Bible teacher Jen Wilkin addresses criticism of her views on sending children to public schools
Jen Wilkin, a Bible teacher and author, has addressed criticisms of her views shared during a recent conversation on whether Christian parents should enroll their children in public schools.
Last month, Wilkin, a mother of five, participated and shared her views on public schools during The Gospel Coalition's "Good Faith Debates" series. She revealed that all of her children have attended public school and many of her family members are active in the public school system.
“We're all in the public schools in our family," she said.
Wilkin said that people often assume someone with a large family and “strong religious convictions” would choose homeschooling or private school, adding: “You can imagine that as someone who was in full-time, outward-facing ministry, that was met with a lot of raised eyebrows through the years."
“We did choose public school out of conviction,” she said, “But I always like to make clear up front that we did not have any special considerations in that our kids did not have learning disabilities, there were no special concerns that might have played into that decision for us.”
“I would never say everyone should choose public school, but I would say we should try really hard to, if at all possible because we believe in the public school ideal. We believe that education is a right; it’s necessary for human flourishing; it’s good for society. It’s a mark of civilization.”
Wilkin explained, “We believed that our participation in the public school system was directly related to loving our neighbors, and so if we could opt in at all, then we absolutely wanted to, so we did.”
Wilkin’s comments received backlash on social media, with some taking issue with her stance.
Podcaster Chris Hohnholz wrote: “Jen Wilkin is simply dead wrong here. The community does not have a say in how you choose to educate your children. Your first ministry is always your family and then you work outward. You don’t sacrifice your family because the community’s needs are somehow more important.”
In a series of tweets this week, the speaker and author responded to the criticism and corrected misconceptions about her position.
“I *did not* say Christians should send their kids to public school to love their neighbor,” she said. “This is a mischaracterization of my argument. I *did* say ‘what’s best for my family’ is only one lens for families who have a choice in education.”
She continued, “I suggested considering an additional lens: the impact withdrawing from public schools has on our communities, particularly on families without a choice in education. I *did not* say that love of neighbor means we must choose public school.”
“I *did* say not all public school districts are equal by any means, and to learn firsthand what yours is actually teaching, versus listening to hearsay. I *did not* say our kids should be missionaries. I explicitly said the opposite, twice.”
She also stated, “I *do not* think every family with a choice in education has to arrive at the same education choice. I explicitly said this more than once.”
Wilkin concluded, “The entire debate is there for the watching. You don’t have to rely on or amplify someone else’s (potentially) bad-faith interpretation of a good-faith debate. And disagreement doesn’t have to mean denigration. Let’s do better!”
A recent study found that homeschooling saw a 30% increase in 2021-2022, while public school enrollment fell by more than 1.2 million students within the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a 2021 interview with The Christian Post, actor Kirk Cameron shared why he and his wife, Chelsea, decided to homeschool their six children.
“[Homeschooling] is this biblical concept that parenting, and particularly the education of children, is a parental responsibility and privilege,” he said. “It's not some job that God gave to civil government to do. And yet for generations, we've handed our children over to the government, essentially giving to Caesar the things that belong to God, and our children, made in the image of God, belong to us.
"And so we know them, we love them. And if we're going to disciple them seven or eight hours a day in some sort of a school institution, it sure as heck better be something that's going to reinforce the things that God wants us to be teaching our kids. And I think that that's best done in a community where moms and dads are running the show and leading the way.”
In a recent op-ed for CP, author and Pastor Livingstone Knowles stressed the importance of Christians engaging in the public school system.
He revealed that his children are “proud products of public schools,” adding: “During their scholastic journey, they were surrounded by pot heads, befriended children who had babies out of wedlock, studied with teens who engaged in all kinds of risky sexual behavior, and were exposed to many with undecided sexual status.”
“Yet, they all still believe in God, attend church regularly, have never been involved in illegal drug use and have no illegitimate children,” he wrote.
“How did they do it? How did they remain unscathed? We were naive enough to take God at his word and believe that He would take care of us. We were not disappointed.”
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org