Since Zrim’s previous nomination of Scott Clark for President wandered off into a long, heated discussion of [Public-, Christian-, Home-] Schooling [PS/CS/HS], I thought I would step up and satisfy requests to slap up a new post to discuss education. I anticipate this will become such a common topic that I am also creating a new category for Education.
First off, know that I am a HS parent — or rather, my wife is, and I help out when I can. So I’ll be presenting an argument in favor. But “in favor” does not mean that it is “mandated for all Christian families, otherwise you are sinning”, but practically speaking, that HS is the most efficient and effective way for most Christian families to properly train their children.
Secondly, I encourage readers (especially Rick and Rana, whose kids are not school-age yet) to check out the education tag of my blog, in particular the Education Roundtable (which has links to .mp3 of a panel discussion of proponents of CS, HS, PS, and Classical Christian Education (that last is more about content and methodology than mode)), and a post about the misleading conception that homeschooling guarantees perseverance for your kids.
Thirdly, I’ll try to avoid issues of educational quality, such as, my kid is so brilliant that he’s better off in one-on-one HS than being slowed down by a classroom full of (comparative) dullards who take all the attention the over-worked teacher can provide, leaving him unchallenged, restless, and prone to behavioral problems. Such arguments would just as well support secular HS (and I understand there is a whole other HS culture among the liberal, atheist, hippie set, for whom such arguments are the bee’s knees). The question is “I don’t get it. What is Xian education?”
Here’s the thing. I think HS has a natural home here in the Confessional Outhouse. What mode of education better captures the (still current — have we no competition winner?) tagline of “It’s lonely out here”? I know, HS is becoming all the rage in the Evangelical Party-House, but to misquote Zrim, “their Transformationalism doesn’t mean they’re not right about a few things.” By definition, HS is not about Transformationalism, but about letting the secular world do its own thing, and we’ll do our thing in our own Christian way.
Yes I said it, “Christian” way — I do think “Christian education” is a meaningful term. This comports with my previously biggest disagreement with Zrim, about the institution of the Family being more covenantal, and less common-grace. Now even though I am a mathematician, I don’t think there is really any meaningful way to have “Christian math education” (although before I die, I want to read what fellow Math Ph.D. Vern Poythress has to say about it). But I do think there is a big difference between a Christian way to teach Humanities, and a secular way. A secular humanities education can merely teach what humans have done, thought, believed, narrated, …, how those concepts relate to each other, and at best, whether any of it is wrong simply by being illogical. But a Christian education can add the dimension of being able to judge all that history, philosophy, storytelling, etc. as morally right or wrong; as Biblical or un-Biblical.
Now this sentiment from Zrim especially deserves interaction:
As far as a case for PS, I usually say that I believe that my covenant children have a high calling to both God’s Church and his world. The former is fulfilled by my catechetical/biblical instruction in the home working in conjunction with the Church, etc. The latter is in part fulfilled by their placement in PS. I know that is an oversimplification. But I see the PS system as a gateway into their being citizens in God’s wider world because education is a child’s vocation. And I view PS as a way to implicitly teach them that there is only one world and we cannot create another one. This is what I see in the phenomenon of CE, the idea that we are creating something extra that we don’t need to; not only is it entirely God’s world but we are not allowed to shrink from it one iota. I think this is the implied message kids get when they are CS’d or HS’d. I know it sounds hard line, but if education is a child’s vocation, what are we telling him when we say he may close himself off in this way? Why do we expect only adults to go into the wider world after grade 12 or after Christian college? Why not continue this idea of a closed off vocation and go onto exclusively Christian work, etc.? Why does Christian vocation all of a sudden end after Xian schooling? How are they supposed to engage God’s wider world when they have not really for 12+ years?
There is a lot of validity in here, and one response is that this is good reason to “end Christian vocation” in middle school, high school, or college (depending on the child’s ability to be in the world but not of the world, as well as the parents’ ability/inability to teach upper-level material). But why is an elementary schooler expected to “engage” the other Kingdom? Isn’t that a big burden for a small child? Eventually, every Christian will need to know how to judge what they are being told/taught; how to discern what to retain, and what to reject. But that is a skill that is not best learned “on the job”. Let the kids just learn for a while, before they have to learn how to learn, so they can go out into the world and learn without learning the bad stuff.
More from Zrim:
There is a big difference between Xian education and Xians doing education, between Xian education and a Xian environment. Often, I don’t think the differences are appreciated.
I absolutely agree, and I think having kids educated in a Christian environment is a sufficient argument for CS/HS. I’m teetering between calling the alternative a secular environment or an anti-Christian environment, but I won’t call it a neutral environment. Especially in my neck of the woods, where PS parents have this kind of stuff to deal with!
Over-the-top horror stories aside, despite an up-front focus on content, any form of education can’t help instilling a worldview. Given the worldview behind PS (rainbow coalition, let’s all work to improve human nature, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps if we try hard enough, the government needs to safeguard society by taking responsibility for education…), it’s not at all surprising that our public-schooled society is a factory for Arminians (which I’m sure is a significant factor fueling the continued growth of the Evangelical House-Party).
So I’m not saying that Christian parents can’t do the right thing by their children’s education if they PS their kids. I’m just saying that HS is a much more efficient way to educate a young, growing Christian, because the parents don’t have to spend any time figuring out and undoing whatever is going on in the PS classroom. CS may be a more practical alternative for many families, if they are unusually lacking in teaching skills, and have the money. For families who need two incomes, and still can’t manage CS tuition, if PS is all you can do, then PS is all you can do. And the older and more mature the child gets, and the harder it is for the parent to properly teach the content, the better an option PS becomes.