jasonbwatson

September 26, 2014

Misguided

This post contains explicit content that may be offensive to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

Today I came across an article posted this past Wednesday on the web site of the Washington Times entitled “Las Vegas schools consider teaching kindergartners about masturbation, homosexuality.” I read the article and found it difficult to fathom that even in Las Vegas would a school board really think it was a good idea to pursue such a course. So from there I checked the web site of the Las Vegas Fox affiliate and found that they had posted a story on Tuesday called “School district considering big changes to sex ed curriculum.” Some of the information there was quite similar to the Washington Times piece, prompting me to think either it’s true or there is still more to the story that is being overlooked because it would be less sensational. So I decided to go straight to the source, so to speak, because the Fox story mentioned the following: “Some changes the school board may consider are outlined [in] a 112-page document called Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education, which was put together by a national task force of educators and health experts.” I assumed such a report would be easy to locate and I found, within just a few keystrokes, that I was right. The document is available on siecus.org, the site of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. Much to my amazement, the document has a copyright date of 2004, which caused me to think right away that either no other school district is using these recommendations or the assertions about what the curriculum would teach kindergartners was inaccurate. So I determined to find out.

Along the way, I found some interesting things, none of which were encouraging. First, this report already contained, ten years ago, guidelines for teaching adolescents that some babies are born with genitals that do not match their chromosomes, which is basically another way of saying that some people are born transgendered. This is a means of supporting the rapidly-growing transgender movement in the United States which I have addressed elsewhere. The September 2014 issue of High School Today, the publication of the National Federation of State High School Associations, includes an article entitled “Developing Policies for Transgender Students on High School Teams.” The thrust of that article can be understood with these two sentences: “It is important for policy-makers to understand that transgender girls (who were assigned a male gender at birth) are not boys. Their consistent and affirmed identity as girls is as deep-seated as the gender identity of non-transgender girls.” This is what the guidelines I read through are teaching as well.

I read on. One of the developmental messages recommended by the guidelines for children at Level 1 (which the guidelines define as middle childhood, ages 5-8) is this: “Vaginal intercourse – when a penis is placed inside a vagina – is the most common way for a sperm
and egg to join” (p. 26). While this is true, do I want it being taught to my kindergarten student? Absolutely not.

One of the developmental messages for Level 2 children in the topic of reproduction is this: “Sperm determine the biological sex of the fetus.” Sounds safe, perhaps, but notice what it is really saying–the “biological sex” means that ones gender and biological sex are not necessarily the same, which means that, again, this guideline is paving the way for teaching transgenderism to students. And while the transgender message described above was for adolescents (ages 15-18) this one is recommended for Level 2, ages 9-12. Upper elementary school, in other words.

To be fair, the guidelines include some very good points about Body Image. Level 1, for example, includes this: “All bodies are equally special, including those that are disabled.” Level 2 includes, “Most people do not look like what the media portrays as beautiful” and this: “The value of a person is not determined by his/her appearance.” “The media portrays beauty as a narrow and limited idea but beautiful people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities” is a Level 3 message (ages 12-15).

But then it gets worse, again, because the next section/topic is Sexual Orientation. The Level 1 messages include teaching that people can be attracted to people of the opposite gender or of the same gender and that homosexuals are all called gay men and lesbians. At Level 2 the guidelines expand on heterosexual and homosexual to provide instruction about bisexuals, as well as this statement: “The origin of people’s sexual orientation is not known.” Really? Quite the worldview being assumed there…but at least it is relatively vague. That changes at Level 3, when one of the messages is this: “People do not choose their sexual orientation.” Level 3 also includes this message–“Many scientific theories have concluded that sexual orientation cannot be changed by therapy or medicine”–without any inclusion of the fact that there are also scientific theories which conclude that sexual orientation indeed can be changed.

The sexual orientation discussion gets very interesting at Level 4, though. For example, one of the messages is this: “Sexual orientation is determined by a combination of a person’s attractions, fantasies, and sexual behaviors.” This is interesting because we see a progression. At Level 2 students are told we don’t know where orientation comes from. At Level 3 they are told that, wherever it comes from, it is not a choice. And now, at Level 4, they are told, “this is where it comes from.” This is, to me, evidence of the tenuousness of the position, because if there were certain of where it comes from it would make absolutely no sense to develop curriculum guidelines that include telling elementary students “we do not know something” and then simultaneously include telling high schoolers, “we do know, and here it is.” This is akin to telling elementary students “Santa Claus is real” then telling them later “actually, he’s not.” If it were accurate, this would be prescribed lying. Since it is not accurate, it is simply a program for gradually preparing students to accept something that is not true.

Interestingly, though, Level 4 also includes this message: “The understanding and identification of one’s sexual orientation may change over the course of his/her lifetime.” Really? I agree with that, but here is why it is so interesting. If the identification and understanding of one’s sexual orientation can change that means that one’s sexual orientation can change, too–which means, quite simply, that sexual orientation is a choice.

Sadly, the final message in this section for Level 4 is this: “Civil rights for gay men and lesbian women are being debated in many states and communities across the United States.” As I have explained in this space on numerous occasions, homosexuality is not a civil rights issue. By teaching students that it is, though, we would be prepping them to approve the “equal rights” that homosexuals are increasingly demanding.

Well, the guideline is 112 pages long and, as of the paragraph above, I am only through page 31, so unless I want to bore you to tears I better get to the point and tell you whether or not the guidelines really do teach kindergarten students about masturbation. After all, that was launched this quest in the first place.

Sexual Behavior is Key Concept 4 in the guidelines. The developmental messages for Topic 1, Level 1 of Key Concept 4 are only two: “Most children are curious about their bodies” and “Bodies can feel good when touched.” Both of these statements are true and do not, explicitly, teach masturbation. I still would not want the school teaching my child this, but it is not as horrific as the reports made out. So I am relaxing a bit. But then I go to the next page. Topic 2 of Concept 4 is called, simply, Masturbation, and the developmental messages for Level 1 are as follows: “(1) Touching and rubbing one’s own genitals to feel good is called masturbation; (2) Some boys and girls masturbate and others do not; and (3) Masturbation should be done in a private place.” So there it is. The results are unmistakable and unavoidable–these standards do, in fact, advocate teaching kindergarten students what masturbation is and where it should be done.

Oddly enough, Topic 4, on Sexual Abstinence, does not include any developmental messages for Level 1, and includes this for Level 2: “Children are not physically or emotionally ready for sexual intercourse and other sexual behaviors.” Realize, please, what that means. It means that teachers are asked to explain to children ages 5-8 what masturbation is, but are not supposed to tell them until ages 9-12 that they are not mature enough, physically or emotionally, to engage in such behavior. And this makes sense how?

The information addressed here should cause real alarm among parents. True, in this instance we’re talking about Las Vegas, but it will not stay there. This report has been out for ten years, and it is from a national organization. This is simply the beginning of the path that public schools will soon be taking if we do not take a stand and say “No, you’re not teaching that to my child.” In fact, while we cannot and should not dictate what parents teach their own children, we should take a stand and say to schools, “You’re not teaching that to any child.”

October 11, 2013

Sabotaging the Lighthouse

As I alluded to at the end of the last post, there is considerable disagreement among Christians over the way in which Christian parents should respond to the reality of public school education. These differences of opinion are clear in the first three letters printed in the Mailbag section of the October 19, 2013 issue of WORLD Magazine. All three are in response to the September 7 issue of WORLD, their “Back to School” issue.

The first letter, from a gentleman in California, says, “The questions and issues listed on your Sept. 7 cover are vital ones that I fear too many, even Christian parents, are unaware of. Do we understand scientism? Do we discern that all schools teach secular humanism in the state systems?” Without coming right out and saying so he certainly seems to be of the opinion that the public school is not a safe environment for Christian children because of the worldview that is presented.

The second letter, however, refutes any assertion that Christians should abandon the public schools. “My husband is a minister and I teach in the public school system,” writes a lady from Missouri. “Our four children thrived in public schools because we taught them Christian values. Things have gotten bad, but if Christians continue to withdraw, schools will only get worse. My children and I are missionaries every day.” This is perhaps the most common objection I hear from Christian parents who do not want to remove their children from public schools. As I have indicated before, I believe each parent is ultimately charged by God with raising their own children and I cannot clearly know God’s will for anyone else, so I am not going to suggest that everyone who holds to this position is wrong. I will suggest, however, that the number of Christian children who are “missionaries” in the public schools pales in comparison to the number of public schools that are missionaries to the Christian students that attend them. By that, I mean that more often than not I think the school influences the students more than the students influence the school.

I heard Cal Thomas address this issue a few years ago. At that time he stated that ninety percent of Christian children go to public schools. I am not sure where he got that figure, but I suspect it is not far off. One of the things he said about the assertion made by the wife and mother in Missouri that the influence of public schools can be countered by teaching them Christian values at home stuck with me. He said, “You wouldn’t send your children off with a healthy breakfast and be unconcerned if they ate lead paint for lunch.” The same, he said, is true intellectually, spiritually and morally when students go to public schools. I would have to agree; after all, students are almost certainly getting more direct instruction from their schools than they are from their parents; even the best case scenario might be only fifty-fifty. So why would Christian parents concerned about the development of their students knowingly and willingly send their children to an environment in which much of what they learn, or at least the perspective from which they learn it, is in opposition to what the parents believe and the Bible teaches?

To the point of being missionaries or ambassadors in the public school setting, I think there is a tremendous amount of merit to that argument for Christian adults working in public schools. I think the weight of that argument diminishes exponentially when talking about children. It is not coincidental that the United States does not send children or teenagers as ambassadors to other nations. I realize that is not a perfect example, and yes, children and teens can absolutely be salt and light in the world. Truth be told, I was probably more bold about sharing my faith with strangers as a child than I am now, much to my own dismay. This argument is flawed, though, because children and teens are still having their faith, their worldview and their understanding shaped. They are still extremely susceptible to influences and their minds are still quite pliable.

I have always considered lighthouses to be a terrific metaphor for Christians and the role that Christians are to have in the world. A lighthouse was a carefully constructed building. The bricks needed to be placed correctly and secured carefully in order to build the structure up high enough for its light to be seen from a distance. It also needed to be strong enough to support the staircase that wrapped its way around the inside of the light tower so that the keeper could make his regular trips up and down the stairs. If the tower fell, the light would be useless. If the stairs collapsed and the keeper could not light the light (in the days before automation) the light would be useless. In other words, the light itself only had any value if the lighthouse itself was securely constructed. There might be a perfectly goof Fresnel lens sitting on top of the lighthouse, or sitting on the ground next to a lighthouse being constructed, but without the properly constructed light and usable stairs within the tower the light would be worthless.

The same is true of Christians. The light the we have is perfect and good and complete, because the light that we have is the Gospel message, the truth of God’s Word. But if our towers are faulty, if we cannot or do not light the light, the light in our towers is worthless.

No one charged with the task of constructing a lighthouse would spend mornings, evenings and weekends constructing the tower and knowingly and willingly allow another person or group of people to spend six to eight hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, sabotaging the tower he was building. Imagine how long it would take to construct that lighthouse! Think of the adage two steps forward, one step backward. Even worse, think of one step forward, two steps backward. The one charged with building the tower would have to spend so much time repairing and fixing what he had already done that he would seldom if ever make progress in building the tower higher. Getting to the point where the lighthouse was complete and the light could accomplish its purpose would take an extremely long time! This is exactly what happens when Christian students go to public schools. They have a light to show to the world, but it is seldom visible because the world is continually sabotaging their tower by attacking and undermining their faith and their worldview.

I always find it particularly troubling when parents send their children to Christian school for elementary and perhaps even junior high school and then send them off to public school for their high school years. More often than not this is due to the athletic, music and other co-curricular activities that public schools offer than many Christian schools cannot (or not at the same level). Sometimes it is also because parents question whether or not the academic in the Christian school are as rigorous as those in the public schools. Regardless of the reason, I find the decision incredibly uninformed. Teenagers are perhaps more susceptible to the influence of others than any other humans. They are already trying to figure out who they are and what they think. They are already prone to question authority and what they have been raised to do, think and believe. Why in the world would a Christian parent insert their child into an environment where they are surrounded by the influences of the world at exactly that age? Quite simply, I don’t get it.

I mentioned three letters published in WORLD. I will talk about the point made in the third one next time.

October 9, 2013

“…the answer is increasingly no.”

Al Mohler begins his article “Is Public School An Option?” with this questions and statement: “Should Christian parents send their children to the public schools? This question has emerged as one of the most controversial debates of our times.” As I suggested in the previous post, I would have said “sure” if asked this question anytime prior to the early part of this century, and that was even after I had spent three years teaching in a Christian school. I felt that I had turned out just fine having attended public schools my whole life and, frankly, what I had heard and seen of some homeschooling and Christian school education made me cringe. I was convinced that public school education was usually more rigorous and better prepared students to be lifelong learners. Bottom line, I thought public school education was more legitimate.

Mohler writes, “Until fairly recently, exceptions to this rule [the expectation that parents would send their children to public schools] have been seen as profoundly un-democratic and practically un-American. Homeschoolers were seen as marginal eccentrics, Catholics were seen as hopelessly sectarian, and those who sent their children to private schools were seen as elitist snobs.” Perhaps not exactly, but that fit my way of thinking pretty well.

Of course, as Mohler also points out, public education in America was under the oversight and influence of parents and the local community for hundreds of years; “public schools were public in the sense that they were community schools maintained for and by the citizens of a community.” That way of thinking has certainly changed, and beginning with John Dewey the influence of the parents and local community members on the curriculum and policies of the local schools has significantly diminished.

As Mohler states, “decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court secularized schools in a way that separated the schools from their communities and families.” Of course I am not old enough to remember when there was prayer and Bible reading in school, so that removal happened before I came along. And in that small Midwestern town where I went to high school there was still release time once a week when students could leave the public school during the school day and go for an hour to the church of their choice for “religious instruction.” Students who did not wish to go could stay at school for a study hall. My public high school choir performed their year-end concert in a church and the performances included doctrinally-sound Christian hymns like “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” So maybe my experience had not been the norm… And maybe the decreasing influence of the local community had not become the reality in the Midwest yet by the time I graduated high school.

What eventually changed my mind about public schools as a viable option and the legitimacy of homeschooling and Christian schools was the realization that schools were not ideologically neutral, which I had deluded myself into thinking they could be. Mohler writes, “The ideological revolution has been even more damaging than the political change. Those who set educational policy are now overwhelmingly committed to a radically naturalistic and evolutionistic worldview that sees the schools as engines of social revolution. The classrooms are being transformed rapidly into laboratories for ideological experimentation and indoctrination.” If I may be so bold I would disagree with Mohler on that last part, because I am now convinced that classrooms have not been transformed into “laboratories for…indoctrination” but rather always have been. “Indoctrination” means “the act of indoctrinating, or teaching or inculcating a doctrine, principle, or ideology, especially one with a specific point of view.” Public schools have always done that because it is impossible to teach without doing it. Christian schools do it, too; in fact, that is the whole reason most parents who send their children to Christian schools do so!

Am I suggesting that it is not possible to take a non-ideological position on any subject or that a teacher cannot impartially present information to students? No; that can be done–though it often takes real intentionality to do. What I am suggesting is that every teacher has a belief system, a worldview, that influences their way of thinking about every subject, and that worldview comes through in their teaching.

What has happened is that the right and wrong that public schools used to teach have become various versions of right and debate over wrong because everything is relative. What has happened to the public schools is the removal of certainty and absolutes and facts and the substitution of questioning and relativism and opinion. This is what has led to the ridiculous stories we hear and read about graphic sex ed classes, infringement of student rights to gather or pray or express a minority viewpoint and the support by public education leaders for teaching an acceptance and even and embrace of sinful behavior.

What caused me to change my mind about public schools, and to pretty well determine that my own children will never attend a public school, was the realization that what the schools teach–even the decent ones–is almost always taught from a perspective and toward and end that is completely at odds with what I believe and what I want my children to believe; specifically, what the Bible says. Local control of public schools is increasingly rare. There is more local (and school-level) control than many of the loudest conservative voices claim there is, but it is not enough. The tidal wave of mental manipulation and cconvictionless character has crashed into the public school system and as the water settles the ruins are increasingly visible.

Paula Bolyard, blogging for PJ Lifestyle, has responded to Mohler’s article, too. She correctly writes, “This is one of the most difficult questions a Christian family must wrestle with as school curriculum and speech and behavior codes increasingly stand in opposition to Christian teachings.” I am not by any means attempting to make light of this issue or suggest that it is an easy decision. There are people I know well and respect (indeed, people I am related to) who have chosen to send their children to public schools, and I am not sitting in judgment of them. I personally think that many of their reasons are flawed, but that does not mean they do not hold them sincerely. I will address some of these arguments in a future post.

I think what it comes down to is this assertion by Bolyard: “The stakes are very high. Consider the effects of thirty or more hours a week in a government school where you have no control over what your children are taught — where your local teachers have little or no control over the content of their lessons. Where the federal bureaucrats — many of whom have antipathy toward your Christian values — dictate what your children learn, all day long. How much time are you willing to invest in debriefing your children?” That’s just it. Students will spend some fifteen thousand hours of their lives–their most formative years–in school. Does it make any sense for me to knowingly and willingly place my children for that length of time into an environment that I cannot control and that I increasingly am in opposition to? I don’t think so. If I do, I will have to deal with these candid questions Bolyard asks: “How will you convince them that you are the authority on any given subject — that what you’re teaching them is right — and not their teachers? Is it fair to put a young child in the position of choosing between what their teacher is telling them and what their parents and Sunday school teachers say?”

Nearing the end of his article Mohler asks and answers the question that is the basis for the entire article. “Is public school an option? For Christians who take the Christian worldview seriously and who understand the issues at stake, the answer is increasingly no.” I absolutely agree. In fact, I may well have left the word “increasingly.”

October 8, 2013

Changing My Mind

Now back to our previously scheduled programming…I will resume my multi-entry look at education in America.

In the October-December 2013 issue of Answers Magazine Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. wrote an article entitled, “Is Public School an Option?” The title of the article struck me for two main reasons: (1) As a Christian school administrator I was curious to read what Mohler would say, and (2) I am well aware that my own position on this question has changed completely in the past decade and a half. Mohler writes, “I spent every minute of my school life from the first grade to high school graduation in a public school.” I can say the same thing, but throw in kindergarten for me, too.

I had some cousins who attend Christian schools, but they did not live in my community. Other than them, I do not recall knowing anyone who went to a Christian school. I grew up being in church every time the doors were open. No one in the two churches our family attended between my ages five and thirteen attended Christian schools that I know of. I surely do not remember anyone who was homeschooled, either. When I was thirteen my family moved from just outside of Washington, D.C. to a town of 20,000 in the upper Midwest. (At the time I thought that had to be the smallest town in the country. Ironic, given that I now live thirteen miles outside of a town of about fifteen hundred people…not all that much bigger than my high school in that town of twenty thousand!) I was satisfied with my education in public schools. I had good teachers, there were minimal blatantly unbiblical influences that I recall, and only once do I remember my parents having me “opt out” of viewing a movie that was being shown in class. I went on to attend a private college, but not a Christian one.

Interestingly, after college I was teaching in a Christian school and even then I was adamant that there was nothing wrong with most public schools. Given that I was back in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I was well aware that there were some poor public schools (and some dangerous ones) but I was not a die-heard devotee of the Christian school movement. I was even further away from the homeschooling movement. I was skeptical of the ability of most parents to effectively teach their children, skeptical of the quality of the education those children who were homeschooled were receiving, and skeptical of the futures those homeschooled children would have. I can remember telling my wife early in our marriage that if we ever had children we would not homeschool them and I was not even sure I would send them to Christian school. This was a bit brazen for me to say given that my wife had only ever attended Christian schools until she was in high school when her parents began homeschooling her and her five younger siblings. My in-laws were, in fact, still homeschooling until the end of the last school year.

In the years since then my mindset has changed dramatically. I have been married for fourteen years and now have two children, neither of whom has ever attended a public school. We have homeschooled and both are now in a Christian school where I am also the administrator. How did my mind change so completely? What does Al Mohler have to say in his article, and do I agree or disagree with him? Come back next time to find out….

May 30, 2013

Intended to be fun?

Earlier this month, in a post titled “How Do You Feel?”, I addressed my concern over a growing movement around the country to provide “gender identity counseling” to young children in order to help them determine whether they feel like they are a boy or a girl, and to then provide services necessary to help them achieve that identity, even when that involves hormones and other changes to the body.

Now, just last week, a school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin asked its elementary students to dress as members of the opposite sex for a day as part of a week of special activities at the school. Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities originally dubbed the day “Gender Bender Day,” though it changed the name to “Switch It Up Day” after a flurry of opposition and criticism from parents. Changing the name of the day was about the only concession that was made, though; one school board member basically dismissed parental concerns, accusing parents of “using the kids for political purposes.”

A number of parents ended up keeping their children home from school for the day, and I commend them for doing so. According to MyChristianDaily, one parent described the day’s theme as “ridiculous” and “creepy,” though the principal of the school said it was all meant to be in fun and was, in fact, a suggestion from members of the school’s student council. Student councils are a great idea; providing students with the opportunity to make suggestions to school leaders and to contemplate how different decisions and activities can impact the school is a valuable exercise. But–as unpopular as it may be to say–there is such a thing as a bad idea, and it is the responsibility of the adults involved to tactfully say no when students suggest them. Even if the original idea did come from the students, the decision ultimately had to be made by the principal, and I find it unimpressive to say the least that he would pass the buck to the students.

The area’s local FOX affiliate, WITI, reported that when the day came it was unable to find many students actually participating–but found faculty and staffers who were doing so. Indeed, WorldNet Daily posted a photo of two male staffers dressed in female attire. Perhaps even more troubling is that the attire they were wearing would not have been appropriate for a school setting even if they were female. This would surely have been confusing and troubling for young children who saw male adults dressed that way, even if the children themselves were dressed normally. (In fact, The Daily Caller reported, “In a pretty massive letdown after all the hubbub, WITI reported that it couldn’t find a single cross-dressing student at the elementary school. Only some teachers and staffers were caught up in the transvestite spirit of Switch It Up Day.” If that is true it does cause one to wonder how there were no students who chose to participate in an idea that supposedly originated with students).

The Education Action Group, a conservative group in Michigan which runs a news site at EAGnews.org, quoted a parent saying, “They might as well call it ‘Transgender Day.'” EAG shared this opinion on the story: “We are concerned about student comfort. There are undoubtedly children at the school who felt like they had two bad choices today: either dress up as the opposite sex, which might make them feel uncomfortable, or dress normally and be out of place with the rest of the school, which might also make them feel uncomfortable.” Of course there was also a third choice, which was to stay home from school, but students should not be put in a position where they either go to school and feel uncomfortable and are therefore unlikely to be able to focus on learning, or stay home and miss a day of learning.

Now, I should say that I am inclined to believe the school’s principal when he says the idea came from the student council, and therefore I am not suggesting that the dress-up day was some devious design of the LGBT movement to make elementary students comfortable with crossdressing and blurred gender identities. I am also not suggesting that Tippecanoe was the first school to ever have such a day as part of its spirit week activities; I am sure it was not. Neither of these things, however, make the facts any less disturbing.

Perhaps the most astute observations on this event that I have found come in an article posted on Catholic Online, which I feel worthy to quote at length:

There does not seem to be any specific evidence that the day represents a deliberate effort by agents of the homosexual equivalency movement or the gender identity movement to undermine the concept of gender as a given within the minds of impressionable children.

Rather this appears to be the innocent design of enthusiastic, fun-loving school kids, supported by their school’s administration.

Yet, this is a troubling sign of a growing problem. When children conceive of “Gender Bender Day” as a normal part of their planning routine for spirit week, and responsible adults think so little as to rubber-stamp the event, shrugging and saying “it’s not illegal,” then we see just how far the problem has gone.

There is a Gender Identity or Gender Expression Movement which is actively seeking recognition in law of some new right to choose one’s gender. Already, the homosexual equivalency movement and the gender identity movement have gone so far in their efforts to change the culture that nobody thinks twice about cross-dressing children as part of school-sponsored activity.

We need to maintain vigilance in our parental oversight of the schools we send our children to.

I don’t think my Catholic friends will mind if I say “Amen” to that.

The parent who suggested the day might as well be called Transgender Day, Deidre Hernandez, also stated that she had never before complained about a school event, even though, “Every time something is bothering a liberal or an atheist, they come forward to complain. And somebody always has a problem with Easter or Christmas.” Ms. Hernandez certainly has a point there; those in the ACLU and on the liberal wing of the political spectrum seem to be all about protecting anyone from feeling uncomfortable at the sight of a Bible or the utterance of a prayer, but apparently there is no concern about encouraging elementary students to dress as the opposite gender or exposing them to adult males doing so very explicitly. My fellow WordPress blog katenews2day opined, “America is experiencing a double whammy – its public schools are not only producing illiterate graduates and drop-outs in massive number every year, its public schools are becoming boot camps in turning Americans into either gay or confused gender in the future.” She may have a point.

May 28, 2013

Jesus Matters All the Time

In a recent article in Tabletalk, a monthly periodical with articles and Bible studies from Ligonier Ministries, R.C. Sproul, Jr. wrote an article entitled “In the School of Christ.” The article begins with this paragraph:

It is not hard to complain about the government’s schools. The government, at least during every election cycle, seems less than satisfied with its own product, ever promising us that it will improve. Atheists complain about prayers before football games. Christians complain about the teaching of sexual (im)morality. Everyone complains about graduation rates and test scores.

When it comes to government schools, Mr. Sproul is right; there is plenty to complain about, and the complaints come from all sides. And any efforts at improvement are met with new obstacles. Michelle Rhee faced overwhelming opposition when she tried to clean up the mess that was Washington, D.C. public schools. No Child Left Behind, a joint effort of the unlikely-combo of Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush did seemingly little to accomplish the goals it established for improving the education (read, test scores) of American school children, and the newest version, Race to the Top, is not any better. Now Common Core State Standards have been almost unanimously adopted in the U.S. to establish clearer expectations of what students in schools should be learning, and when, and these are encountering opposition and obstacles of their own–some perhaps legitimate, others seemingly concocted from thin air by Glenn Beck and others.

Private schools tend to fare better than public ones in the test scores and graduation rate areas. The school where I serve, for example, had a 100% graduation rate this year, and last year, and our high school students’ mean scale scores exceeded the national norm group in every subject area in our standardized testing this year.

However, that does not automatically mean that our school is successful. It does in a graduation rate and standardized test conversation, but that is not the sole reason why our school exists. Our school exists to invest in the entire student, body, mind and soul–spiritual, physical, intellectual, communal and emotional (SPICE). Sproul writes later in his article that children “are not products to be manufactured but lives to be nurtured.” Referencing the Shema, Sproul says, “Moses is talking about an immersive educational experience–we are to talk about the things of God with our children always and everywhere. The things of God are to be the very warp and woof of our daily conversation.” Sproul is specifically challenging parents to be instructing their children about God all the time. And that is what sets our school apart from government schools. The students at our school–and at many Christian schools–are receiving excellent academic instruction, but are also receiving intentional and intensive spiritual instruction, being taught about God in Bible class, yes, but also in science and history, in physical education and music, at the lunch table and after school. Effective Christian education destroys any boundaries that exist between the five SPICE areas outlined above.

Sproul continues,

Most of us are the products of schools that taught us to divide our lives, to separate what we think about Jesus and what we think about our work, to separate what we think about our work and what we think about our play. We give time to Jesus on Sundays, perhaps on Wednesday nights, and, if we are peculiarly pious, every day during our quiet times. These all may be terribly good things, but not if they are hermetically sealed. We dare not believe that Jesus matters only during these times while He is beside the point the rest of our days.

That is exactly right, and that is exactly what sets truly Christian education–whether it takes place in a Christian school or in a homeschool–apart from education at government schools or even most private schools: Christian education does not believe that Jesus matters only during specific times set aside for Bible study and worship, but that Jesus matters all the time.

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