Christian Education vs. Public School

by Brandon Clay on May 31, 2021
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We’ve made it to Memorial Day and your child’s school year is likely done. But we shouldn’t be so quick to forget about the lasting impact of school—especially for your own child. Have you ever considered, how many days will your child be in school by the time they finish 12th grade? Literally, how many actual days do you have to formally educate your child?

According to National Center for Education Statistics, the range of days that states mandate for in-class instruction for kindergarten through 12th grade is 160–180 days per year. Taking the average of the range, that gives us 170 days/year or 2,210 days for 13 years of K–12 education, not including preschool. That’s a lot of days—or is it?

The Religious Nature of All Education

What will your child learn in those 2,210 days? Your son or daughter will learn biology, grammar, algebra, history, art, physical education, sports, social skills, geography, and many other useful things. But underlying whatever education your child receives is a worldview. A worldview is a lens through which your children will look at the world. It addresses origin, morality, meaning, and destiny among other areas. The worldview in the education they absorb, either directly or subtly, becomes the foundation for the rest of their life. And this worldview, by its nature, is religious.

Every school is religious.

Every school is religious, including Christian schools, homeschools, charter schools, and public schools. Whether the school is funded by a denomination or is consciously “secular,” schools will ultimately address the foundational areas of origin, morality, meaning, and destiny. Doug Wilson writes in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning,

Education is a completely religious endeavor. It is impossible to impart knowledge to students without building on religious presuppositions. Education is built on the foundation of the instructor's worldview (and the worldview of those who developed the curriculum). It is a myth that education can be nonreligious - that is, that education can go on in a vacuum that deliberately excludes the basic questions about life. It is not possible to separate religious values from education. This is because all the fundamental questions of education require religious answers.

Wilson’s point is clear. Regardless of where your child goes to school, it will be religious. It will address fundamental concerns in life, such as whether there’s a God, what he communicates to people, and how we should treat others. Education can’t help being religious because that is its nature.

Some may object to this line of reasoning. They may agree that Christian schools try to teach a Christian perspective on math and science, and even homeschool parents incorporate daily Bible reading. But public schools aren’t religious—or neutral—so they say. Public schools tend to ignore God, allowing people to perceive that they are not religious. But is that position defensible?

Public Education Is Anti-Christian

Public schools in the United States actively teach religion. One aspect of a religious worldview is origins: the question of where everything, and of course humans, came from. Public schools in America are commissioned, under threat of legal action, to teach evolution as the origin story. And evolution is not observational science since it’s not observable, repeatable, or testable. Instead, evolution is a religious doctrine that is dependent upon naturalistic principles, yet it lacks unambiguous evidential support. But that doesn’t stop public schools from teaching it.

There are several ways to demonstrate evolution as a foundational element of education in our country. One way is to review recommendations from powerful public-school teachers, unions, and associations. For instance, according to the 40,000 member-strong NSTA,

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be emphasized in K–12 science education frameworks and curricula. Furthermore, if evolution is not taught, students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy needed to be well-informed citizens and prepared for college and STEM careers. (emphasis mine)

The NSTA’s recommendation is the ruling guideline for science education in our country. When that guideline is challenged, legal action ensues. For instance, in 1981 the state of Louisiana prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools with its “Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science in Public School Instruction Act,” aka the Creationism Act. The Supreme Court struck down the Act in Edwards v. Aguillard in 1987. Since then, it’s only become worse. Various courts have upheld the dominance of evolution indoctrination in public education in multiple venues and states.

  • 1990: In Webster v. New Lenox School District, a teacher claimed the school district violated his First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from teaching creationism in his classroom. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled against the teacher.
  • 1994: In Peloza v. Capistrano School District, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held a teacher can be ordered to teach evolution even when the theory conflicts with their religious beliefs.
  • 2000: In LeVake v. Independent School District #656, a teacher stated he would only teach evolutionary theory alongside “the difficulties and inconsistencies of the theory.” The district reassigned him, and a court upheld the teacher’s demotion.
  • 2005: In Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover, a US district court rejected the teaching of non-sectarian intelligent design as a religious view. Evolution won again.

Every challenge a school district or teacher has brought against teaching evolution in public schools has failed in the courts. The religious origins narrative of evolution is protected by law. When public schools get out of line, lawyers straighten them out.

The teaching of evolutionary origins is just one demonstration of the religious nature of public education. But it’s not the only one. Public schools, to varying degrees, actively promote unbiblical views not just in science but sex education, LGBTQ+ ideology, critical race theory, and a host of other worldview and religious issues. This does not suggest that all public-school teachers reject the Bible. Many teachers and students in the public school system follow Christ but are very limited, leaving the religious nature of public education unchanged.

Public schools cannot support biblical Christianity because they are founded on a different, naturalistic religion. At its core, public education is anti-Christian. Going back to your child and those 2,210 days in the classroom: if she attends a public school, those 2,210 days will indoctrinate her into an anti-Christian worldview. Even if that is not the intent, it will be the effect.

Biblical Directives on Educating Children

So, what is a Christian parent’s responsibility in educating children? Looking into God’s Word, the Bible presents general guides to parents, such as, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). It also specifically directs fathers, who are entrusted with a special role in educating children. Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

The necessity to educate our children in God’s ways finds its root in the Old Testament. Moses told Israel how to teach their children in Deuteronomy 6:4–5. This passage, called the “shema” (שְׁמַע), became a daily prayer in ancient Israel. It’s the equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer (also called the Our Father or Pater Noster) in Christianity. In this passage and subsequent verses, God commanded the Israelites to instruct their children diligently about him. Moses wrote,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 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. (Deuteronomy 6:4–9)

God charged parents to teach their children about him in their houses, in their walking, as they lay down, and when they got up. Basically, God wanted Israelite parents to teach their children all the time. He understood the necessity of transferring the knowledge about himself and his ways to his people. The directed means of education in the Old Testament was through parents. The same is true in the New Testament period and our time.

Appeal for a Christian Education

This is why Christians should strive to give children a biblical education. The Bible both commands parents to teach their children (Deuteronomy 11:19) and tells us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Our goal as Christian parents should be to honor the Lord and impart the knowledge of God in all things to our children in their formal education.

Many have tried homeschooling as a way to give their children a Christian education. Our family has mostly homeschooled for both financial reasons and because we believe in providing a Christian education to our children. My wife has been our children’s teacher, and I have aimed to support the efforts as the father and “principal” of our homeschool. We have also been a part of several formal and informal homeschool cooperatives (co-ops) to enrich the educational experience of our children.

The importance of instilling a truly biblical worldview resides with the parents.

Answers in Genesis has invested much to support homeschooling families with curriculum and resources. Our ministry has aimed to improve the quality and theological foundations for homeschoolers across the globe in math, science, apologetics, and the Bible. (If you’re interested in supplementing your homeschool experience in those areas, check out our Homeschool Curriculum.)

Others have delegated their responsibility to Christian schools. Though it may require a more significant financial investment, Christian schools can be an excellent way to diversify your child’s education with multiple teachers and resources not usually available to homeschoolers. In 2017, Answers in Genesis launched Twelve Stones Christian Academy as a biblical-worldview, Christian school serving Northern Kentucky. So there are a couple of ways to provide a Christian education to your child, depending on your situation.

Regardless of the method, the importance of instilling a truly biblical worldview resides with the parents. Unbiblical teaching can and has, sadly, found its way into Christian ministries and educational materials and institutions. Parents, be aware of what your children are learning, no matter where they go or what resources you are using.

Objections to Homeschool and Christian School

Some may protest that homeschool or Christian school is the only way to educate your child as a Christian. But Christian schools are considerably more expensive than public education, and not everyone can afford to send their child (or children) to 13 years of Christian school. Many families have only one parent. It could be impossible for a single parent to either afford a Christian school or stay home to teach without becoming financially destitute.

There may be other extenuating circumstances in our lives that make a Christian education very difficult. It may be necessary to use public schools, at least for a limited time. Our family sent our children to public schools for a few years during a challenging situation. But that does not change the fundamental issues: God has instructed parents to teach their children in his ways. The public school system does not align with God’s ways and is increasingly hostile to them.

Our goal as Christian parents should be to provide a Christian education to our children. If we must use public schools, we should actively combat the negative worldview and social influences that public school indoctrination will inflict upon our kids. Again, the responsibility lies with the parent to oversee their child’s education and biblical learning—in this case, knowing that the public education system is actively attempting to undermine Christian principles.

Application: Christian Education for a Legacy

Recently, someone wrote to the ministry with a deep regret about her parenting. She will remain nameless to protect her identity, but you can almost hear the heartbreak in her words:

I am on a search for a good Christian parenting book. Looking for recommendations. My problem is that I am currently a parent of 4 adult children and most resources are for Christian parenting while raising your children. Are there any books out there for parents who got that stage wrong and desperately need help repairing the damage already done?

Sadly, there are few books available to Christian parents who “got that stage wrong” and who want “help repairing the damage already done.” Why? Because we only get one shot at raising our children. Thankfully, we have approximately 2,210 days to educate our children formally as Christians—even if we give some of those days to others. Admittedly, we have more than 2,210 days to influence our children, but our days are not unlimited.

As you fulfill your role to teach your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7), understand there’s only so much time to influence our children while they remain under your roof. Make time to do it right while you can. When those days are up, that stage is done.

So, dear Christian parent, how will you spend those days?

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