Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thoughts on Public Schooling: Should Christians homeschool their children?

“The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

Many an average American boy or girl will be raised up in the school rooms of public education.  I would like to share some thoughts from great minds on education itself, public education, and wisdom.  I'd also like to share my personal experiences in the public education system.  Then I'll transition into possible solutions to these issues, cross referenced with personal need and the good of society at large.

I was brought up in a fairly average American home.  My mother was a nurse, and my dad was a teacher for a local technical college.  I was raised just beyond the suburbs, but close enough to the suburbs to bike around with my friends on sunny summer days.  Never the less, autumn would always come and eventually we would hear the familiar squealing of the breaks of the public school bus coming to pick us up for a fresh round of indoctrination sessions.  

It should be noted that the school district which I attended K-12 is considered one of the best in the United States.  No joke.  I recall knowing kids who had wealthy parents that rented a house for their kids in the area, just so they could go to the D.C.E. school district.  I recall the drunken house parties at the rental house too.  At the same time the Wausau, Wisconsin area is a reasonably conservative Christian area.  That was generally reflected in the teachers.  I wouldn't say I received an overly liberal blast of public education.  But there are many who do.  

Elementary school was in general quite a wonderful experience.  There were some issues, but overall it was quite excellent.  I was lucky though.  The Riverside elementary school was a wonderful place to be at K-6th.  Apparently other elementary schools in the area were much different.  

The real nightmare I think comes for most kids in the 7th grade through 12th grade experience.  I recall how the religious students were persecuted.  There was a dual sort of persecution for those types.  First they were targeted by teachers and the governing body of the institution.  I don't think they did that out of cruelty.  They do it because they are afraid of being sued by the Freedom from Religion Foundation or the ACLU.  These organizations lose almost all of their court battles, but by always being there to sue, sue, sue, it forces public teachers and officials into a state of fear.

They don't want a controversy, they don't want a legal battle, they don't their school on the news.  So the easiest way to keep the status quo is to quietly persecute the Christian students who want to practice their beliefs within the walls of the school.  Christian students shouldn't submit to such persecutions, but should instead contact organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Institute for free legal support.  

Possibly worse is the culture of bullying and social climbing within the school population.  I wasn't even religious really during those years, but I always made sure I never mentioned Jesus or Christian faith.  The students who did were brutally mocked, often physically bullied, and forced to the "loser table" at lunch.  I'm sure cultures at school can vary from public school district to public school district, but in my experience it was quite brutal.  There were the popular kids with the nice clothes, and then there were the rest.

"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate  plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty." -Albert Einstein

Dr. Einstein was right when he considered how public schools dispel education.  As many of you know, I'm a writer.  I even dare to say a good, and creative writer of fair skill.  I hated English in high school.  I hated it in junior high.  I hated it in elementary school.  In fact I hated history too, which I love now.  I hated civics, which I enjoy studying now too.  I hated all the subjects.  Why?  Because the majority of the time, I was being taught by an old, gruff tenured teacher, burnt out, who insighted me toward hatred of the topic.  Or in English class I was being forced to read the most boring, uninspiring gluck I could imagine, like "Of Mice and Men" and "Romeo and Juliet."  Now these are certainly good works, but of absolutely no interest to a teenager.  

I realized in later reflection that public school had systematically triggered intense malaise and hatred in me toward every single topic imaginable.  Thank God I fought through those feelings and began to induce myself toward private study which, at my own pace, and studying areas of my own interest, I found new love for subjects that had been crucified before my eyes by aged tenured professors teaching out of boring text books.  I'm sorry, but that was my experience.  I can't put it any more lightly than that.  One of the best public schools in the country did that for me.  It destroyed a sacred interest within me, going in I had, and by the end I had lost.  Einstein was right, the school destroys the most sacred and holy curiosity of inquiry. 

What about morality?  Public schools are not allowed to teach any morals, otherwise they'll be sued by FFRF or ACLU.  What comes about in that vacuum?  Moral anarchy.  I saw it in the public schools.  It is ugly.  The vacuum of moral values breeded a culture of depravity, sex, drugs, alcohol, bullying, and cruelty.  I can't imagine what it's like today.  But when you leave a child at the whim of the public education system, MTV, and Hollywood you've provided a perfect storm of moral disaster.  Moral disaster leading to social disaster.  Society can't function on a valueless orthodoxy.  It will destroy itself, trying to pass more and more laws to try and somehow cover all the new areas of crime, drug abuse, and sin.  Eventually the government devastates itself with endless regulations and laws to try to stem the tide of moral decay, toppling over having roped itself in so many laws, regulations, and authoritarian dictates that it can no longer sustain a free society.  

This is the point when people say, "It's the job of the parents to instill values in the children!  Public schools aren't suppose to do that!"  I tend to agree actually.  But for heavens sake, when are the parents suppose to do that?  Public school is five days a week.  Most parents work long hours making much less than they should.  They're exhausted, overworked, and trying to keep up with bills.  Meanwhile the kids are at school all the time, and when they're home they need to be working on homework.  Or they're participating in sports activities, clubs, or spending time with friends.  It's just not feasible for parents to keep up with all of that.  There is no time to spend, and instilling those values takes time, skill, and long hours.

My parents sent me to Catholic C.C.D.  I'm still not sure what that stands for.  But I do still recall the crawling dread in my spine at the thought of C.C.D. on Wednesday night.  If I was being taught by dead burnt out teachers on subjects they hated during public school hours, at Catholic C.C.D. at ol' St. Therese church I was being taught Catholic doctrine by dead burnt out nuns on Wednesday nights.  It made for a formidable duo of dead teachings described by dead people.  

But there was one year in C.C.D.  I can't recall what grade it was.  Every year we had a new dead nun to teach us emptiness.  But then there was one year of brightness.  This lady was young and alive.  She really believed what she was teaching us.  She was filled with this spirit.  And we kids loved her.  I remember being so eager to come to C.C.D. on Wednesday for that year.  Every word from her felt like it was channeled through God himself.  That year I really began to experience God.  Wow.  It was amazing.  She was amazing.  She was excited.  She really cared, and she really believed.  I remember at the end of that year going up to my mom and saying, "Mommy I'm afraid because I like this lady so much, but next year what if the teacher is another mean old nun?"  And my mother encouraged me.  But sure enough, as I walked in for the next school year, there was another fat, old, dead, heartless nun and whatever fire I had gained the previous year was quickly swept away.  

The more the years went on the more it was just a big joke to all of us in C.C.D.  I remember this one guy in the class, ol' Justin Stankowski.  He was brilliant.  He hid a CD player (this was before ipods kids) in his jacket pocket, and somehow ran the wire for the speaker up his jacket arm and placed the small ear bud in his hand, and he would rest his head against hand and cup the ear bud against his ear and listen to music during C.C.D.   

Even if we had had teachers like the passionate young believer I had one year in C.C.D. it was only one night a week for an hour.  Meanwhile public school was 8 hours a day, five days a week.  One hour of C.C.D. and one hour of church on Sunday can't compete with that.  There just isn't enough time to instill the correct values.  Meanwhile in the absence of moral values in the public school, in that vacuum comes a different set of values, the worldly set.  That set is taught by television, usually it consists of total selfishness, entertain myself at all costs, sex whenever with whoever, alcohol and drugs good, church bad, and science is the only means to truth. 

"How I hated schools, and what a life of anxiety I lived there. I counted the hours to the end of every term, when I should return home." -Winston Churchill

In addition, public schools seem to miss a lot of the most important topics of life.  Children are never taught how to balance a check book.  They are never taught how to manage their finances.  They are never taught how to use credit cards wisely.  They are never taught about interest rates, savings, checking, or how to start a business.  They aren't taught how to go about buying a house, or how to save money for retirement.  Many would retort, public schools are preparing children for college.  But many children won't be attending college, when are they suppose to learn the practical aspects of life!?  And must public school be only and ever only about preparation for college?  Shouldn't public education take into account the majority of students who won't go on to any further education?  

One could now explore the growing overreach of public schools into how children are raised and dealt with.  One could see how creative students are treated as mentally ill because they behave differently than analytically minded students. One could also look at how public schools are being forced to open female bathrooms to males who claim to be "transgendered female" and the boy's bathroom to girls who claim to be "transgendered male."  One could look at the sexual abuse cases by teachers against children.  One could also look at the new cultural values of LGBTQ and how such things are making their way into public education, teaching values in direct contradiction to Christian values.  We could look at how secular philosophy and evolutionary biology are pushed so thoroughly that they drive belief in God out of children all together.  But we don't have enough time or space to go into those issues.

So what is the solution?  Should Christians send their children to public schools?  Are there certain circumstances when children may go to public school even though they are Christians?  

My conclusion is simple.  Based on my personal experience with public school, understanding the curriculum, the culture that arises in the ranks of the young, and the persecution of young people who bring bibles to school or try to pray freely, I cannot in good conscience suggest that any Christian parent ever send their son or daughter to a public school under any circumstances.  The dangers are too great.  The lack of values is too powerful, and getting increasingly more prevalent.  It will only get worse.  Christian parents, if they chose to send their kids to public schools, are choosing to send their children into a dangerous environment.  They do so at their own peril, and they risk the salvation of their own children by doing so.

"I pay the schoolmaster, but it is the schoolboys who educate my son." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Instead Christian parents should either home school their children, or send their children to private Christian schools.  Before sending children to a private school the parent ought to thoroughly research the institution to ensure it will communicate the Christian message in a vibrant, relevant format.  

"It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its natural functions by artificial means. Thus we suppress the child's curiosity and then when he lacks a natural interest in learning he is offered special coaching for his scholastic difficulties." -Alice Duer Miller

Unfortunately for most Christians neither of these options will be possible.  Both can be quite expensive, and home schooling takes a great deal of time and attention.  

All Christians should look to support vouchers for private schools.  This is a political movement, quite active in Wisconsin and other areas, that promotes legislation to give parents the option of sending their kids to private schools.  Instead of being forced to send their kids to liberal public schools, they would have the option to receive a voucher to send their children to a private school of their choosing.  This initiative is intensely resisted by the ACLU and FFRF who claim that vouchers will "hurt public schools."  But it's all about control.  They know they can manufacture a secular future by forcing Christians to put their kids in the public indoctrination center.  Take a stand for vouchers.  Explore private Christian schools and options in that area.  

In the final conclusion, public schools aren't necessarily terrible places.  I'm sure some public schools are quality institutions.  But they don't communicate Christian values.  They are unable to communicate any values.  This leaves a vacuum of moral decay within the framework of the school system leading to gangs, bullying, teasing, and persecution against those who refuse to conform.  It tends to build to a perfect storm.  Christians should think twice before sending their children to a public school.  Instead Christian parents ought to explore homeschooling or private Christian schools.  Unfortunately these are not always viable options, so Christian parents may be forced to send their children to public schools.  In that case, parents in that situation will need to be extremely intentional about communicating Christian values.  In that circumstance, which will probably be quite common I would recommend the parents set aside time every night to share a message based on the Bible and the Christian worldview.  Perhaps that will be enough.  

I hope I haven't been too severe in this article.  But you've got to understand, I went to one of the best public school districts in the country.  D.C.E. district is renowned as one of the best.  And my experience was a total nightmare.  Sports and football players received special treatment from teachers and staff.  Social clicks made every day a brutal exercise in bullying, teasing, and even physical attacks.  There were some good teachers.  But many were quite cynical and jaded.  I was eventually expelled from D.C.E. because students made allegations against me that I had threatened to blow up the school.  Another interesting fact about my life!  It was at that time when during the school day I would endure mockery and ridicule, and feeling quite lonely I would dog through it all at the edge of emotional collapse.  Often on the bus I would become the target of a 45 minute mocking session, where the whole bus would join up in hurling insults at me.  Then when I walked in the door at home I would arrive to my parents screaming at each other in the hallway.  Then I would go into my room, turn up KoRn, and just lay on the floor and cry.  I started acting out, causing more trouble at school, rumors went around about this Justin Steckbauer kid who was going to shoot up the school.  This was right after Columbine too.  Of course I didn't even own any guns.  The same students who had bullied me, and made a fool out of me every chance they could get, heard these rumors.  They spoke to their parents, influential sports players and all, and I was quietly expelled.  I later graduated anyway, and went on to college, but the point here is my experience was an awful one.  And it's mirrored in millions of other children's lives across the country.  

In discussing our public school experience a friend and I recalled it very simply: It was like a dual attack.  First was the awful homework, classes, boring endless hours of learning to despise every core topic.  And secondly, perhaps even worse the cruel totalitarian nightmare of social clicks, bullying, hatred, teasing, and physical attacks in the hallways between classes.  No one need endure such things.  It's not a game.  It's not an initiation.  It's not right.  It shouldn't exist.  It shouldn't continue.  Parents, protect your children from that kind of environment.  Christians, stand up for vouchers, stand up for homeschooling and private Christian schools.  Public schools are not all bad, but for Christians, the values, teachings, and social environment are entirely incompatible with the Christian worldview.  

"Anyone who has passed through the regular gradations of a classical education, and is not made a fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very narrow escape." -William Hazlitt

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