A few days ago I got involved in a discussion over at SBC Voices regarding the merits of home schooling versus public schooling. There was plenty of heated rhetoric to go around and one of the big pro public school arguments was the idea that Christian kids can be a witness in the public school system. My normal response to this line of argument is that it sound good in principle, but that it has some serious flaws.
Firstly, I don’t think it would be a good idea to send a six-year old into a mission field like the public school under any circumstance. Young kids are simply not going to be equipped for the conflict. I would liken it to sending troops into battle without putting them through basic training first. Older kids/young teens who have been thoroughly equipped and grounded in a biblical worldview and who have the experience and maturity to handle the kinds of situations that they will run into in a public school setting would be a totally different conversation. But I don’t see the missionary argument as a compelling reason to stick a kindergarten age kid into a public school, particularly given the kinds of things that are going on in many (not all) public schools around the country for which there are too many stories to list.
But of course the biggest problem with the missionaries to the public school argument is that some schools are simply going to “shut down” the missionary efforts by silencing the missionaries. This story comes from Texas, part of the Bible belt south if you will.
According to the Liberty Institute,in the first incident, officials banning 8-year-old Jonathan Morgan from handing out candy canes with Jesus’ name on them to classmates at a school party.
“Then they confiscated a little girl’s pencils after school because they mentioned ‘God,'” the Institute reported.
But that’s not all, the group said.
“They even banned an entire classroom from writing ‘Merry Christmas’ on cards to our troops serving in Iraq.”
The school officials are arguing “that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students,” explains the appeal brief submitted by Liberty Institute.
They are claiming that the case is a dispute of “first impression,” – that is, the first time the question has been raised. Swanson and Bomchill are urging “that the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students.”
This school district is ignorant beyond belief if they are seriously trying to claim that this is the “first time the question has been raised.” In all reality, this kind of tactic has been going on for years and here is the kicker. In many cases, by the time the situation can be resolved in a court of law, the student is several years on down the educational road and it hardly matters anymore. Each new incident becomes its own case and another claim of “this is the first time this has come up” can be uttered I suppose.
We live in an area where I wouldn’t be afraid of an anti-Christian bias in the local schools and yet we still choose to home school (actually we made our choice to do so before any of our kids was even born so it has nothing to do with our local school system whatsoever). I want my kids to learn and better yet know how to learn more on their own; and given the temperaments and personalities of my kids, I am positive that we can do more for them ourselves regardless of where we live.
I have many friends in our local school system, both teachers and administrators. I haven’t had a lot of discussions with them about the state of modern education but I think it might be an interesting topic to talk about someday. I imagine part of the problem comes from the fact that education is being more and more removed from local control to a Federal standardization sort of setup from what I can see. This might explain some of the problems I have noticed even at our local level. I was shocked, saddened and surprised to discover that one of our local 8th graders didn’t have a history class at all in this past year of school.
No history class at all for the entire year.
Ever heard of the phrase that those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it? What happens to those who never get to learn it in the first place? I suppose they won’t even recognize the deja vu when it hits.
Back to the original point. I am all for raising up spiritual warriors to fight for the Kingdom of God and advance the Gospel, but if you think you are able to adequately train your kid by the time he/she turns five and send them into the battlefield that is the public school (and even some private schools), you have bought a lie and are deluding yourself. In reality, you have just served up some cannon fodder for the enemy to start taking pot shots at. Will your little one survive the experience? Possibly, as in any warfare there are often some that survive being in the direct line of fire at the front lines (I am always amazed at the accounts of the survivors of D-Day and similar battles) and it is always possible that you can stick a guy on the front lines with a gun and little or no training and “get lucky” occasionally. Personally, I prefer to spend a little more time putting my kids through basic training so that when the day comes to enter the war without the help of the “drill instructor” at their side, they will be fully equipped for the battles that lie ahead.