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Pastor Jay's Blog

A Line In The Sand For Parents and Public Schooling

Schools have always followed wherever the gospel goes. Schools meet needs that arise from gospel compulsions. The gospel compels us to know God more and thus learning to read allows us to read his holy Word. The gospel compels us to glorify God and we can do that better when we see his world accurately, which history and science allows. The gospel compels us to love our family well and caring for them is done better as we know how to work smarter, which is what schools do. The gospel compels us to love our neighbor because while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We want to see everyone have the ability to read and work and so schools are opened for all people. For these reasons and more schools have always been found where the gospel flourishes.

But what happens when the gospel languishes? If schools were built by gospel impulses, schools will also change with new impulses. What is the new impulse in current society? To answer that you almost have to have the latest newspaper in hand. It seems there is a new cultural issue every week seeking to get its toe in the school door. But at least we can say this: secularization has been a mainstay for decades now. The last couple generations of students cannot imagine reciting the Lord’s prayer in school or seeing the ten commandments posted. A biblical worldview is not acknowledged, or is it outright contradicted.

How do Christian parents respond to this? There are options, but what is not optional is to do nothing. Christian parents have a mandate to raise children to know and fear the Lord, to know his Word, to understand the gospel, to grasp respect for authority, to see the world from a Biblical worldview and more. This will not happen in public schools and therefore public school parents have a large task: they must get that done in the few remaining hours of each day after kids return from school.

Due to the difficulty of this many Christian parents have been moving away from public school. But is that required for faithful Christian parenting? That is what I want to consider. I see three issues to consider. Two of them exist on a scale and one exists as an either/or. Two are a matter of timing, and one is a matter of yes or no. Two exist as analog (an inexact amount) and one as digital (either on or off).

Two Matters of Scale and Timing

The first matter of timing and scale has to do with the curriculum of a school: what are they teaching children? No matter what school you go to, there are going to be areas where the curriculum is better or worse. No school has perfect curriculum taught in a perfect way. Even if you go to a Christian school, there might be doctrines taught there that you don’t fully agree with. Therefore, each parent has to factor how much they are willing to re-educate their children. A parent might be ok with showing how math is not just raw fact as expressed by a secular school but is created by the God of order who keeps things constant in his universe. Another parent might be willing to show that the charismatic emphasis of their Christian school doesn’t align with various Bible verses.

As you can imagine, this gets much more serious when there is complete contradiction to Christian morality and Christian worldview. Is a parent willing and capable to present a compelling case that evolution is not scientifically accurate and it undermines the whole biblical worldview? Is a parent willing and capable to explain why morality is not negotiable and family and history are not being displayed correctly? Is a parent able to compete with the constant bombardment of these teachings when they strike at the heart of the most important issues of life? Increasingly, more and more parents in more and more school districts realize there is too much out of step with basic Christian truth to be able to protect their children from those teachings adequately.

The second matter of timing and scale has to do with the nature of influence. Children are not only taught in the classrooms, they are also taught in the hallways and playgrounds. Children are meant to be shaped. They are sponges. They will soak up the morality of their peers that they see and hear around them. They will soak up how authority is respected or disrespected. They will develop emotions about stories heard and lived around them. They will be shaped. It is unavoidable because this is what children are designed to do. Yes, parents have the dominant influence. But if that influence is not milked for all its worth in home discipleship, and if that influence is not backed by lives of compelling integrity and honesty, even parental influence can be outdone. Do not think that your few statements here and there about how gay marriage is wrong is going to outweigh the influence of seeing fellow students share stories of coming out and of hearing how brave and strong they are for doing that. Don’t think your little talk about following the Lord is going to stand against the onslaught of shame and reproach that will be poured out on them if they say something against the LGBT ideology. Don’t think your normal home is going to keep them from being shaped by 7 hours each and every day of disrespect for authority, normalized immorality, praised materialism, and the fear of man washing over them.

Now, it is true that sin is everywhere. You can find Christian schools that are a hotbed of not only of gossip, pride and self-righteousness, but also of immorality. And everything I am saying applies there as well. The question for the parent is how much of that can you protect against and how much are you willing to risk. And believe me, the issue of influence is even more difficult than the curriculum issue. The curriculum issues you can usually find out about. You will almost never know about the conversations and subtle influences that children swim through every day. I would rank this as even more important than the curriculum issue. It is easier to present a competing worldview than it is to shape and change the hearts, emotions and affections of your child concerning what is good and normal.

The Line in the Sand

The previous two are a matter of scale and timing: how much a parent is able to handle and when they will act. Each family will answer that differently. As our culture continues to swirl around the toilet bowl of “tolerance,” we are going to see more and more parents remove their children from government run schools because the curriculum and peer influence is too much. But there is one issue in our cultural situation that isn’t a matter of scale and timing. It is a matter of either/or. It is a matter of whether a policy exists or if it doesn’t. It is a yes or no question, and I believe it is a line in the sand.

This issue is compelled speech regarding transgenderism and pronoun use. There are more and more schools which are having policy discussions about the use of pronouns in schools. Some schools are making preferred pronoun use a requirement. Other schools are still keeping this optional. But without doubt the fight is coming to a school near you. This is one of those instances where I see a line in the sand. If a school requires teachers and students to use preferred pronouns, this is compelled lying. This has to be a full-stop for parents. Even if you think you can protect your child and counter the gargantuan LGBT forces congealing in the hallways of public school life, if your child or your child’s teacher is forced to use pronouns that are an imaginary dream detached from the biological reality God created, this cannot be tolerated. This is the kind of situation where we say “we must obey God rather than man.” (Acts 5:29). If children are allowed to stay in an environment like that, then forget teaching them to not lie. You are supporting a lie and forcing your children to do the same. You can also forget teaching them to hold to a biblical worldview, biblical marriage and gospel faithfulness.

Parents have a massive job. Shaping people and launching them into a world system hell-bent against truth is no small feat. But the call remains, and so does the power. God will give the grace needed to do what needs to be done for all who rely upon him. Parents, you are disciple-makers, so go forth and make disciples right there in your kitchen.