When people think about sending their kid off to public school, they assume that their child be will educated in a neutral way, a way that doesn’t push a particular religion or try to indoctrinate children into a particular way of thinking. After all, we have separation of church and state in this country, and that means government schools are not allowed to push religious ideas. We all agree that separation of church and state is a good thing, something that makes our country a wonderful place to live because other people don’t get to push their religion on us. Public schools, then, should be an extension of that free marketplace of ideas, neutral learning spaces where children can be exposed to the great minds and ideas of our shared Western civilization, and then encouraged to formulate their own opinions about them. That’s the theory anyway. In practice, it’s not so simple.
You’re kidding yourself if you think that public school is neutral. It is impossible to do any kind of educating without an intellectual framework, a paradigm, a worldview. The promotion of one worldview over others is absolutely going on in public schools today, and it has to be that way. We have to have a foundation upon which we’re building. The ideas your child will learn at school have to fit into some kind of a framework, and that framework answers questions such as whether there is a God, what it means to be human, whether there is such a thing as right and wrong, and, if there is, who gets to determine which one is which. Even in science, which you might think is neutral, the curriculum operates on some basic assumptions about the universe, the most obvious of which is whether it was created by anyone for any purpose or whether the whole thing sprang up out of nowhere and means nothing.
In this country up until about the 1950’s, the vast majority of Americans shared a worldview. It was a Judeo-Christian understanding of the world that included belief in God, basic morality as spelled out in the Ten Commandments, a view of the universe as created for a specific purpose (as opposed to springing out of nothing), and that there is a clear delineation between right and wrong, truth and falsehood. All of the curriculum operated on those fundamental assumptions.
After the 1950’s that worldview eroded and was replaced by something called secular humanism, secular meaning non-religious (specifically non-Christian) and humanism being the idea that “man is the measure of all things.” Instead of morality being determined by a sovereign God, people began to believe that humans determine what is right and wrong, based on what feels right to them. Truth became a moving target. What is right for you isn’t necessarily right for me, and God has nothing to do with it. Since God was no longer fashionable, the idea of a Creator got thrown out the window in favor of the Darwinian model, the idea that the earth and the animals on it (including humans) are the result of billions of years of random mutation and impersonal forces like meteors and ice ages. The world wasn’t created for any particular purpose and it doesn’t mean anything; it just is. I could get way more in depth with this explanation, but that’s the bare bones definition.
When the American zeitgeist changed from Judeo-Christian values to secular humanism, the public school curriculum naturally followed. I don’t believe that this was some sort of evil conspiracy. It’s a natural outcome of changing beliefs in a more secular, more diverse nation. It’s time to go ahead and say what you already guessed. I’m a Christian. I embrace Judeo-Christian values as being superior to secular humanism because I still believe in objective truth, but I’m not saying that we should go back to Judeo-Christian values in public schools. We can’t. That ship has sailed. We’ve gone too far in the direction of humanism to turn back.
What I am saying is that, if you’re an orthodox Christian and have children in the public school system, then you need to understand the philosophical underpinnings of that system and decide whether you’re okay with your child being taught those things.
In the public school system your child will learn that…
Man is the measure of all things. He or she decides what is right and wrong for him, not God or any over-arching moral code.
The universe is random, meaningless and not directed by any kind of deity. Human life, therefore, is random and meaningless other than the meaning that each of us decides on.
Since man is the measure of all things, everything must bend to our will. Technology and science exist because we made them, and we get to decide what they mean and how they work. Things like gender, which used to be straightforward scientific categories, are no longer hard and fast rules, but preferences that we decide on because we arbitrate reality, not the other way around.
Of course, none of these things are being explicitly stated (except maybe the gender part) at public school. You might be thinking that I’ve made it all sound very insidious and it really isn’t all that bad. “But we have excellent public schools in my area,” you might say. Perhaps you do, but we need to define what exactly is excellent about it. You probably mean test scores, but I’m concerned about worldview.
Your child is going to develop a worldview, a lens through which he sees reality, and if you’re defaulting to the public school system to provide it, then your child is going to end up with their worldview, not yours.
I am not okay with that, and that’s a large part of why we homeschool. I am concerned with value transmission, taking what I believe about the world and transmitting that to my children. I am giving them a strong foundation in biblical values. They are learning to see the world through the lens of the Gospel story- a created universe, fallen man and the possibility in redemption in Jesus. We read history as a story with an ending that we already know. We look at science and math as a window into the character and complexity of God. We talk about right and wrong, good and evil, not personal preference.
I don’t have all that much time with my children. They may not move out until they’re 17 or 18, but most kids, by the time they turn about 15, have already been formed. They have developed habits, thought patterns and value systems. I don’t want to send them off to public school for hours a day and then have to undo what was done there. I want all the hours of our days to be devoted to building them up as disciplined, intelligent, thoughtful people with a firm foundation in truth. Getting them into college comes at a very distant second place to forming them as disciples of Christ. That’s my number one role as a parent, to shepherd them in their journey as disciples. Public school does not form disciples, so I can’t send my kids there. In my mind, that would be an abdication of my primary duty.
If you’re reading this and thinking that I’m an alarmist and it’s all a bit much, fair enough. I can only do what I feel is right for my family. If, however, you’re like me and you see your role as a parent wrapped up inextricably with your faith, then I encourage you to do your research on public school before you hand over your children. If you’re thinking of homeschooling or new to it and need encouragement, please reach out! I love to encourage people on their homeschool journey!