Sunday, May 14, 2017

Public Education: A Pagan System?

I was talking with friends recently and made reference to our nation’s "pagan indoctrination system," meaning the public schools. Several friends immediately got indignant, wanting to know why I was calling public school teachers "pagan." After all, many of those teachers are hard-working, child-loving people who sacrifice tremendously for the kids in their classes.

I quickly clarified that "pagan system" does not mean "pagan teachers." But I didn’t back down on my original claim – our public schools are a pagan system. Christian teachers are fighting an uphill battle to provide good education in a godless system that fights back against them. Here’s why I say this.

God’s System

When God created the universe, He put certain laws into place. The law of gravity is a good example. You can disagree with it, you can defy it, you can try to work around it, but it’s still there and it still governs the outcome of all our physical actions. Another law God put in place concerning human behavior is that a person who is unfriendly usually winds up with few friends. This God-ordained law is so self-evident that even non-Christians agree it exists.

But there are many other laws of human nature that people try to ignore. Just as there would be chaos and pain from everyone ignoring the law of gravity, we see the chaos and pain in our society from ignoring those God-given laws. One of them concerns raising children.

This law of human nature is that God created the perfect education system in the beginning: Families. When society as a whole operates as a support to parents training their children, that society tends to flourish. When society ignores and usurps the role of parents in their children’s education, that society will likewise see chaos and pain in the outcome.

Nowhere in the Bible do we see God giving authority for children’s education to the government, the community, or the church. But He gives it repeatedly and clearly to parents.

This doesn’t mean that parents don’t need help, encouragement and training in this task. But that’s the key – help parents do the job. Don’t take their job away.

  • Parents naturally have the most vested interest in loving and helping their children to succeed.
  • Parents know their children better than anyone else on earth, including "child education experts." 
  • Parents have the ability to spend one-on-one tutorship time with their children.
  • Parents are uniquely positioned by God to be a child’s best educators. 

Unless, of course, you mess up God’s system.

The Pagan System

Home education, properly supported and encouraged by the state and the civil community, is the best, least expensive, and most efficient way for children to be educated and integrated into the adult world. So there is only one reason why the state would want to interfere and get involved: Power.

He who controls the education process controls the eventual makeup of society. People who want to control society, therefore, have a vested interest in first controlling the education system. It’s interesting to note that every totalitarian dictator in modern history has quickly moved to take over his nation’s school system.

It’s easy to see the outcome of 100+ years of enforced government schooling in our country. We now have a nation that ranks below many other nations in basic academic skills. We have a society that, by and large, believes “diversity” is more important than excellence, so people are hired by race and gender quotas instead of skill level. Our nation is becoming a place where sexual deviancy is not only allowed by law, but encouraged and promoted in every level of society. Our culture believes that parents are outdated and authority is something to be flaunted. And of course, it goes without saying that the Bible is unwelcomed and even banished wherever possible.

Further, we now have a society that has no problem with murdering millions of unborn children. We have a culture that regularly produces teenagers and young adults who go on shooting rampages and commit suicide. We have a country that is narcissistic and materialistic, empty and shallow. Children grow up into adults who have no idea what functioning marriages and families even look like. Family units are disintegrating all around us.

This is the fruit of leaving our education system to be designed by government. This design is not God’s way – it’s the pagan way. And we’re getting pagan results: pain and chaos.

Return to God’s System

When communities and nations practice education using God’s system, blessings follow. It’s simply a law of nature that God put into place when he created the universe.

One of the most bright and shining times in our nation’s history occurred when home education was widely practiced. The Declaration of Independence (the first document of its kind ever produced in history) and the Constitution (which has become a model for nations around the world ever since) were produced by a society that was largely home educated. Missionaries who brought the gospel for the first time to dark places around the world had their start in our home-educated society. The financial foundation of the United States, which has become the wealthiest nation on earth, was formed on principles laid down by largely home educated Americans. Some of the brightest minds, the freest society, and the greatest rags-to-riches stories came from the first 100 years of America’s history – when society was largely home educated.

Using God’s system appears to have worked pretty well in America’s history!

If families were supported in their role of educating their own children, so much of what people complain about today would go away.

1. The quality of education would be far higher.  After all, parents have a much higher vested interest in their children's education, plus they have ability to work one-on-one with each child at the child's own pace. Studies have shown that even poorly educated parents who do very little "educating" still wind up with their kids outperforming institutionalized kids.

2. Diversity and cultural heritage would be preserved. All those cultural traditions that should be passed down through generations will have a much better chance of surviving intact - from religious beliefs to family stories to language to respect for elders.

3. Social responsibility would be much higher. You value what you pay for. When education is "free" you don't value it nearly as much as when you have to put something into it.

4. There would be much more individual independence and courage. Herd mentality or peer pressure or following the crowd - whatever you want to call it - is cut way back when a child is raised among loving family members rather than bullying, critical, immature peers. This has also been demonstrated by studies.

5. Many of today’s health problems would be significantly lessened by children being raised in a calm, loving, supportive home. The fast food diets of many American children stem from constantly being on the run with the schools’ schedules. Parents who prepare all three meals for their children are far likelier to create a healthy menu than school cafeterias. Stress from long schedules, school bullies, and peer pressure would cease to push young people into behavioral problems like ADD and depression.

These are just some of the benefits our nation would gain from going back to God’s model for education.

You can have good people in a bad system. There are many American teachers who genuinely love children and want to give them a good education. But good people in a bad system doesn't make the system good. The system intrinsically works against families and against God’s design for education.

The government, the community and the church were designated by God to provide supporting roles for parents to do their job. They were not given a mandate by God to usurp the parents’ job altogether. Our nation is going to continue experiencing chaos and pain until parents take charge of their own children's education instead of letting the state control it.

Home educating parents can already tell you of the blessings on a small scale that God has given their families when they followed God’s design. We need to pray for those blessings on a large scale for our nation, and work to support and encourage parents to take back their role in their children’s education.

Written by Heather Sheen

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Education: Disputable Matters?

Go to nearly any modern Protestant church in America and there’s one subject that gets avoided pretty carefully - the education of children. There is often good reasoning behind this avoidance. American Christians tend to be divided over whether to use homeschooling, private schooling or the public schools. The Bible tells us not to divide ourselves over disputable matters, or gray areas, of theology. So, churches decide that it’s better not to even bring the subject up.

BUT there’s a big assumption in this. The assumption is that children's education is a biblically disputable matter. Is it?

What the Bible Says About Education

We don’t have time in this article to cover every biblical passage on children’s education. I’m going to just hit the highlights.

Deuteronomy 6:6-8: And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

This passage is one of the most explicit in the Bible about teaching children. It’s helpful because it not only tells parents what to teach – the Word of God – but also when to teach it. At home, not at home, at night, during the day. That basically covers all of life, 24/7. So early in Scripture we see God’s model of parents being the primary instructors of their children.

Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 1:8-9: Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.

Proverbs, written by the wisest man who ever lived, talks a great deal about how young people can gain wisdom and learn to live a godly life. Over and over again Solomon refers to parents being the primary educators and children needing to listen to their parents’ teaching.

Psalm 78:5-8: He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

There are many Psalms that talk about parents passing on the heritage of the Lord to their children. This one in particular notes that godly parental education is a guard against a rebellious, anti-God society.

I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus - All three of these books are called the pastoral epistles because they were written to two pastors, Timothy and Titus, and contain many instructions on how a church should be led. It is interesting to note that there are commands given to pastors on how to deal with men, women, slaves, slave owners, basically each section of society. But the only reference to children in these books is when the Apostle Paul instructs parents to teach their own children. It’s pretty clear that teaching children is not a main mission of the church, according to Paul. It’s a main mission of parents. In fact, it’s such an important mission that God, through Paul, declares that an elder/pastor must have done a good job raising his own children before he is put in a position of authority in the church. (I Timothy 3:4-5)

Matthew 18:5-6: Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

I’m ending purposely with the words of Jesus Himself. Jesus loved children and even rebuked His disciples for preventing children to come see Him. He wanted the best for them. Jesus could have updated the past model of parents educating their children, but He didn’t. He said He came to uphold God’s Word, not change it. In fact, all He added to it was this stern warning about causing children to sin. If you wonder what that has to do with a child’s form of education, consider the godless pressures from peers and the ungodly curriculum in many institutional schools today and ask yourself if it’s reasonable to expect an immature child to stand up to these pressures.

Education Is Not Neutral

Generally at this point in the discussion of children’s education a common retort is made. “We do teach our children God’s Word! We simply allow a school system to teach them secular subjects.”

Unfortunately, that’s another assumption that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Education is not neutral. Education is not simply a set of secular facts to memorize. Education is the preparation of a child for life by teaching him how to think, how to learn, and what worldview (or lens) through which to view all information. There are no “secular” subjects.

Mathematics assumes that absolute truth exists and is knowable – a difficult subject to teach if one presupposes that truth doesn’t exist. History that is truthful tells the story of God’s work in mankind from the beginning of time. That’s tough to teach if you don’t even acknowledge God – a “secular” curriculum has a vested interest in obscuring God’s hand. Science in our era is either based on the truth that God created all things or the lie that all things evolved by chance. Dramatically different conclusions can be reached depending on which premise you start from. I could go on through each school subject, but hopefully you get the idea. Nothing in life is neutral, because God created and sustains all things.

Salt and Light

If the conversation on children’s education lasts long enough, another retort is inevitably brought up: salt and light. God commanded us to be salt and light, correct? So shouldn’t our children be His salt and light in the school systems?

It’s helpful to go back to the original passage on salt and light, where we see that God did not command us to be salt and light. Instead, He stated that we already are salt and light and commanded us not to lose our saltiness. Flavorless salt is not only tasteless and therefore unnoticeable, but it also doesn’t do the purpose for which it was used in the first century: preserve food. Just as salt without saltiness allows food to rot, Christians who pollute themselves and water down their thinking also fail to preserve the culture in which God has placed them. Understood correctly, the scripture regarding salt and light is actually support for the idea of godly parental education.

Not Everybody Can Do It

The final retort I always hear in this discussion is that not every family can homeschool. The examples brought up include families that only have one parent, families in financial straits needing two incomes, and families with serious marital problems that would interfere with homeschooling. There is a simple, though not necessarily easy, answer to this found in the Bible. The church needs to support families in doing what God has called them to do.

When a missionary is called to the field, the church supports him with prayers, contributions and volunteer work. A parent is as much a missionary as someone called to Africa or China, and the church has the same opportunity to offer support. If churches provided counseling, volunteer work, financial help, and prayer to struggling parents, nearly all the reasons for not homeschooling would disappear. It’s time for the church to step up and provide support for God’s work in families, rather than enabling excuses to avoid that work.

Parental Education is Mission Work

The gospel is spread first in Christian homes and then spills over to the rest of the world. The gospel is not merely an altar call. It is a life-changing, life-lasting work of sanctification that begins at salvation and continues through the rest of our lives. When Christ gave the Great Commission, He didn’t merely tell us to get people down the aisle. He told us to “make disciples.” That is a daily process that involves countless hours, efforts and prayers on the part of the mentor. What better place for that to happen with children than in their own homes with their own parents?

We can see over 100 years of fruit of ignoring God’s model in our culture. Nearly everyone has heard tragic stories of missionaries and pastors who neglected training their own children and as a result their children left the faith. Our modern churches are seeing the millennial generation leave the church in droves. That is in large part because Christians have farmed out the primary part of their children’s education to other people, most of them non-Christians.

When parents educate their children in the fear of the Lord, society is blessed and preserved through their influence. When parents abdicate their role and leave the education of their children to others, especially to a godless government school system, society suffers and becomes a “rebellious generation,” lacking the light and salt of a robust Christianity.

Considering all this, I think we can make a good case that churches do need to be teaching about children’s education from a biblical perspective. Though the actual outworking of parental education will differ from family to family, providing it is not a disputable matter.

Written by Heather Sheen