Contend Earnestly: Common Misconceptions on Public School

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Common Misconceptions on Public School

What a whirlwind this series has been. I have been very surprised that I have had to defend making all our decisions, specifically schooling our children, for the glory of God. This is very odd for me. I thought this was a basic understanding within the orthodoxy of Christendom, but have found that living this out is often put to the side for the sake of the family and for the sake of the child. This is something that is concerning for me as a Christian, and concerning for me as I look to others for wisdom in making decisions. But, this is for a different time and a different discussion. In this post, I want to answer some common objections put forth by those who are advocates of homeschool only for families. Or, those who just don't understand how anyone could put their child in the public school system and call themselves a Christian.

Through this series I have been told that I am a secular humanist putting God on top, I have been told that I am completely ignorant, lacking wisdom and also been told that God would never tell someone to put their child in the public school system and that I am blinded in many ways. All this by those who also profess to love Jesus and me. So, what I want to put forth in the next couple of posts is a defense of the common objections and then write why my family is going to public school. I hope this has been edifying and I really hope that in the end, we will all ask ourselves if we are doing ALL things for the glory of God alone, and not ourselves or our families.

How can you train your child in godliness if you public school them? Haven't you ever read Deuteronomy 6:6-9 and Luke 6:40?

These are usually the first places that a homeschool only advocate will go to, to try and make their case of why God commands homeschooling. For one, there is no where in Scripture that says how one must school their child. No where. In case you didn't catch where. The first passage, Deuteronomy 6, is speaking to the second generation of Israelites that are about to take their families into the promised land and in no way is instructing the Israelites how to teach their kids how to read, write or do math. This passage is specifically speaking of training our children the things about God. To be diligent to train them the understanding of how God's glory is reflected in all things and in all that we do. This is not some hidden idea on how to school your children. Notice it says specifically, "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when lie down, when you rise up". The "when" is going to happen at different times and at differing proportions. The point being, when you are with your children, speak Christ into their lives and continually train them in all things concerning God. Moses is basically saying, there is no time that you shouldn't try and train your child about the things of God. So, if you are out golfing, train your child, if you are coloring with them, train your child, if you are at the grocery store, train your child, if you are going on a road trip, train your child, if they are playing sports, train your child. In other words, take every opportunity to speak to your child about glorifying God. So, they will be able to understand 1 Corinthians 10:31

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God

But, for those who think I am full of it, shouldn't we then see how the Jews took this command?

Nathan Busenitz explains it this way:

The Jews did not understand this passage as a mandate to home school. Alfred Edersheim, in Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ (specifically chapter eight) explains that while children (primarily sons) did receive some education at home (from ages 3 to 5), they were sent to the synagogue for their education starting at age 6 or 7. There they would attend formal classes with the other boys from their community.

Not only this, but if we want to continually ask what was commanded of the Jews at this time, then it would be the command of the father to school the child, not the mother. Most homeschool only advocates, have the mother teaching the children, not the father. To live out how the Jews saw this passage would force the father to stay at home and teach the child.

Again, when we read passages we have to be careful not to take them and use them to push a conviction that isn't an imperitive.

So, then, how do I live out this passage with my family? I live it out by training my children the best way I know how to always see Christ and his glory in everything that they do. So, whether it is honoring their parents, obeying their parents, loving their friends, loving each other, doing their chores, reading the scriptures, praying, etc. It is all done for the glory of God. What homeschool advocates have to remember it isn't as though they are spending 24 hours a day speaking specifically on theology. They do the best they can to teach and train their children, and then when the child is on their own, they utilize the principles learned to glorify God in all they do, even when they are away from the home. This is the exact same thing that I do as a public school parent. I pray with my children, I discipline my children, I train my children, I study the word with my children and I teach them that when they are at school that they are to also be witnesses of the manifold graces of God.

To say I can't train my child in godliness because they are learning math, reading and writing from someone who doesn't love Jesus is far fetching, unbiblical and tying a yoke around people's neck that goes further than Christ, any of the Bible teaches, or how the Jews at the time of Christ took it.

The school gets my child from the age of 5 to 18 for about 14,000 hours, I get them for about 84,000 hours. During that time I will train and teach them diligently to understand how to handle the 14,000 hours they are away from us and the 84,000 hours that they are with us.

What about Luke 6:40?

A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

Voddie Baucham loves using this verse and believes he has an open and shut case when using it when defending a homeschool only agenda. I really respect Baucham in other areas and wonder why he misses the point of this verse so badly. Again, I respect the man very much.

In the Greek, the term "teacher," or "didaskalos" used in Luke 6:40, and from the rendering throughout the NT and the Hebrew equivalent in the OT, is speaking of "one who indicates the way of God from the Torah.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). Jesus is called teacher, John the baptist is called teacher and also we have false teachers mentioned in the NT as well (Nicodemus, a Pharisee, was called teacher by Jesus in John 3). What one finds with this verse is that it is speaking of someone who teaches the spiritual things concerning God and his will. This is not speaking of a teacher like we would define a public school teacher as. Now, if I were to send off my child to be trained by one person, as Samuel was given over to Eli, that would be different. But, the person who will be training my child in the things of God is not going to be some public school teacher, not a youth leader, not a children's church teacher, not a Sunday school teacher and not a pastor. My child will be trained and taught by me. This is the calling of the parent in both Deuteronomy 6 and Luke 6:40: Parents, train your child in the way of the Lord and when they grow up they will not depart from it.

I wanted to take a whole post with these two verses because they are the ones that are always brought up by homeschool only advocates. I love them for their zeal for God, but I fear that what they are doing is taking these verses and going too far with them. Training our children does not have to equate homeschooling them and always watching over them and never letting them out of my site. Again, the early Jews didn't even take this verse to mean this. My children will know who their teachers always are: their father and mother. These commands are seen also in Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

This is the calling of the parent, to bring up the child, to train the child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord so that when they see false teaching they can discern it and know the truth, and seek God's glory in it.

Homeschool is not the only answer to this. Private school isn't the only answer to this. Public school is not the only answer to this. Training your child will take a lot of time, a lot of effort, but we should all have known this before we had children.

So, when looking at the Bible, know that the early Jews didn't see specific commands on how to school their children, and we shouldn't put those on others either. We should simply ask one another, "Are you doing everything necessary to raise and train your whole family in the ways of God for his glory alone?" If the answer is yes, we should stand behind them and diligently pray for each other that God's greatness would be seen through the mission that he has put each of us on. To say God commands only one way of schooling our children is ignorant and not reading the whole of Scripture, but reading something INTO Scripture and is putting a yoke on other's neck that is heavy and Pharisaical.

Reformers love using the term exegesis and hate the term eisegesis. When one reads these Scriptures and puts forth a homeschool only agenda, welcome to the world of eisegesis.

This post, and the others I have written is not to divide the family of God, but to bring us together. It is to give the homeschool only agenda the understanding of why some of us public and private school. It is also to give public and private school parents the understanding of why some people homeschool for the glory of God. But, in the end, I hope it brings us together so that we can pray for each other, not that we would be converted to one type of schooling, but that we would be converted to the gospel call of glorifying God in all things.

May God be praised.


Josh R said...

Probably worth noting that Voddie Baucham generally opposes Sunday School, as we practice it today..

I do not think the Bible says that we are required to home school, or private school..

I do think that through out most of history however the Church has been the main educational system. It has only been in the last 1-200 years or so that secular education has become prevalent. The church has abdicated it's role, or been usurped by government run schools

I don't think your argument on Luke 6:40 hold water.. If a student is immersed in a godless system, we need to expect them to come out with a Godless mindset. No matter how you parse the Greek, it is common sense. Yes, a child that serves as an apprentice to a single teacher is going to be more like his teacher than he will if he has a plurality of teachers in the same system, but he will still reflect the values of the system that he was immersed in.

Now I agree that you are also a teacher to your kids. But when they get to be Jr. High age, and everyone and everything around them is telling them that you are stupid. And the system they are immersed in disregards the foundational truths that you laid out for them, they will have a choice of which teacher to follow.

They can follow the crowd, and be a normal kid, or they can stick to their guns and be a freak. Too many choose normal.

I doubt someone brought up like Voddie's kids are going to have that same struggle.. they are apprenticed by their parents, And they have one set of teacher to choose from. They are very likely to turn out to be much like that teacher.

I think it can work either way, but it may be more work to try to unteach them and teach them than just to teach them right in the first place.

Seth McBee said...

Josh R.

What you are saying, whether you see it or not, is that the public school parent is consistantly playing defense. That is not the case. We, like any concerned godly parent, is playing both offense and defense.

Am I denying that this is going to be hard? Not at all.

But you are assuming that if a student goes to school that they are immersed in a system that continually is calling them stupid...I really don't understand this. My child is immersed in a home under my guidance, teaching and instruction, not immersed in a school.

The simple facts outweigh this comment.

14,000 hours vs 84,000 hours...

Which one is the immersion?

Again...common sense is not what I am looking for, I am looking at how to take Luke 6:40 and exegete its meaning with the rest of Scripture...which is the spiritual teaching and training of the child. This is the point of what Christ is saying, he isn't speaking of how to teach your child math, spelling and writing, no matter how much you want it to say this.

Let me just ask, "How many hours per day do you believe a public school kid is being taught that Christian ideals are wrong?"

Because even those 14,000 hours are lessened by a ton if you try and show how many of those hours someone is trying to convert the child out of Christendom.

So, again, the training at home far outweighs the public school "training in ungodliness"

I do thank you for the comments throughout this series from you...keep them up...

But, you have to ask, "What is this text speaking of?"

And keep remembering that your child, if they haven't already, will be leaving home and learning in some way that Jesus is stupid. It's just a matter of when you allow this.

Your training, and my training will be put to the test when this happens. For me, I would rather this happen when they live with me and I can continually put the vision of Christ in front of their eyes.

Again...thank you so much for commenting...I really appreciate it.

The conversation continues...

Anonymous said...

Hey Seth, you may remember me from Steve’s Bible study last year. I read your post and felt compelled to respond to it. I myself am the product of a home based education.

Perhaps a little background first, my family was one of a very small group of home schooling families in Ohio at the time, because it was basically considered to be illegal. My parents faced some very real persecution to keep us at home, including the threat of legal action. In fact of one of the families in our group was taken to court by a local school district with the threat of losing their children. For many years we literally studied at home in secret. I was often told by people growing up that my education was not as good as a public or private school. In college I was informed that my family was classically dysfunctional, as demonstrated by home education. Oddly enough my educational roots did not hamper me in getting a Master’s Degree, having a successful married life or a good career. I can say in all honesty that home education was simply the best answer for me, and I do wish more families would consider it.

All that to say this, I really don’t know any home school families that would say that home schooling is the only way to educate a child. I don’t know of any that use Scripture in an effort to say that this is the case either. In fact many, me included, would say that there are frequently cases that it is simply wrong to even consider educating a child at home. Home school advocates have worked for many years to legitimize home schooling as a good alternative that consistently produces good, well rounded and spiritually sensitive people. But I don’t really know of anyone that seriously says that it is the only educational option to be considered. There are many good reasons not educate your child at home.

We do use the Deuteronomy passage, and many others, to point out that a child’s education is always their parents’ responsibility. In other words, regardless of where or how you choose to educate your children, you as a parent are ultimately responsible completely and wholly. The point is not to make every parent a home school advocate. The point is to make every parent a responsible party in their child’s education.

V/R, Eric Mattison

Seth McBee said...

Of course I remember you...hopefully you are well.

I completely agree with your comment, in every respect. As long as the education is chosen for God's glory first, and not what is perceived to be simply the "best for the family."

And, you might not know of any homeschool only people, but I have run into many, and there are many out there...many.

I completely agree with how you would interpret and interact with Deuteronomy, as long as it doesn't stop at education, but even higher. Education plus, or even greater, the understanding of the Spritual aspects of God's hand and will in all things. This seems to be exactly how "teacher" is used throughout the entirety of the Bible.

In other words, who cares if you know 2+2=4 if you don't know who created that logical conclusion and for what purpose.

Thank you for your comment and I agree, those who public or private school and then turn around and come to the conclusion that all homeschoolers are dysfunctional is odd and not loving them for the mission that God has called that family to.

hope you are well Eric. By the way, Stacy, my wife, saw Sara at the zoo doing some presentation with the birds...didn't say hi because she looked very busy...

Josh R said...

Remember, my kids go to secular schools... I am playing this game.

I play a lot of offense.. When it comes right down to it defense is very, very hard, because I am not there to know what my kids are been taught. Most of what is being taught isn't wrong, it just isn't quite right. Almost true is very difficult to find unless you see it first hand.

A kid's world revolves around what happens at school. All of their effort is expended there. If they misbehave there, there are consequences at home. When they misbehave at home, there are usually not consequences at school. They are told that what happens there effects the rest of their future. If the school gives kids high marks, there are worldly rewards. If Dad gives them high marks all that means in the world's eyes is that you are a loving dad. It isn't a simple math problem. Some hours carry more authority and consequence than others.

The issue really isn't that the school teaches against Christianity. It is that it teaches without Christianity. It is like you lay a foundation, then the school builds an entire building on a different foundation. When the kids are asked later which knowledge base they trust, the one they got at school looks much more functional than the mere foundation that they got at home.

The challenge is to integrate the two, and get all of their math, science and reading torn off of the shaky foundation and placed on the solid foundation.

All I am saying is that it is hard work. I think it is much harder than we think. I don't think we will realize the enormity of the task until there is some serious demolition to be done.. Demolition that some folks who took non-secular routes may not have to face.. If it is practical, it makes sense to build it right the first time. For me and you, it may not be practical. But I would encourage those who can swing it to be as radically involved as they can afford to be.

Seth McBee said...

You are very right, the task is enormous, but one that we shouldn't hide from if we feel the calling of God for us to do so.

I still think that a non Christian can teach my child spelling and math and then I can teach him the glory of God seen through it at home.

Do I want to underestimate the dangers spiritually at school? Not at all. Will there be temptations and dangers at school? Very much so.

This is the life we have been handed on this earth. I pray that I can instill in my children that we are just pilgrims and to live heavenward, while showing others the greatness of God.

thanks again for the interaction and thoughts throughout this series.

Josh R said...

Since you mentioned Piper earlier, here is a nice little quote from his son Abraham:

"I know John Piper as the man who was going to send me to a middle school that required me to catch up on Latin in summer school. I was very unhappy with him.

To my great relief, I overheard one of the teachers say that algebra was algebra; it doesn’t make a difference whether it gets taught “to the glory of God” or not.

I passed this juicy tidbit on to my dad, and was very pleased that shortly thereafter my time at this institution was cut short.

I won’t say I don’t know how to push his buttons."

Brent said...

I grew up in both home and public school. And then attended a private university. I have experienced all three educational options. I personally do not have a favorite.

The thing we adults seem to always "forget" is that children aren't stupid. If there is a strong Christian foundation they are taught at home, they are going to filter everything through that foundation.

Just because their 8th grade science teacher says that we evolved from an ameoba doesn't mean that the child is going to mindlessly believe it.

As parents, all education runs through us. If you don't give them the Christ-centered foundation, then they are more likely to believe whatever they hear.

Adults need to take a step back and realize that their children are not mindless drones who don't use their brains.

Quick story... my church set up a college scholarship fund while I was in college. And the commitee that put it in place completely slapped every college student in the face with their rules.

The main rule was that the school MUST be an approved Baptist school... because "we don't want any students learning other denominational doctrines."

These adults basically said that in college, we didn't have the ability to think for ourselves and discern what the Bible actually says.

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