I recently answered the question “Should Christians keep children in public schools to be ‘salt and light?’” for our weekly video blog. This, and the larger question of whether Christians should allow their kids to be publicly educated, period, are questions I have been wrestling with for some time. I tread carefully with this question because I know many good Christian parents who enroll their kids in the local public school, and I also know many good Christians who are public school administrators and teachers. And I certainly don’t want to offer simplistic answers that minimize the gravity and implications for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I also know that school districts within the same states and even the same local region can vary widely in terms of their quality, culture, and commitments, so I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush and be dismissive of the entire enterprise without taking these things into account. But, given the current cultural context, I think this is a question every Christian parent must seriously grapple with and do so year-in and year-out.
Let me offer a question to my Christian friends whose kids are being publicly educated, or who are working in public education, that should help guide this conversation: What is your tipping point? In other words, can public education and all that it involves disintegrate to a level where you would say “enough is enough” and pull your kids out? Of course, I would hope your simple answer is yes. But beyond that, you must begin to outline some specific criteria. You must make explicit the tipping point in your own mind so that you can effectively evaluate whether your local public school has reached that point. Andrew Walker summarizes this well in his article “How the Federal Government is Transforming Public Education”:
Christian parents need to establish a tipping point. This may be the most important response to consider. What actions taken by your local school will be sufficient for you to re-evaluate public education? Is having a teacher reprimand your child for his or her belief about marriage, sex, and gender acceptable? Will you allow them to be in schools where bathroom policies are based on gender identity rather than biological sex? Not establishing a tipping point could leave your child over-exposed to environments they shouldn’t be in. Not thinking about a tipping point is irresponsible and will communicate carelessness about a child’s education and Christian formation. This is not a call to exit the public schools; it is a call to vigilance. It is advisable that spouses have a candid conversation and establish a line in the sand.
So, what’s your tipping point? Christian parents, I’m pleading with you to consider this question carefully and, indeed, to even write out specific criteria that will guide you into the future. The challenges are coming at breakneck speed. For example, entire school districts are adopting pro-transgender policies and will use coercion to enforce them. Therefore, you and I cannot simply float along with the cultural currents, as the church has for the last century, without reaping serious consequences, which we certainly are now. As one possible example, here is a Christian principal who has reached a tipping point in his role as administrator.
I know this opens up a huge conversation, and there are significant practical consequences for individuals and families to face (e.g. leaving a job as a public school teacher or moving from a two-family income household to one in order to homeschool). And of course, the way in which we are most effectively salt and light in the culture must be carefully reflected upon too. But before you consider those things, maybe first we need to spend some time rethinking our views about education itself. Is there a Christian view of education and if so, what it is? What does Scripture say? And given these things, what does wisdom demand from us in this day and age? Biblical thinking about education and our role in it will help clarify what our tipping point(s) should be.
Here are a few resources to get you thinking about a Christian view of education:
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
- Education for Human Flourishing by Paul Spears and Steven Loomis
- Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott
- Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education by David Hicks
- The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
- The Role of Education—Part 1 by Glenn Sunshine
- The Role of Education—Part 2 by Glenn Sunshine
- The Myth of a Value-Free Education by Ronald Nash
- To Know the Lord: A Christian Education Prospectus by T.M. Moore
- Why Christian Education by Jim Drexler
Take a first step. Now. Read an article. Discuss the question of a tipping point with your spouse, trusted family member, friend, or mentor. Purchase one of the books above. Take action immediately. The Body of Christ is responsible for raising up the next generation of Christian ambassadors, so doing nothing is not an option.