Updated: Aug 25, 2022
How Much Longer Can Christians Participate in Public Education? —This is not a question that would have made any sense a generation or two ago. And, to be honest, it wouldn't have made much sense even 20 years ago. But, we are living in the midst of a cultural revolution that is happening at warp speed, and nothing is off-limits.
Now, to be clear, when I say “Public education”I am primarily referring to k-12 schools. Public and private colleges and universities (higher education) have been on an alternative track for some time.
And it has also long been recognized that colleges and universities are cultural engines in our society. These institutions shape and drive a lot of what goes on in culture, albeit 20 years down the line as college/university students get into the workforce and become the culture makers and shapers.
James Davidson Hunter’s, To Change the World, is an excellent analysis of how universities and other culturally elite organizations shape and change culture from the top down.
A Problem Closer to Home…
Unlike Colleges and Universities, K-12 public schools have remained fairly insulated from the free-thinking cultures that live on collegiate campuses. This is, perhaps, because k-12 school systems exist in particular communities, and are not unto themselves like a University. K-12 systems belong to particular people in a particular place. They tend to bear the distinctions of community and place. K-12 schools are also under the direction of State and local leadership. Again, a particular place and particular people.
When we are talking about people and places, we’re talking about things that don’t change all that quickly. Personalities—both in people and places—are developed and settled. And historically, they don’t change quickly.
But…things do change.
K-12 systems have tended to remain more insulted to change than colleges and universities due to people and place, but also due to the objective standards for educational basics. For a long time, K-12 curricula has been fairly steady in its content and approach. Kindergarteners were taught the alphabet, 10th graders worked through Algebra and Geometry, etc. There was an expected progression based on the facts of the world and the nature of human development…
But things have changed now…things are changing.
In March of this year, Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which prevents school systems and teachers from “holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The bill specifically bans this type of content and instruction in kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms.
Christians ought to be grateful for the courage of Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for passing this Bill, but we must also ask, “What type of society have we become where such legislation is needed?”
For a long time, higher education has facilitated and pushed progressive thinking on their campuses. It is assumed that college will stretch and challenge the mind (as good liberal arts programs will do), but over the last several decades, the challenge of collegiate education and culture has shifted from one that is primarily academic, to one that is focused on worldview.
Higher education seems more focused on winning the battle for liberal worldviews than they do on teaching men and women how to think and understand the world.
Colleges are hotbeds for culture change and the propagation of radical views. But it's no longer being confined to the college campus. As culture does, ideas flow downstream. And those young men and women who have been shaped and radicalized on college campuses are now K-12 classroom teachers welcoming our children every morning, entrusted with the responsibility of shaping and forming their hearts and minds. Do you see the potential issue?
To be sure, countless faithful Christians remain active in our school systems—teachers, administrators, volunteers and students—and we need their presence for as long as they can remain. Im only noting the shift…
But, as I noted things are changing. More and more teachers are pressing the boundaries, students are being faced with LGBTQ issues as an ever-increasing rate.
And, to be sure, these pressures are regional. The closer one gets to metro/urban areas, the more burdensome these issues become.
In more rural areas, these issues are a bit slower in their progression...but make no mistake, they are progressing!
In a previous post, I wrote about a newer learning system called C.A.S.E.L, that is now being utilized in 40 States nationwide. This learning system promotes 5 learning objectives, which are:
Responsible Decision Making.
On its face, CASEL is not bad. It seems quite attractive. In fact, in personal conversations with teachers and administrators, I have seen it in a positive light. Its five stated objectives are positive and worthy of teaching. The problem is that many States and School systems are using CASEL as a vehicle for cultural issues like Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and Gender-revolution ideas.
These topics (and other cultural worldview issues) get smuggled into curricula through Social and Emotional Learning techniques (SEL).
Things like Math problems become opportunities to press a social agenda rather than instruct basic understanding in mathematics.
In her Supreme Court confirmation hearings, now Justice Katanji Brown Jackson was confronted with educational materials from her own children’s private elementary school in the D.C. area. These materials included Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality presented in a positive light.
What’s Al saying?
On the August 23rd, 2022 edition of The Briefing, Dr. Al Mohler discussed the coming/present culture war and its presence in K-12 schools. He made two salient points for us to consider:
First, while some may rebuff the idea of being culture warriors, Christians must understand that the culture has gone to war with the Church.
Second, he notes two news stories about Christian schools that have come under fire for holding to Christian beliefs. One school was under fire for simply publishing its expectations that its students adhere to a Christian sexual ethic, and the other school was under fire for its stand against a same-sex couple sending their child to their Christian school.
In both instances, private Christian schools are coming under cultural fire for merely holding to a Christian sexual ethic.
If they’re going after private Christian schools for being Christian, what do we think is happening in the public schools?
How Do Christians Process All of This?
Over the last few years—especially 2022—I am having more and more conversations with Christians regarding this topic. How long will Christians be able to stay engaged in the public school system?
Christians that work in the public school system, and are in various positions of public school leadership;
Christians who have children in the school system;
Christians who have children in private Christian schools;
Christians that are homeschooling their children;
And Christians that are just generally concerned for the future.
As Dr. Mohler rightly points out, the culture war has come to us. We’ve got to be thinking through it…
So, here are some things for Christians to be thinking through…
1 - The Public School system belongs to the Government, and the dominant worldview of those in Government is changing.
Government has the right to control the K-12 curricula because they foot the bill. While some States, like Florida, are standing their ground for now, the time is likely coming when the liberal slide will gain control and exert its influence. Even as Florida stands strong, the opposition to its Parental Rights bill is fierce within the State itself.
Furthermore, Christians who work within the public system are mostly able, for now, to hold their positions while remaining faithful to the Word of God.
2 - Public school is not a Scriptural mandate.
Christians have a mandate to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and part of that means seeing to it that children are educated well. But, nowhere does Scripture mandate that parents utilize the public school system.
The public school system has been a wonderful development in modern history, and for most of its history, it has operated according to a worldview that, if not expressly Christian, was certainly compatible with a Christian worldview. Christian parents have been able to put their children in the school system without worry of worldview content.
But, as the world around us changes, and as it sets itself against the truths of God, Christian parents must soberly recognize that the public school system may soon no longer be open to them.
3 - Private Christian Education has a long and rich history in the Church.
Private Christian schools, from grade-school through graduate-level seminaries, have a long history in the Christian Church. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has long valued high-quality education, and has sought to facilitate it in a variety of ways.
In many communities around our country, private Christian schools thrive.
The issues with these schools tend to be tuition cost and teacher retention.
Perhaps there are ways to address these issues so as to make private Christian education more accessible as the public system moves further and further away from truth.
4 - Homeschooling is a viable, and often valuable option.
For a time, homeschooling got a bad rap, whether it was “the strange folks” or “under-socialized kids” or something else. But, homeschooling has a long and rich history too. In fact, homeschooling, or small-group schooling has been the dominant practice throughout the history of the world.
The public school system as we know it today is a relatively recent historical development. The first “public school” in America was begun in 1635 in Boston, MA, as a Latin School for boys.
The public school systems, as we know them today, have their beginnings around 1870. And High school really didn’t catch on until the mid-1950’s.
-Before that, homeschooling and community schooling (Co-ops), and study/work apprenticeships were the dominant forms of education.
Today, there are multitudes of curriculum options for parents and families who want to homeschool.
There are also many families who would happily share their skills and practices for others just getting started.
My own family is part of a local homeschool Co-op.
5 - Christian parents are responsible for educating and shaping their Children.
Parents, we will answer to God for how we raise and educate our children. Simply getting our children into a public school building will not suffice for faithful parenting. Christian parents must care about the academic material and content that their children are being taught, along with the educational methodology being utilized by the school (recall CASEL). Schools not only teach academic information, they also have a major part in shaping the worldview of their students.
Parents, we cannot check out of our children’s educational process simply because someone else is teaching our children reading, writing, and math. So many other things go into the educational process and parents must take an active role in it.
So, how much longer can Christians participate in the public school system?
That answer has lots of variables, and I don't pretend to offer any singular answer. And I am not saying that Christians must abandon the ship of public education. But, we must be asking the question and thinking about it because the general timeline seems to be shrinking…
The Scriptures tell us that we are to render unto Caesar what belongs to him. Christians can faithfully participate in many cultural programs that are controlled and led by the government. But the point at which we are called to transgress the sacred truths of God’s Word, our ability to participate has come to its end.
There are countless Christians involved in the public school system in a variety of ways. Their ability to stay engaged, carry out their jobs, volunteer, and maintain their Christian faith will vary.
It will vary based on their position, geographical location, and personal conscience.
But the reality is that every Christian involved with public schools is going to have to deal with some measure of this sooner rather than later.
Many public school systems are adopting more and more liberal curricula that are geared toward pushing a social agenda than toward properly educating children.
More and more K-12 school systems are seeking to shape and form a liberal progressivist worldview than on instruction in objective thinking and learning.
Our children are facing more and more social pressures in the public school environment than ever before...pressures we would have never dreamed of 10 or 20 years ago.
These days call for great wisdom. The conversation is just getting started…
Let’s commit to pray for all involved with this; all those who live in this reality: Teachers, administrators, parents, grandparents, etc.
May Jesus grant us wisdom to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.