Ingrid of Slice of Laodicea has an entry with some strong rhetoric regarding public education and a parent’s responsibility to educate his children in response to Governor Schwarznegger’s signing of SB777:
…Sending our Christian children to the atheists, the evolutionists, the activists who seek acceptance of sexual perversity is simply wrong. The idiotic idea that our kindergarteners will go off and be “salt and light” to their lesbian teachers is finally being exposed for what it is. No Israelite general in his right mind would have sent off a regiment of little children to face the Assyrian army…
It is a tone that seems to be spreading among conservative Christian ministries, and it is a trend I would like to see reversed. After all, who should better understand gentleness, meekness, humility and correction spoken in love? The appeal here is made directly to the emotion and not to reason, serving only to verbally abuse those who would dare take an opposing view without actually establishing an argument.
Verum Serum takes on the first paragraph of this entry with a decidedly more rational approach. He also demonstrates how quickly an argument built on emotion rather than logic falls apart. I shall attempt to apply the same level of reasoning in response to his discussion on homeschooling.
Ingrid sets up a strawman with the whole idea of kindergarteners going off to be salt and light to their lesbian teachers. To the best of my knowledge, nobody is advocating sending a kindergartener in to debate their teacher regarding issues of sexual orientation, evolution, atheism, etc.
True. Matthew 5:13-16 is not really relevant here. We agree that the kindergartener does not really have a Christian witness, yet. The parents may, as Scott points out later. You can also always point to Moses for an example of what can happen when you turn your child over to Pharoah’s schools. If we want to advocate for homeschooling, it has to be on a stronger basis than, “the public schools are bad.”
Regarding Israelite generals in their right mind, Scott says:
While she is stating the obvious, she is doing so while trying to make an emotional connection by making an analogy between the violence and brutality of battle and the collision of ideas and morality within the classroom. As she does this, she seems to have forgotten about a Biblical example of a boy who was, indeed, sent in to battle and with a giant no less: (I Samuel 17:4-7 & 12-14 follows).
I agree with the intent, but the story of David does present an interesting dynamic into the discussion in my opinion. How old was David? We cannot know for sure. Most estimates I have seen place him between eight and fourteen. What was his education to this point? I trust that, given his family, he grew up with his father teaching him in accordance with Deuteronomy 6:7. He thus knew the Lord and His commandments. Supplementing this education was experience defending his sheep from lions and bears. In other words, he did not enter the battle unprepared. His education gave him both the faith and the skill he needed to defeat Goliath.
The education came first. We are to prepare our children to stand up to a culture which at times seems like Goliath, but first comes training. I believe that home education best presents families with the opportunities to teach the faith as we rise up and as we sit down and all along the wayside. If done successfully, even a child may stand up to giants.
Unfortunately, the really solid Christian schools and the really solid home-schooled students are few and far between. Many Christian schools are weak academically and use substandard curriculum that is cheaper and/or that has been created by Christians who aren’t educators and/or who try to sanitize the curriculum in an effort to Christianize the subject matter.
I actually agree with the curriculum issues. I do not think that being an educator is as big of an issue as it is presented here, but there is a tendency to take largely secular materials and “Christianize” them with a few verses. The advantage of homeschooling goes well-beyond curriculum, however. All studies show that the number one determining factor in a child’s educational success is parental involvement. If you are highly involved in your child’s education, your child is likely to be successful, no matter what environment he is educated in. The issue comes down to one of purpose. What are the goals of education? Standardized tests? Then it probably does not matter where you send your child. They all seem to do about the same, with private secular schools outperforming all other groups (including homeschoolers).
I am not convinced from this statement, however, that “really solid homeschoolers are few and far between.” That is a strong assertion with no evidence.
I can’t tell you the number of home-schooled students I’ve had over the years who come into the “public school” classroom after years at home. The vast majority of the time these students can’t carry on a discussion. They aren’t able to see both sides of an argument. They can’t engage in dialogue and in taking their thoughts and ideas to the next, deeper level. Their critical thinking skills are weak and their logic is almost non-existent, mainly because they have been fed a one-sided, one-position, one note stream of curriculum that doesn’t offer any subtlety or nuance or any variety in shades of meaning.
This is a version of an argument I hear often from teachers, but I think it is important to note that teachers are largely dealing with the homeschooling situations which were not successful. After all, if the family felt that homeschooling was going well, they likely would not have given it up. Teachers rarely see the other side. I think this actually shows the effectiveness of parents in that these parents realized another educational situation would be better for their children.
We have to be very careful in using anecdotal evidence to make generalized claims about entire groups of people.
Besides all of this, since when has God ever called for removing ourselves from the world? “In the world but not of the world” isn’t just a cute little catch phrase.
Agreed. But homeschooling is not about removing ourselves from the world. Again, we run into a conflict with the way Ingrid originally set up her case. By defending homeschooling as a response to evil, she has placed Christians in the predicament of appearing to retreat and isolate themselves. That is not what we are doing.
Yes, parents can have a tremendous impact on schools. I believe that is part of why there is such a heavy push to take control away from local school boards and place it in the hands of the state and even the federal government, but that is another discussion for another time. Where should my priorities lie? Ephesians 6 instructs fathers to bring their children up “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Not under the tutelage of someone else in order to have an opportunity to witness.
It seems to be assumed in this that because a group of parents have chosen to take on the education of their children that they are somehow in violation of the command to be “salt and light.” But there are other ways to be salt and light without turning our children over to a system that cannot teach our children according to Ephesians 6, Deuteronomy 6 or any other verses on child raising.
I agree with the rest of Scott’s observations about the importance of our personal ministry in this world. But this is not an either/or scenario. A homeschooling family has a plethora of opportunities to engage the culture and witness for Christ. And the public schools have not been left without their missionaries. After all, as Scott implies, there are a number of Christians working in the system. They, too, have an impact.
Does Christian homeschooling threaten education by removing those most interested in education? I am not so sure about that. Scott suggests debates like the one over SB 777 / AB384 will not occur if parents do not “have a dog in the fight.” But I think he underestimates just how involved homeschooling parents tend to be in educational issues, even outside their own homeschooling groups. After all, I am a homeschooler in Nebraska and I am talking about it right now. It is all over message boards, blogs and e-lists. We may have exited the public school system, but we have not exited the discussion.
How can we be a conduit of blessing to the world when we have withdrawn from it? How can we be a conduit of blessing into the schools, a conductor of the light and love and grace of God, if we never show up there in the first place?
And now it is Scott’s turn to have a straw man argument based on emotion rather than reason. There is no quicker way to start a conversation with a stranger than to run errands during school hours. “What about socialization?” As much as the question gets on most homeschoolers’ nerves, it is a perfect invitation for a spiritual discussion. We have not withdrawn from the world. We are very much in it. We have just chosen to go there as a family where we can teach our children all along the way.
[tags]homeschool, education [/tags]