schools?
Recently, I considered this question on my radio show, Up for Debate, as I have several times in the past. And every time, the question elicits strong opinions and emotion. And, I usually hear the argument that the education of our children is a very personal issue; it depends on the child; and no one way is better than another way. That, of course, sounds very reasonable and non-judgmental. But, is it really true?
In Deuteronomy 6:7, God commands his people to teach his commands "diligently to (their) sons," instructing them to "talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."
I admit that as young parents, my husband and I didn't understand this verse as a command to provide our children with a Christian education. We figured it would be enough to apply this verse to all our interactions with our children outside of school. But, years later, when someone challenged me to think about how this verse applies to education, the implication was inescapable.
The verse says to teach your children about God 24/7. Why would that not include the intentional, formal instruction of our children?
Other verses carry a similar message. In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are commanded to bring up their children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Proverbs 22:6 tells parents to "train up a child in the way he should go." Scripture also warns about sitting under the influence of those who are hostile to God. Proverbs 13:20 says, "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." In Luke 6:39-40, Jesus says, "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." Psalm 1 says, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked . . ."
How is placing our kids in a secular humanistic institution for their most formative years not a violation of these verses?
In part two I will examine the three most common reasons Christian parents send their children to public schools.