Friday, February 1, 2008

Thoughts on Christian Education (Part 2)

I have grown to appreciate and respect Al Mohler more and more these past few years. Mohler is a pastor-theologian, currently serving as president of the Southern Baptist Convention's flagship school, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mohler has written extensively, keeps a regular blog, and can be heard on the radio (The Al Mohler Program) all over the country. I enjoyed his contribution to R.C. Sproul's National Ligonier Conference last Spring and look forward to hearing him again in April at the "Together for the Gospel" conference I am attending in Louisville, Kentucky. The loss of D. James Kennedy as a national conscience-type pastor is certainly significant, however the Lord has raised up a new one in Al Mohler at just the right time.

Mohler is a key leader in the highly diverse Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The SBC is massive (17 million members) as compared to my denomination, the PCA (400,000 members). At virtually every annual meeting of the SBC, a group of people will challenge the entire convention to pull their kids from government schools. It never comes close to passing. To be fair, the same thing happens at our General Assembly every year.

I don't think much of "conventions" as they carry little, if any, authority over the practices and teachings of the various individual churches as evidenced by the presence of rank Arminians right alongside Calvinists in the SBC. Heck, Bill Clinton is a Southern Baptist. Nevertheless, as an entity, the SBC is basically evangelical and holds quite a bit of cultural sway by its sheer number of churches (over 40,000 !)and members. If the SBC were to collectively pull their children from government schools, it would be a ginormous statement to the rest of evangelicalism.

Two years ago Al Mohler addressed the issue in an excellent blog post (here). I want to provide two quotes from that post, I encourage you to read the whole article for yourself. Reading it made my appreciation for Mohler go up a couple notches. It's one thing for small-time, nobody pastor to call Christians to pull their children from government schools (who listens to loud-mouthed, Northeastern, Sicilians, anyways? Well, I guess those who don't want to sleep with the fish), but it's quite another when a evangelical heavyweight like Al Mohler says it-

With control over the public school system increasingly in the hands of the courts, educational bureaucrats, the university-based education schools, and the powerful teachers' unions, little hope for correction appears. Federal mandates, accreditation requirements, union demands, and the influence of the educational elite represent a combined force that is far greater than the localized influence of many school boards, not to mention parents. Those who doubt the radical commitments of groups such as the National Education Association should simply look at the organization's public statements, policy positions, and initiatives.

The breakdown of the public school system is a national tragedy. An honest assessment of the history of public education in America must acknowledge the success of the common school vision in breaking down ethnic, economic, and racial barriers. The schools have brought hundreds of millions of American children into a democracy of common citizenship. Tragically, that vision was displaced by an ideologically-driven attempt to force a radically secular worldview.

I believe that now is the time for responsible Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. This strategy would affirm the basic and ultimate responsibility of Christian parents to take charge of the education of their own children. The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families, and offer alternatives. At the same time, this strategy must acknowledge that Southern Baptist churches, families, and parents do not yet see the same realities, the same threats, and the same challenges in every context. Sadly, this is almost certainly just a matter of time.
- Al Mohler (blog post 2005)


Frontier Forest said...

Would to the Lord, when my children were in school, I would have had enough insight to invest in their eternal education. There were Christians schools back in the 70’s and early 80’s but just didn’t think much about it then. But let’s face it, my kids never had to face daily metal dictators, guns, violence, answering cell phones, texting, demanding their own cars, deal with the proliferation of easy available illegal drugs, dangerous, corrupt pedophile bent teachers. But having said all this, and wanting to support Westminster and other Christ-based schools 100%, we praise the Lord pray for those dedicated Christians we personally know, who have been called to be salt and light in the dark hallways of public learning.

AJF said...

I think there is certainly a place for Christians to teach in Public Schools- although I'd rather they be using their gift of teaching in a place where they can disciple unashamedly and with an explicit biblical world and life view being promoted throughout- but I do not think a child or youth is called to some kind of salt and light in the darkness of public education. That's not the calling of a young child. Sure, I'm guessing young christian kids are used of God in the public school setting, but one would be hard pressed to show how this would be good for that child's discipleship. Psalm 1 says it best-

:1 Blessed is the man [1]
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law [2] of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Frontier Forest said...

Pastor Tony, Good points on all issues!But in looking over my post, I wasn't very clear. When I stated, "Christians we personally know, who have been called to be salt and light in the dark hallways of public learning."
I was refering to Christians, who are themselves, teachers within the public school system.

AJF said...

Good clarification Woody. I agree with you.

Kampfgruppe-H said...

Great series Tony; I’m in agreement with you and Rev. Mohler. Here’s my two cents: you wouldn’t train combat troops by exposing them to the front lines of battle on day one. It’s at home and at basic training where valuable lessons are learned and where mistakes made will be reversible. Once children are 18, they’ll be living the rest of their lives on the front lines of this “real world,” and the real world is a very nasty place. The secret is to get them ready with controlled exposure in an overseeing environment. As adults they’ll be far better prepared than the so-called “street smart,” public school humanists whose lives you don’t want your kids to emulate. By controlling the environment you will have molded them to be happy citizens and, hopefully, respected leaders. As for socialization and “street smarts,” if you pour mud on a white cloth it’s soon brown. Put the same clean cloth into a dish of mud and there’s no whitening effect on the mud. Since school is a place of social and academic sludge and mud, your kids need to learn about the sludge factor from mom and dad; guided learning at home via conversations, books, videos as well as neighborhood contacts and, yes, even at church. I know, I am a biased home schooling father.

AJF said...

I like your opening analogy for sure.

Socialization is something that can be guideded in a godly way in both home school and private christian school settings. That's a different discussion.

Anonymous said...

As my wife and I are getting older and people are pressuring us to have children more and more we have discussed the issue of how we would raise them and at the forefront is education.

We originally thought that it would be good just to send them to public school because they are going to have to learn to live in the world eventually and we would teach them how to deal with problems as they arose, that way there would be no culture shock when going to college and they are bombarded with anti-god teaching and the attractive hedonism of the social life on college campuses.

We figured we would supplement this with living a godly life at home, and teaching them the bible as much as possible and teaching them to deal with all the problems they encounter in school from a godly perspective, in other words, use school as a way of maturing them in the Christian walk right away. I am not as certain of this path as I once was, as I see just how bad the kids in public school are. There are a lot of bad habits to be picked up by hanging out with heathens all day long. The constant pressure to do drugs, have sex, cheat and just generally lead immoral lives, and that is just from the teachers and principles, that's not factoring in the other students.

Living where I do, in Crimedotte county (KCKS), schools are a major problem. Everyone I work with must work two or three jobs to be able to afford to send their children to private Catholic schools. We live in the Piper school district which made national news for plagiarism.

There is the option of homeschooling but everyone we know that does that barely made it out of high school themselves and have no college, I don't know that we are educated enough to teach a child advanced math, science, physics and the like, that should be be done by professionals.

Also wondering if there in not a difference in training children so that they can make a living, which is essentially what school is, and discipleship, which is what church is for. Shouldn't discipleship be done at home and in church and reading, writing and arithmetic be taught in school. We are not living in the days anymore where one could get by just learning to read and write, there is a lot more to learn now than in the 17th and 18 century when one could get by just learning the catechism and reading the bible, which is what the early schools consisted of. Children learned to read so they could read the bible. Plus I think the state took over as the church let these things go, arts, science, math etc. Maybe we should try to take these things back. If we isolate ourselves like the Essenes did what good are we doing. We are no lonnger the salt and light of the world.

Anyway, there are a lot of factors that go into the decision of how to educate children, money being a large factor. Besides, I have yet to see any concrete evidence to show that educating children at home or privately has a better effect than sending them to public schools. My wife and I both know people raised in public school who still walk with God and plenty of people educated in private Christian schools who walked away from God and have not looked back, and in fact hate God and the church.
I don't think there is any perfect system.

AJF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AJF said...

You have raised many issues, some have pretty concrete answers, but too lengthy for me to go in to in a short post response. I will say this- home school and christian school kids routinely score higher on standardized tests. Our Schools standardized tests score higher than all the public school averages. It's not close. Now, education isn't all about scoring well on standardized tests, don't get me wrong. I actually think such a standard is overrated- but it is the method used at large, and Christian Ed methods do better. Education has to do with a world view development, that's what's most important and impacting. Fulfilling Deut. 6 and ephesians 6 is our communal and parental mandate.

I'll not say more but rather continue to try and show the great value of Christian Ed in future posts.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could give us more info,

Tuition costs
Number of students
Number of students that have parents who attend Redeemer vs. those who do not


jeff in NJ said...

As a Christian public school teacher, there are a couple of comments here to which I take exception. These responses are meant in Christian love. I am not some kind of raving lunatic! ;)

First of all, "frontier forest", you are painting with a dangerously broad brush. yes, some of the things you mention (metal detectors, guns, violence) do happen, but are the exception to the rule in most cases.

Secondly, the "corrupt pedophile bent teachers" you refer to would be the analagous to a non-Christian refering to all Christians as abortion clinic bombers. Unfortunately, there are disgusting "people" in this world who prey on kids in the most unimaginable ways, and, yes, some of these "people" end up in schools, but just as many end up in law enforcement, clergy, or any other walk of life that could put them in proximity to kids. I don't really know any of you guys from Adam, but I'd be willing to bet that none of you would bomb an abortion mill or assault a gay person as some do in the name of "religion". See what I mean?

I would absolutely LOVE nothing more than to teach in a Christian school. I teach music. Imagine being able to teach fully the spiritual truths in Handel's "Messiah" to students as Tony did in his 2 sermons? However, it's hard enough to support my wife, 3 sons, our small 2 BR ranch, NJ property taxes and insurance, and our cars, both of which have over 100K miles, on the 45K a year I get now. I can't imagine having to do the same on 20K at any of the local Christian schools.

I was in Christian schools through 8th grade. When i entered high school, I thought, from what I was told by numerous people, that when I got into the public high school, I was going to be offered alcohol, drugs, sex, and all kinds of nasty stuff around every corner. Guess what? in the 4 years I was in high school, I never saw drink, drugs, or sex. I was almost disappointed! Yes, the public schools leave tons to be desired, but they are not the dens of drunken debauchery that some people make them out to be.

By the way, my kids go to Christian school!

AJF said...

Qayaq- this is a little off my point at the moment, but to answer your questions- I think the tuition costs are posted on the Westminster site. While we're working toward state accreditation (it takes 2-3 years), it's not really necessary. We are accredited by ACSI (Christian School assoc) already. Means nothing for college entrance. I could care less about "state" accreditation. Our enrollment is 240, K-8th right now. Many of our Redeemer families send their kids, but many others home school, others send their kids to public schools. In the school there are more non-church kids than church kids, but that's because our church is basically mid-sized and we are open to tons of other churches. Really, that doesn't have much to do with my point on this post, but I'm happy to state what I know of the top of my head. I'd love for all our church families to send their kids to WCA, but obviously home schooling is valid option for Christian Ed.

As for tuition costs, we have a couple levels of financial aid so that we never turn down a family for financial reasons.

AJF said...


Very good points, thanks for making them.

I think Woody is thinking of some of the worst situations when he writes.

Just to be clear, it's not the degraded state of the government school system that is the problem up front, it's the lack of a biblical world view that's the problem (which, in turn, contributes to the degraded state of the public schools). I don't suggest children and youth go to Christian schools to avoid the evils of public schools in a reactionary way, but rather I suggest going to Christian schools as a proactive discipleship measure. 14,000 seat hours is too precious and crucial to give to a system that is anti-god philosophically.

For the record, I went to public school and didn't really see much bad stuff. It wasn't a terrible experience, HOWEVER, it did NOTHING to inform and train my worldview. I view many of my schooling years, especially Junior High and beyond, as a waste of time and missed opportunity. It wasn't until Bible College that I started to formulate a holistic biblical world view.

Having said that, I graduated in 1989...things are quite different today.

Thanks for your comments Jeff, they are very poignant and valuable.

Rick Calohan said...

I graduated in 1985, perhaps the last group of students in the Kansas City School Public School District to actually got swatted with a paddle when needed, learned the values of how great this nation is, and how blessed we are.

My former church Christ Presbyterian (PCUSA) is in my old neighborhood on the Northeast side (No Not North of the River) of Kansas City. Around 1995 the Church along with, “the Bisceglia Italian Cultural Center to turn its attention to the growing need for quality schools in Kansas City; and formed its own charter elementary school "Scuola Vita Nuova" (School of New Life). The school's emphasis on writing and the performing arts is complemented by instruction in the Italian language for all grade levels.”

Now, the charter school is great in that those children have a safe and wonderful environment that fosters learning in the inner city. However, unlike Westminster Christian Academy, there is no Christian Education.

This is where Christ Presbyterian Church PCUSA failed. The Church itself was more a less an Italian Mission with the majority of the members coming from two families. No, this is not a MAFIA story, and the church was a part of the old PCUS. In addition, while it was a vital part of the community from its beginning through the first and second generations. However, by the time I attended there 1995-2005, it was evident that the Church was in decline and that the grandchildren and great grandchildren of that first generation were no longer a part of the neighborhood or the church. These people born in the 1960s and early 1970s along with their families moved to suburbs to avoid the desegregation and the disintegration of the Kansas City School District that began in the district in 1977.

Now granted a church’s dynamic has a great impact on how a Christian school is operated but has no impact on how a charter school is operated. The church around 1983 joined the PCUSA. With the addition of the charter school, the church had a three-fold mission. The church, the cultural center, and with approval of the Session the newly formed charter school three entities in one building.

Now which of those three entities is has faded away? No, it is not the cultural center because it is still making money and receives charitable contributions. No, it is not the charter school. The school will remain so as long as it meets the needs of the community and receives funding from the Government. Unfortunately and sadly, the Church itself has faded away. Oh, sure, there in name only, with a woman minister, a Haitian congregation, who are more of the Episcopalian and Arminian background and a liberal social gospel theology worldview. Albeit there are still church services there, the bulk of the church that grew from two families in no more.

What makes Westminster Christian Academy so unique is that not only the children are getting a solid education, but are renewing their minds daily in the Word of God and in the Grace of His abundant Love for His Covenant people.