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New report ties declining religiosity to changes in public education: Understanding the roles of prayer and parenting

New report ties declining religiosity to changes in public education: Understanding the roles of prayer and parenting

That American religiosity has been in decline for the last few decades is not exactly a new concept for most of us. However, in a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute, Lyman Stone points to an interesting reason for why that might be the case.

Stone argues that one of the primary causes for the decrease in American religiosity has been the expansion of a more overtly secular system of public education. 

While some might say the reason for that decline with the rise in secular education is that better education leads to a reduced dependence on religion, Stone counters that such theories “get no support in the actual historic record.” 

Rather, he argues that the relationship is tied more closely to the content of the education received, concluding that “education-related variables, which I have argued are a proxy for secular education, can explain nearly the totality of change in religiosity.” 

In short, kids who grow up going to schools where belief in God is either de-emphasized or dismissed entirely are less likely to be religious as adults.

Cameron Hilditch, in writing for The National Review, looks at Stone’s findings and concludes that “the time has come for religious parents to take their children back from the state. . . . the only real road to religious revival is the one that begins with each parent’s first step out of the public school’s doors.”

And many agree with him. Recent years have seen a rise in private education, especially among religious families. 

While that might be the right decision for some, making the universal claim that all religious families should seek alternative forms of education leaves an important variable out of the equation: God. 

Should my child go to a private Christian school?

Where parents choose to send their children, especially in today’s often contentious environment, must be a conversation that includes the Lord. 

Simply looking at public schools and concluding that your kids shouldn’t go there because they might encounter an environment that is less than friendly to our faith potentially teaches them that the correct course of action when that faith is threatened is to run from the conflict and seek shelter among like-minded people.

Again, that’s not to say that private Christian education is the wrong choice, as there are legitimate reasons why God might call your family to choose that option. And if that’s where the Lord wants your children to be, then embrace it and jump in without regrets. 

But if that’s the case, you need to be able to look at your kids and have an explanation for why that’s based in the genuine calling of the Lord rather than fear and insecurity. 

Eventually, they will be able to tell the difference and that, more than where they go to school, is likely to have the greatest impact on how they see the Lord and his place in their lives. 

After all, if we’re relying on the schools to teach them about God, regardless of whether or not that school professes to be Christian, then we’ve already set them up for failure. 

So, if you’re a parent trying to decide where to send your kids to school, or even just someone who might be in a position to counsel parents who are making that choice, start by asking God what he wants for your family. 

Whether his will leads you to private school or public, go into it with open eyes, knowing that both options carry risks of one form or another. 

And understand that no school will ever be able to take the divinely appointed place of parents, grandparents, and other family members in helping to raise children to know, love, and serve the Lord. 

Originally published at the Denison Forum 




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