Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thoughts on Schooling: Junior "Culture Warriors" or Vulnerable Lambs?

A recent conversation with a friend got the wheels turning in my head on the subject of education again, which isn't necessarily good for anyone -- that is, the turning of the wheels in my head, not education. Although...


We talked about education in general; in particular we talked about whether homeschoolers' alleged lack of interaction with a broad spectrum of students and peers is a genuinely negative aspect of the practice of homeschooling. We agreed that this is not necessarily the case, or even probably the case. He spoke from experience; I, from theory and observation (though I was homeschooled for Kindergarten, during which time I was hooked on phonics). My friend (we'll call him Ben) was homeschooled all the way from Kindergarten through high school, whereas I attended a Lutheran parochial school for eight years before going to public high school. Our theretofore dissimilar paths crossed, then, at Hillsdale College, a school whose student body includes a sizable proportion of homeschoolers -- somewhere in the ballpark of fifteen percent, by the latest data I have.

Anyway, Ben mentioned in a somewhat offhand way how foolish he thought it was for parents to let their children be friends with just anyone. I agreed, recalling the hellions whose company I kept and whose behavior I aped as a child. Ben and I bartered anecdotes which proved the point, some positive, but mostly a slough of negative ones. It was just banter, and surely not dispositive of the issue, but a further point which Ben raised seemed noteworthy (I'll digress from the boring, pseudo-Hemingway, blow-by-blow narrative for this):

There is a view prevalent among many pious, God-fearing Christians that Christians should send their children to public schools, because the public schools present opportunities to witness to non-Christian children. Perhaps it's more nuanced than that, and the contention is more that public school stands as a viable option among the various methods of schooling, and it has this (i.e., its "mission field"-quality) to recommend it. Either way, the public school classroom, hallway, playground, locker-room, and cafeteria comprise a battleground where devoted and sincere junior culture-warriors can reach people with the Gospel and win souls for Christ. So the line goes. When I make a snarky synopsis of it without attempting to appear unbiased.

Negatively, the argument sometimes runs that homeschooling's isolated character deprives children (and, presumably, the Holy Spirit(?)) of the opportunity to win souls for Christ. Instead, they end up "sheltered" (I've been holding back on mocking words and phrases with quotation marks, but there's no stopping them here), which -- it is usually implied -- is a terrible fate, as evidenced by the fact that, later in life, an entire category of humor and conversation based on pop-culture will be closed to them. As an aside, it is interesting to note that people who use the term "sheltered" as an epithet seem to assume that shelter is undesirable. (And here I was thinking that it was necessary for , along with food and water. Think metaphorically as you read on.) Anyway, a similar criticism of private, Christian-schooling states that students will live in the same sort of Christian greenhouse, wherein their faith will not be properly tested, and thus will not grow, and they will -- like their slightly more backwards compatriots, the homeschoolers -- have no opportunity to evangelize the lost. Also, they might become part of a banal, clique-ish and highly obnoxious Christianized pop-culture which equals "true" pop-culture in absurdity and surpasses it in tastelessness. (This last objection, not usually stated thus, has a lot of merit, but does not in itself constitute a reason to send one's children to public school, but only a reason not to send your children to a large, Christian school of this particular type. More on that later...perhaps.) The message is the same, and at times it is couched in the broader argument first mentioned: Christians not only can, but should, send their children to public school so they can evangelize the lost.

This all sounds very noble, in a certain sense. But there are more than a few problems with this perspective. A great many, in fact. A host. A multitude. Men with far greater minds than I have written and show no sign of ceasing to write books on the topic, if one can even call the question of "How now shall we [Christians] then live [in the world]?" a discrete "topic." Yet one problem in particular concerned my friend and I as we hashed things out, and this time it was I who possessed experiential knowledge, I am sad to say. But before I delve into things, let me issue a few caveats in order to preempt certain comments which would be par for the course in this sort of discussion (to which I am no stranger). That is assuming that comments are, in fact, forthcoming, which is, I know, a bold assumption.

  • Caveat 1: What follows is not a categorical statement of what happens to all Christian students who go to public school.
  • Caveat 2: Obversely, what follows is not written in ignorance of the fact that there are a million-and-one ways to get messed up as a homeschooler and a private schooler, as well. People are creative.
  • Caveat 3: "Public school" is not monolithic. There is some variety among public schools. Likewise, there is a degree of commonality among them. I don't propose to go into that here.
  • Caveat 4: My own experience with public school come from four years in public high school. Since this is the case, my generalizations might be tinged. I am sure that there is some variety among public elementary and middle schools. Likewise, there is a degree of commonality between them and public high schools. I don't propose to go into that here.
Savvy? Good. Then we're all agreed. The government should return to the gold standard.

Parents who send their children, often as young as five years old, to public schools must have either a serious ignorance of the type of formation their children will receive there, or a supreme confidence in their children's ability not only to withstand the onslaught of secular doctrine, but shrewdly and ably parry its thrusts and launch a counteroffensive for the Gospel, to boot. I suspect that such parents usually possess a combination of these two perspectives: ignorance, and/or ebullient optimism. I can think of a third thing that parents could perhaps have which might warrant them making their children wards of the State: some kind of desperation, analogous to a medical emergency which warrants state-subsidized health care. Other than these three things (ignorance, optimism, or desperation), I don't know what would suffice to explain, let alone justify, Christian parents' decision to send their children to public school.

It is my belief that there is usually no good reason for Christians to send their children to public schools. That is my contention which I am prepared to defend in the comments, the general makeup of which I can all but predict already. In any case, it is general. It is the statement of a rule, if you will, for which there are exceptions. I will not argue against exceptions; I will argue for the rule -- please mind the distinction between the two.

To send one's children to public school is to send them to government school. "Public school" sounds nicer, because the word "public" makes you think of a park, or the fountain at the library where you toss pennies. "Government school" makes you think of the USSR, bureaucracy, and -- not without warrant -- prison. So there's a clear organizational problem, to say nothing else. Today's public school system is a typical socialist enterprise replete with all of the problems which that sort of thing usually entails. I'm not interested in writing about this, though, because it's boring, and not really as important as the other dimensions of the problem.

To send one's children to public school is essentially to outsource parenting to people whom you have little reason to trust, and ample reason to distrust. Might there be a situation in which one might need to "outsource" parenting? Sure. They might arise (probably less frequently than moderns are wont to assume). In such a situation, however, the advice of Martin Luther, found in his excellent exposition of the Fourth Commandment in his Large Catechism is apposite:

"For all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents. For where a father is unable alone to educate his child, he employs a schoolmaster to instruct him; if he be too weak, he enlists the aid of his friends and neighbors."

The implication seems to be that this cooperative effort occurs on a small scale, on an ad hoc basis, and in extenuating circumstances. The rule which Luther speaks to, as did others in his day, is one in which parents raise (i.e., educate) their children. I can assure you that the history of the transformation of default cultural assumptions here is peculiar indeed, to say the least and to put things neutrally. Suffice it to say, however, today, instead of "friends and neighbors," children learn from government employees with whom the parents have no prior relationship, teaching a curriculum which secular "experts" have determined is beneficial. No?

Why the erasure of the dichotomy between the "raising" and "education" of children in the foregoing paragraph? I want to be cheeky here and say, "Why not?" because I really don't believe that the onus is on me to say. It's patently obvious that a father, in sending his child to the proverbial "schoolmaster," relinquishes a significant proportion of the task of raising his child to "the schoolmaster." I think it's fair to say that the proportion varies from "some" to "most." Most kids who go to public school spend most of their time with professional educators, not with their parents. I'm just saying it. There may be a good reason for it, in some cases, but to stick with my rule, I'm going to say that in most cases, there is not. 

Some Christian parents seem unconcerned that their children spend a disproportionately greater amount of time with non-Christian strangers than with them, their actual parents, raising the paltry "quality versus quantity" distinction. It is in light of the current discussion that I begin to grow cynical about the phrase "quality time," as it sounds a little like protesting too much when faced with the evidence that one is not, in fact, raising one's own children.

I won't waste any further commentary on those parents that fall into the "ignorant" category. If it's a simple problem of ignorance, it could be fixed easily enough. If this is you, shoot me an email, and we'll talk. We can get that fixed right away; I guarantee it. It's the "ebullient optimist" category that really baffles me. The father who thinks that his job of raising his child in the fear and love of the Lord has been completed to some point of sufficiency, such that his child can stride forward in unshakable faith and cast down the high places in the public school academic and social scene, and "reach people for Christ" (the dam burst; there go the quotation marks) -- such a man astonishes me. The root of this kind of optimism is a worse kind of ignorance, to say the least. There are some deeply flawed theological and psychological presuppositions pursuant to such a perspective.

One (largely theological), is that the average elementary, middle, or high school-age child (not that any parent would ever admit to their child being average) has the sort of consistent, sufficiently formed worldview which they would need for such a foray. Such a child must already be alive to all the subtle ways and means through which falsehood is substituted for truth in a public school environment. Understandably, none of them are. Instead, they are all possessed of something which makes their judgment tenuous at best: original sin -- the same thing that makes all of our judgment tenuous at best. Children, however, have a volatile combination of original sin and naivete. Yet this certain class of parents convince themselves that their progeny are firm enough in the faith once passed down to the saints (or started in Toronto) to go around evangelizing their peers.

Does it ever occur to these parents that their peers are evangelizing back, and that their task is far easier, their message more vociferous? The task of the latter is akin to pulling someone into a river; the task of Christian students in such a context is to pull someone out. We all know which one is easier, especially if the person on the shore, deep down inside, has always kind of wanted to jump in anyway. Notably, the teachers are on the side of the peers, as far as their disposition towards faith and morals goes. At best they are neutral. By law.

The argument would have to run that once a child has shown evidence of being "saved", he's at no risk of falling or being wounded, and no longer needs parenting, per se, but rather just education and social opportunities. It is also assumed that in the latter category, potential friends have everything to gain by becoming acquainted with Junior, while Junior has nothing to lose. He will edify them, but they won't influence him for the worse. It's a one way street, supposedly.

So, by these lights, Junior's on a mission, with clear vision and singular focus. He's between the ages of five and eighteen, and he's read, marked, learned and inwardly digested life lessons from his parents in the five years of boot-camp he had before heading off to the culture wars in Kindergarten. After that, he had weekly refreshers in Sunday School, and sometimes in the evening before he went to bed. But he spends at least six hours a day, one-hundred-fifty days a year, fighting the good fight in the Temple of Moloch, and things are going swimmingly. People are getting saved all over the school due to his bold and compelling witness of the Gospel.

I am, of course, being intentionally satirical. This is not what all that happens (it usually isn't what happens at all) when a Christian student goes to a public school. They hear things, see things, learn things, and come to know things, which, even if they intellectually reject, they will never forget. They may do things which, even though they repent of them, are wholly devastating in their mental, emotional, physical and or spiritual consequences. Why? Because Christians are at once saved and sinners. They sin. They fall.

So is it worth it? Who knows. I don't think so. This certainly begs other, far deeper questions which I am sure further dialog would elicit, notably, whether or not the Christian must live in anxiety on behalf of all the souls he could have reached but didn't, as if somehow his inaction limited God's ability to save them, or deprived them of essential opportunities to come to faith. But more importantly, it begs the question of what direction the Church is headed when Christians engage in this practice of outsourced parenting. Is family just training for "real life," which is lived elsewhere? Is the home just a dormitory or some sort of base? Or are family and the home properly the wellsprings of life and the loci of culture? This certainly begs these and other questions. But for now, I'd welcome thoughts on the matter at hand: is the positive argument for Christians sending their children to public school a compelling one, and does it accord with God's Word or plain reason?

I say no, and no.


  1. Well written Trent.

    I've always been struck by this quote:

    I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.
    ~Martin Luther

  2. These are certainly good thoughts for discussion. I have a few thoughts to share with regard to my own experience. As you know, we sent our first two children to public school through third grade. Then, realizing the toxic nature of the culture I started a charter school. Finally, realizing the negative influence of even these more select teachers and students, we started homeschooling. The last three of our seven children will never see the inside of an institutional school.

    I was ignorant in initially sending my first two children to government schools. Not ignorant of the problem, but ignorant of the severity of it. In addition, I was ignorant of the fact that viable options existed, but also ignorant of the full nature of my vocation of father (Eph. 6:4).

    Most of my ignorance was due to the indoctrination I had already received myself in government schools and the paideia of our general culture. "Who wouldn't send their children to school? That's just what you do! Children need to be taken away from their weak (and relatively ignorant) parents and be taught to be self-sufficient individuals. They also need to learn to function in our diverse society."

    I was also in the optimist category, because I believed (at least to some extent) my Christian (both Lutheran and non-Lutheran) friends who would opine that "if you raise your children right, they will not be at risk no matter what they are confronted with. They need to be in the world, but not of the world."

    Yet, this is simply another form of ignorance. I would, for argument's sake, place the "optimist" in the same category as the purely "ignorant" - for to be able to maintain such optimism, one must be ignorant of some important truths, though not necessarily ignorant of the fact that government schools represent enemy territory.

    The problem with these "optimists" is that they are ignorant of the true vulnerability of their children. Those who have an erroneous theological understanding of predestination (as in: "once saved, always saved") are certainly the ones who are the most likely to exhibit this ignorance.

    In any case, I would place everyone but the "desperate" in the category of the "ignorant." To be sure, there are various levels and areas of ignorance. In my experience, those who send their children to public school exhibit varying levels of all these areas of ignorance.

    With this in mind, I would first want to combat any ignorance of the doctrine of election. Proper teaching on election will then teach against a) the false belief that our children are not at risk in government schools, and b) the mistaken belief that it is the vocation of our children to be in the government schools in order to save the lost.

    Unfortunately, in arguing with non-Lutherans one will likely have to limit their discussion to the next two points. (continued in next comment...)

  3. Thanks for commenting, both of you.

    I'm glad you posted that Luther quotation, Mrs. H!

    Dr. Heidenreich, thank you as always, for your good insights. Yes, I agree -- the ignorance of the "optimist" is of a worse variety than that of the "ignorant" caricature I painted. As I wrote last night, I began to see that the problem really is one of theology, as you mentioned. The "once saved, always saved" soteriology is a large part of the rationale given for sending children to public schools. I'm similarly puzzled by the thinking which sees evangelism as the vocation of children...

    ...Yeah, I know. Everything really does come down to what Pr. Curtis writes about in his paper! I gave it to Vicar Rob yesterday, as it was quite relevant to his comments in Bible Class. He really appreciated it. So, thanks to you for sending it my way in the first place!

  4. Trent, you make very good arguments in this piece. I enjoyed reading it immensely.

    I will argue, however, that Christian schools can be dangerous as well if the school does not uphold the Gospel. This is why it is so important that the family is the first teachers of children and the environment fostered is one of growing and accepting, not stifling. My parents led us to the water and instructed us to drink, but all six of us have done it of our own volition and in different ways. It's amazing and humbling to share the same faith in such a diverse way within my own family.

    And in terms of never having a child go to public school- my own family has broken away from that mindset. The first three went to Catholic school K-12. The last two are currently still in parochial school. The fourth currently goes to public school high school. It is an excellent public school, educationally-speaking. It rivals the private schools the three oldest kids attended. It is also very liberal. Why did we stop sending her to a private and Christian school? Money. It might seem frivolous, but in Cincinnati, tuition is easily $12,000 a year for parochial.

    This was a big hit for us. Everyone in my family goes to private Catholic schools. It's the tradition. It's our way of life. It's how we identify ourselves. When people ask what school you went to, they're not interested in college- they want to know high school. But life happens. I have cousins in public school now too. I've always paid part of my education, but I paid for my entire senior year or I couldn't go back. That wouldn't have been in discussion a few years ago.

    The most important point I think you hit on is that the secular world can evangelize right back. You're absolutely right it can. And that's where family comes in. That's where having solid friends come in. A person can help witness for the faith without succumbing, but it's not going to be easy. The Devil wiggles his way into people's hearts and hardens them to the Truth by softening them to the evils of humanity.

    Ultimately, it's the child's choice. And maybe it's not the child's fight in the first place. But actions speak louder than words. Living the Gospel is a louder statement than speaking them. The Holy Spirit will assist if sought out. Bad experiences can be lessons to strengthen weaknesses in arguments and understandings. Evil will not prevail. Sheltered is a good thing, in my opinion, but one needs to know enough of the world to know what to shun and what to embrace. Again, this is where the family is vital.

    Anyways, thanks again Trent! And keep writing. :)

  5. Thanks for your feedback, Julie. While I think there are some similarities to our perspectives, I would like to challenge some of your arguments as being somewhat unfounded apart from personal experience, which is never a good thing in which to ground formulae, whether in the form of policies of state or Church orthopraxy. You, as a Roman Catholic, should resonate with this, yes?

    "I will argue, however, that Christian schools can be dangerous as well if the school does not uphold the Gospel. This is why it is so important that the family is the first teachers of children and the environment fostered is one of growing and accepting, not stifling."

    All good points, I suppose. Yes, there are a great many Christian schools which pervert and twist the Gospel, and I would not in a million years dream of sending my children to one of them. But I'm not really arguing on behalf of Christian schools, per se. Furthermore, it is important that the family, or, more specifically, the parents, are the constant teachers of the children, not simply the first teachers who merely give them the right "grounding" or "foundation." These terms make childrearing sound like building a house. But children are a lot more like people than they are like houses. Children, like the rest of us creatures, exhibit a desperate need to be constantly brought back to the (Law and the) Gospel (i.e., they need the fullness of Christian doctrine preached to them, like all of us). They need to be fed with it and by it; they need to be steeped in it so that it becomes their lingua franca. Unfortunately, one thing that the academy usually does, with rare exceptions even among private Christian schools (I think of St. Mark's Catholic Boarding School in California, where Tom Cox went, as one, as well as Peace Lutheran Academy in Sussex, Wisconsin, as exceptions), is take the project of education out of the orbit of liturgy, catechesis and the devotional life of the home, and make it a more secular endeavor, but with religion class and chapel. That education should happen in an institutional school -- whether it be public, or non-sectarian and private -- is now the default position among Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. In centuries past, however, prior to the advent of double-income families, the default position was to intentionally keep education in the orbit of the home and local parish -- especially among Lutherans and Catholics, mind you, who were unique among American Christians in demurring to the theory and practice of public education in favor of parochial schooling. And with good reason, says I.

    As for fostering an environment which is growing and nurturing, but not stifling...I don't know what you mean, but I will say this: as a teacher, I grow some things and I nurture others, but I stifle the hell out of a lot more things. Like it's my job. Because it's my job. It's a job entrusted to me by parents, in whose stead I act. I'm a stifling fool. I stifle bad behavior; I reward good behavior.

  6. "My parents led us to the water and instructed us to drink, but all six of us have done it of our own volition and in different ways."

    Well, you did because your parents told you to, and I think that's a fine reason to do something. But before your parents ever catechized you, something infinitely more important happened. By way of explanation, I have another water metaphor, and I think mine is better: Your parents didn't just tell you to drink living water, Julie, but rather, in accordance with God's Word and by His commandment, they had a priest drown you in the healing flood of Christ's baptism for the forgiveness of sins, unto life everlasting. In baptism, Christ put His name on you and called you His own. When parents teach their children to cling to this truth in sincere faith, they are doing something more important than simply exhorting their children to drink from the water of life, because even when we are faithless and neglect those things which would be for our benefit, as foolish children often do when they lack instruction, Christ is still faithful.

    "And in terms of never having a child go to public school"-- I didn't say never, but go on -- "my own family has broken away from that mindset. The first three went to Catholic school K-12. The last two are currently still in parochial school. The fourth currently goes to public school high school. It is an excellent public school, educationally-speaking."

    This is going to seem like picking nits, but your last sentence completely and totally begs the question, since the whole matter at hand here is how we are to judge what constitutes a great education. How is this a great school, "educationally-speaking"? I'm not saying that it's not; I don't know. But I think what you meant was "academically speaking," which is far less reaching. If a restaurant served only bananas, would not say that it was a great restaurant, nutritionally speaking. I would say that if what you need right now is potassium, go to this restaurant. But in the same way that the human body needs a lot more than potassium, children need a lot more than academics. The current situation is more akin to telling someone who needs regular blood transfusions to hasten to the banana restaurant, 'cause potassium is an essential mineral. In the interest of full disclosure, I will just say that my attitude has become more and more that catechesis really should comprise the greater part of Christian education, rather than the lesser part, which is the norm even in Christian schools these days. (Also, they don't use the term "catechesis," because that implies a catechism, but that's neither here nor there for our present purposes.) No one would argue that academics aren't important, but, obversely, no Christian should argue that they're the most important thing. So I'm not sure I know what you mean when you say that it "rivals" the Catholic schools. I would bet that it does not rival them in teaching your siblings Catholic theology and helping them gain a Catholic habitus.

  7. “Why did we stop sending her to a private and Christian school? Money. It might seem frivolous, but in Cincinnati, tuition is easily $12,000 a year for parochial."

    So at that point, homeschooling was a less desirable option than government school? Why?

    "I've always paid part of my education, but I paid for my entire senior year or I couldn't go back. That wouldn't have been in discussion a few years ago."

    I mean no offense in saying this, Julie, but are you talking about your senior year of college? If so, just be aware that many of us paid for the whole thing by ourselves.

    "The most important point I think you hit on is that the secular world can evangelize right back. You're absolutely right it can. And that's where family comes in. That's where having solid friends come in. A person can help witness for the faith without succumbing, but it's not going to be easy. The Devil wiggles his way into people's hearts and hardens them to the Truth by softening them to the evils of humanity."

    Some good thoughts here, but why do we think unformed children are called to evangelize their peers? Why gamble there when the enemy has gravity on His side? Bad company corrupts good character; good company in and of itself, apart from the Word, has no real effect on bad character. So, I repeat, why gamble with children's souls? I know a great many parents who wish they had not. I'm not arguing for complete and total seclusion, Julie, but this sounds a little ludicrous to me. Forgive another one of my absurd metaphors, but this sounds like dropping off child-soldiers from helicopters in Vietnam, then shouting reassuringly as you roar off, "Don't be afraid to call for help if things get a little hairy down there! We'll come give you air-support. Oh, and see if you can learn some algebra while you're down there!"

  8. OK, bear with me here, Julie. You and I have always gotten along famously, and I think we know each other moderately well, but I have to say that I am baffled by your next comment, and I need some help understanding it:

    "Ultimately, it's the child's choice."

    I don't know if it would be possible for me to disagree more with you here. Am I misunderstanding this? I am so glad that my parents forced me to do things that I did not want to do; they chose for me because I was not mature enough to know what was good for me. I did not love the right things, I did not know how. Because I was a child. Your comment here sounds like pure Rousseauvianism; it does not sounds Christian, nor even classical, yet I know you to be a Christian, and well-versed in classical ethics. So, please, do elaborate.

    "[A]ctions speak louder than words. Living the Gospel is a louder statement than speaking them. The Holy Spirit will assist if sought out."

    People say this all the time as though it's some sort of truism, but I'm rather a fan of the spoken Word, seeing as how it has been the preferred method of evangelizing the unregenerate (cf. all of Scripture, especially the Acts of the Apostles, which were never unaccompanied by the preaching of the Gospel. St. Peter's sermon [2.14-37] is a particularly compelling example). Also, please enumerate some notable child-evangelists in Scripture.

    "Bad experiences can be lessons to strengthen weaknesses in arguments and understandings. Evil will not prevail."

    Just because God can make good come of evil does not mean that the evil should have happened, or that it was somehow a good thing that it did. Also, this seems like a very rose-colored view of "bad experiences." It makes them sound like faux pas or embarrassing indiscretions, like passing gas audibly, or something. Bad experiences can also be horribly scarring, spiritually, physically and psychologically, in ways not noticed until later in life. No one should go looking for bad experiences in order to test one's mettle. That is vanity, the very pride that foregoeth a fall. Why do we pray "and lead us not into temptation" in the Our Father? Because we can find it just fine on our own? Because temptation is a good opportunity for us to flex some pious spiritual muscle? I think not. Such a theology of glory is alien to the Gospel.

    "Sheltered is a good thing, in my opinion, but one needs to know enough of the world to know what to shun and what to embrace."

    Bankers know counterfeit bills not because they're studied them, but because they spend so much time handling cash that they can easily, almost subconsciously, identify fake bills. Your statement sounds nuanced, but is really not. I'm with Russell Kirk here: I believe in instilling right prejudices within children so that they will have a filter in place already. One need not engage in a season of guarded voyeurism in which one dabbles in everything in order to "get to know" the world and become "fully human."

  9. This is not an argument for the cloister; this is an argument that we not rush childhood, and not so willfully and frequently separate childhood from parenthood. Nor should we so readily separate "parenting" and "educating."

    American Christians seem to have absorbed a modern educational fast-track mentality which is highly conscious about prestigious educational labels. I'm not sure what I think of holding one's educational pedigree as a point of personal identification. This is a luxury; not a necessity. And it can well bar the realization of other and greater goods. I'm not talking about just you, here, Julie. It's actually somewhat endemic: an especially peculiar variety of this thinking vitiates the otherwise prudent educational philosophy of Hillsdale (quite often, sadly), where we engage in a tacit snubbing of the trades as though esteem for the liberal arts required a denigration of the useful arts -- odd when you consider that those who are skilled in the trades are often equipped far better and far earlier to serve and benefit their neighbors in tangible ways, which is, after all, the Christian's calling. This same denigration of service easily creeps into married life, methinks, where parents seek ways out from under the blessed cross of serving their own family, claiming that they are "called" to "serve" elsewhere -- a double abuse of the true Christian notions of vocation and service. This has progressed to the point where Christians really are content to let the village raise their children.

    I really do appreciate you commenting, Julie. It is only because I respect you as a fellow student that I have responded at such length to what you've written. If there's a real disagreement between us, I would rather lay it bare than dance around it. I'd welcome to hear any additional thoughts from you.

  10. Some final thoughts, since I'm too stupid to proofread before I post:

    1. I didn't mean to capitalize the personal pronoun which referred to "the enemy," i.e., Satan, up there. Shame on me. Satan gets none of that.

    2. Yes, Julie, you are right: evil will not prevail -- not in a final, eschatological sense. But we live in world which is still under the curse, a world in which evil does sometimes tragically prevail in the lives of individuals. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10.12). Even those who have been given the robes of Christ's righteousness can fall away and be lost. We pray that this does not happen, but we also live and raise our children in such a way as to ensure, insofar as it has been entrusted to us to do so, that it does not happen. Because you are responsible for your children; you are not responsible for all the souls whom they might theoretically reach. If we were, we would all be neck-high in an inescapable mortal sin of omission, for who among us has not let an opportunity to "reach someone with the Gospel" go by? You're letting innumerable opportunities go by right now, Julie! But that is simply not the nature of our duty to our fellow man under the Cross of Christ. We may plant, we may water, but God giveth the increase.

  11. I just noticed the the second half of my comment either never posted or somehow disappeared. Oh well, so much for the Internet. I'm not going to try to reconstruct everything I wrote, but I'll note that my second point was to explain the severity of the toxic culture. In Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Dr. Meg Meeker does a good job of exposing a lot of the dire statistics in its first few chapters.

    I can't remember my third point now, but I think it had to do with the "desperate" category. I believe the "desperate" must weigh the supposed detriment of being "less educated" with the severe risks inherent in the toxic culture of government schools.

    It is a tool of the devil that homeschool parents feel guilty that they are not able to teach some academic subjects at the same level the public schools often can if they have "good" teachers. Homeschool parents should try to break away from the modern public school curriculum mandates and decide what is truly good, necessary, and edifying for their children to learn. We can easily get so worried and bogged down about teaching academic subjects that are not really that important, or to a level of mastery that is not at all necessary, that we forget to focus on the priorities of catechesis and the roles of sons and daughters in developing their understanding, learning, and practicing of their respective roles in a biblical understanding of οἰκονομία - keeping/managing the house.

    The primary goal of homeschooling, in my opinion, should remember the biggest advantage of homeschooling: being at home with family, and having the flexibility to teach according to the future goals and needs of each child. With few exceptions, we are raising future Christian husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. I believe preparing for the additional vocations found outside the home, while especially important for men, must remain secondary in priority to the teaching of these primary vocations. I have found that the more we try to duplicate the entire curriculum mandates of public education, the focus of our lives moved away from the home, church, and family, and into the self-absorbed attitude of simply creating another independent individual for the state.

    Pr. Weedon had a post recently that really hit home:

    "Pondering how Satan is so adept at getting us all worked up, hot and bothered, over the things that finally don't matter; so that we stay cooly indifferent to the things that finally do. 'We are not ignorant of his devises.' Surely majoring in the minors is one such. 'Lord, help us to love what you command and desire what you promise!'"

  12. I think your post sounds very un-Christian, ignorant, and judgemental, and I am offended. No need to reply to my comment.

  13. Oh, don't worry, ma'am; I certainly perceive no need to reply to your comment. But, since you've decided to grace all of us here with your rudeness, rather participating in an adult discussion, I'm going to reply anyway.

    I'll make this brief: don't comment if this is all you have to say. If you have a position which you would like to defend, agreeing or dissenting, then you are free to do so. So far you have given no reason why I, the author of this blog, or any of the other participants in the present discussion, should take you seriously.

    In other words, if at some point you would like to present an argument which is Christian, well-informed and non-judgmental, I am sure we would all welcome it. Until then, please refrain from making unsubstantiated ad hominems in the comment feed. The fact that you are offended is your fault, and no one else's.

    Good day.

  14. I thought your post was honest, balanced, & well-presented. Thank you. :)


  15. Hi, I am new here and so glad I read the comments as well as the post. You bring up many good points. I have another "element" in our education. One of my twin sons (I also have a 2 yr old girl) has PDD (which is basically mild autism). I homeschooled him last year and was AMAZED at how far he came. His brother attends a VERY small private school. The problem is, most "special needs" kids cannot attend private school. So I guilt myself, on both sides of the fence. One being that if I homeschool him I am cheating my other son of my attention. And if I send him to public school, I am cheating him of the private education that my other son is getting.
    And I agree with you 200% with the emphasis we put on "educational" success. Like that matters once we are out of school. Doesn't the way we serve God and love thy neighbor matter more?
    Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for the thought provoking post!

  16. Thank you for re-motivating me to the most important reason why I want to homeschool our kids (who are only 3, 15 months, and due in March). I was starting to freak myself out with thinking about the task at hand in front of me over the next 20 years. Does it matter if they get to learn advanced chemistry and calculus? I guess not. Does it matter if they are swayed by the lies of evolution and socialism and gain the world but forfeit their souls? YES!

    I was homeschooled through 9th grade, and attended Lutheran highschool from 10th - 12th, so I am biased towards homeschool/Lutheran education. We don't have great Lutheran schools, theologically speaking, here where we live, though, so I really want to homeschool. Plus, I love the flexibility of the schedule. Not to mention, on a pastor's salary, I doubt we could afford to send our children to the schools we would want, anyway. And I will never EVER send my child to public school in New York. In North Dakota where my husband grew up, maybe.

    So even though I had to read through your typos (just some friendly criticism here ;-), I have to agree with you 100%.

    -A Pastor's Wife

  17. Thank you all for overlooking the fact that I, in my original post, accused some Christian parents of sending their five year-olds to public high-school. I laughed out loud as I reread that bit.

    I'm revising the original post, so hopefully the "Beta version" will be a bit more focused.

    Thank you all for your comments.

    + VDMA +