Cars and Christian Schools: Time for Model A?

Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile. Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t invent the moving assembly line process either. What Henry Ford did was unite those two inventions to create the Model T, an affordable, practical automobile that satisfied a burgeoning public demand.

“Success,” it is said, “breeds success,” and soon competitors arose who imitated the methods and strategies of the Ford Motor Company. Offering different styles, features, and capabilities, they reduced Ford’s market dominance—even drawing away some of Ford’s earlier customers. These competitor’s products weren’t necessarily better; sometimes they were simply better suited to the tastes or needs of certain customers.

With its market share dwindling, the company belatedly took action, eventually emerging from its engineering & design studios with the Model A, a more advanced successor to the venerable “Tin Lizzie.” Once again, sales surged.

The period of years from roughly 1965 to 1990 is sometimes considered a sort of “Golden Age” for evangelical Christian schools in the United States. It is said that for a time new schools were opening at the rate of “two a day.”

These schools were not archetypes; they followed in the faithful footsteps of hundreds of existing Christian schools, many of which were already decades old. In Minnesota, for example, today there are six Christian schools that were founded between 1901 and 1917. These include Minnehaha Academy, the state’s largest, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013.

Although not the earliest, the Christian schools founded during the Golden Age, much like Ford’s Model T, caught a broad wave of public demand. The 1962 and 1963 United States Supreme Court decisions banning sponsored prayer and devotional Bible reading in public schools jarred many Christians. Secularism appeared to infiltrate academic subjects once thought nearly sacrosanct. Forms of student rebellion previously confined mainly to university and college campuses began to occur with dismaying regularity at public secondary schools. In loco parentis, the tacit societal tenet which can permit faculty members to exercise de facto parental authority over students during school hours, on and sometimes off school property, was for all intents and purposes rescinded at public schools—a victim of both changing social mores and successful court challenges.

Into this fray arrived these new Christian schools, with their shared purpose of providing additional educational alternatives rooted firmly in God’s word. An old adage observes, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” and amid the flurry of new school openings, enrollments rose among the longer-established Christian schools as well.

Dr. David Doran, of the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, has written of the “fad stage” of the Christian schooling movement, an era “when every church seemed to conclude that it must have its own school.” As can be expected, many of these schools no longer exist. Nonetheless, this initial surge paved the way for further competition to enter the market.

Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E.) was established as a form of Christian schooling which is by design less costly to operate. Students are largely self-taught in modified classrooms staffed not by teachers, but by proctors who are usually known as “monitors” or “supervisors.” This style of schooling has its proponents. Over the years, some traditional classroom Christian schools have converted to the A.C.E. method, and vice versa. Overall, A.C.E. enrollment has never been more than a fraction of what its founders imagined.

Another, newer style of Christian schooling takes almost exactly the opposite approach from Accelerated Christian Education. Classical Christian education is a teaching-intensive style of schooling which structures its curriculum on the model of the Trivium, with its subject areas of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. This niche movement within Christian schooling began subsequent to the Golden Age, with its main organization, the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS), founded in 1993. It has shown steady growth, with over 38,000 students currently enrolled in its member schools.

Quietly gaining even greater momentum, however, has been a numerically much more formidable competitor to traditional Christian schooling. It not only does away with a school’s teachers, it does away with the school itself. This competitor is sometimes spoken of in certain circles like it is an opponent of Christian schooling. It is not; it is another style of Christian schooling. In size, this colossus dwarfs both A.C.E. and the ACCS combined. It is known as “Christian homeschooling.”

Meanwhile, many Christian schools founded during the Golden Age are now in critical need of their “Model A.”

Eventually, sales of Ford’s Model A began to decline, like those of the Model T before it. It was once again time for a product-line reinvention, to keep pace with morphing public demand. And every few years an automaker—sometimes Ford itself—would introduce a feature that at first seemed like a nice, but unnecessary, luxury but which quickly had to be adopted by all, as customers widely deemed it a virtual necessity. Automatic transmissions, air conditioning, and power steering are examples. Any automaker reluctant to provide these innovations was sure to experience a steady drop in sales.

Christian schools are not exempt from the whims of marketplace competition. Enrollments can wax and wane due to multiple factors, including prevailing economic conditions and a school’s perceived value and benefits relative to other schooling options. Nevertheless, some Christian schools operate as if common parental concerns such as comprehensive curriculums or valid accreditation are of less importance than other vital concerns such as nurturing the spiritual development of students or providing moral instruction.

Such latter concerns are clearly essential within a Christian school, but they alone should not be a school’s raison d’être (reason for existence). There isn’t a zero-sum, either/or equation weighing spiritual and moral concerns versus academic and other concerns.

In spite of that, this conflict is sometimes clearly seen in the educational philosophies of a small minority of Christian schools. Without giving overly specific examples, why would a school feel compelled to state that it is better for its students to learn how to live than how to make a living? Does this school believe that a Christian education cannot deliver both? Or what purpose is served by a school declaring that its desired spiritual outcomes for its students are institutionally a higher priority than is student academic achievement? Does providing a Christian education necessitate making such a choice?

More commonly, this false dichotomy is seen more obliquely, in that the handbooks, websites, or promotional materials of some schools may provide a wealth of information regarding the school’s spiritual emphasis and focus, but scant information regarding its academics. For example, one Christian school speaks of its goals for its graduates—all three of which are spiritual in nature. If academic achievement is an important consideration in the development of this school’s students, neither their website nor their literature provides much of an indication.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Why does this matter?”

It matters because there is a large constituency of Christian parents who would like their children to receive both a thoroughly Christian and a rigorously academic (emphasis on both words) education, and who don’t see any inherent conflict between these two objectives. In fact, they view these objectives as being scripturally complementary.

Yet these parents are also aware that God has initiated only two institutions, the church and the home, both of which are charged with the spiritual and moral instruction of children. Christian schooling (in the modern sense) is an oftentimes desirable extension of these two timeless institutions, but is itself not scripturally mandated. (If it were, then the church was incredibly lax in its duties for its first nineteen centuries of existence.)

As long as the church and the home are performing their respective biblical functions, such parents view academic instruction as a distinct, separable element; one to be accomplished wherever it gets done “best.” In the eyes of such parents, even the apparent relegation of academics to second-class status by a Christian school can result in the effective dismissal of that school as a potential option for their child’s education—whether in favor of another Christian school, another type of private school, Christian homeschooling, a charter school (where available), or public schooling.

This is a key reason why it is vital that Christian schools distinguish themselves, and be more than simply “not the public schools.”

(Part 2 coming soon.)


Larry Nelson is a graduate of “an exemplary Christian school,” holds a BA in history from the University of Minnesota and has been employed in banking for over twenty-two years. He is a member of a Baptist church in the Minneapolis St. Paul area.

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There are 51 Comments

Charlie's picture

One of the original distinguishing factors for many Christian schools was segregation. That definitely accounted for much of the impetus in the 50s and 60s. 

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Steve Newman's picture

to the rest of the article.

We deal with parents who don't want their kids to be in the secular school system, but need to keep costs down. Often they don't feel like they have the means to send kids to Christian school, but don't feel like they can teach them by themselves. 

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

to the rest of the article.

We deal with parents who don't want their kids to be in the secular school system, but need to keep costs down. Often they don't feel like they have the means to send kids to Christian school, but don't feel like they can teach them by themselves. 

 

Steve,

They are almost always wrong on both counts. Any parent with a high school diploma can teach their kids through at least middle school without any outside assistance. Costs are entirely relative. I meet single income families all the time raising schooling their own children on little more than what the government calls poverty level income without depriving the family of any necessities or many luxuries. The income problem is much more often a question of priority than necessity.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

farmer Tom N's picture

"One of the original distinguishing factors for many Christian schools was segregation"

segregation  from  Dictionary.com

"the act or practice of segregating."

segregating

"to separate or set apart from others or from the main body or group; isolate:"

It is my goal and intention to segregate my children from the secular humanist indoctrination of the progressive left.

You seem to make it sound as though segregation is a bad thing?

 

Ron Bean's picture

Ideally parents would send their children to Christian school because they want their children to be instilled with Christian values AND to receive a top quality education from Christian teachers who have themselves been equipped to teach.

But sometimes it's only because they don't want their children in the government's school system. (More than twenty years ago Christian college leader predicted that we would see the day where a lot of Christian schools would simply become private schools with little Christian emphasis.)

Sometimes it's because they want a quality education and they're willing to tolerate the Christian atmosphere. While there are some Christian schools that have qualified faculty providing quality academics, there are many whose faculty lack any meaningful credentials.

In my 30 plus years in Christian education, I've seen it all. The Christian school movement today is on the decline. Meanwhile the Christian homeschooling movement is growing, populated by parents who have been motivated by a number of factors:

           -They' have discovered the network of support that is available to them

           -They have discovered that some Christian schools have the same problems that the government schools have

           -They have determined that the cost of Christian education didn't match the quality provided

           -And they are convinced the responsibility for teaching their children belongs to them and not the church, school or state.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Rob Fall's picture

If that is your goal, fine.  However, I think the segregation referred to in the quoted post is in reference to the racial and ethnic segregation legally mandated in various states.  Such segregation was brought to a halt by Brown v Board of Education.

farmer Tom N wrote:
SNIP
It is my goal and intention to segregate my children from the secular humanist indoctrination of the progressive left.
You seem to make it sound as though segregation is a bad thing?

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

GregH's picture

farmer Tom N wrote:

"One of the original distinguishing factors for many Christian schools was segregation"

segregation  from  Dictionary.com

"the act or practice of segregating."

segregating

"to separate or set apart from others or from the main body or group; isolate:"

It is my goal and intention to segregate my children from the secular humanist indoctrination of the progressive left.

You seem to make it sound as though segregation is a bad thing?
 

I have to wonder... Do you really not know that he is talking about racial segregation which by the way is indeed a bad thing? And yes, the conservative side of Christianity was slower at rejecting racism and segregation. So I suspect Charlie is right that good Christian parents indeed were motivated to send their white kids to Christian schools to keep them away from black kids. Actually, my personal experience leads me to believe he is right.

Steve Newman's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Steve Newman wrote:

to the rest of the article.

We deal with parents who don't want their kids to be in the secular school system, but need to keep costs down. Often they don't feel like they have the means to send kids to Christian school, but don't feel like they can teach them by themselves. 

 

Steve,

They are almost always wrong on both counts. Any parent with a high school diploma can teach their kids through at least middle school without any outside assistance. Costs are entirely relative. I meet single income families all the time raising schooling their own children on little more than what the government calls poverty level income without depriving the family of any necessities or many luxuries. The income problem is much more often a question of priority than necessity.

Chip, I do agree with you that it can be done and is done as a sacrifice. My wife and I homeschool our 4 boys. We do this for a couple of reasons: One, there isn't any Christian school alternatives in our area we are comfortable with; and two, the ones around are too pricey for us. I'm a pastor of a small work, I work 3 days a week, my wife works some also. We have teen kids who will be starting college and we are helping them save for that. We can't afford Christian school, but we can afford home school. It is not "sacrificing more" that we need at this point, but a different, more affordable, school model that we need. With the amount of technology available, we would think there would be less need for paid staff to run things and then costs could be kept down.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Steve,

We also homeschool our 3 children, first begun while I was pastoring bivocationally as well. My current situation is similar to yours, though I am not currently in vocational ministry (I teach middle school history right now). I would only add that I may put things in a different priority order than you seemed to. I think homeschool is the best option and we do well to encourage parents to pursue that option first. Christian day school would be a second option in my paradigm, and the day school will never be as inexpensive as homeschooling (unless you are going to factor in a second income maybe). Frankly, I would discourage Christian parents from exercising the public school option except in some extreme cases. I would not call it a universally sinful option, though I do believe it is a sinful option (between them and God) for some people who are making excuses for misguided priorities.  

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

in a Christian school (from 1978-1984) was that it was racially integrated (there were Hispanic, Asian, and African-American students), but attempted to segregate kids from harmful and objectionable elements of ‘the world’.  There was too much emphasis on ‘moral instruction’ and not enough on challenging students academically. 

It often felt more like Christian rehab than school, what with all the dire warnings against sex, drugs, and Barry Manilow.

Steve Newman's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Steve,

We also homeschool our 3 children, first begun while I was pastoring bivocationally as well. My current situation is similar to yours, though I am not currently in vocational ministry (I teach middle school history right now). I would only add that I may put things in a different priority order than you seemed to. I think homeschool is the best option and we do well to encourage parents to pursue that option first. Christian day school would be a second option in my paradigm, and the day school will never be as inexpensive as homeschooling (unless you are going to factor in a second income maybe). Frankly, I would discourage Christian parents from exercising the public school option except in some extreme cases. I would not call it a universally sinful option, though I do believe it is a sinful option (between them and God) for some people who are making excuses for misguided priorities.  

I think we are in agreement and I do believe home school is better in general. I was just following with the theme of Christian schools, etc. 

Steve Newman's picture

Susan R wrote:

in a Christian school (from 1978-1984) was that it was racially integrated (there were Hispanic, Asian, and African-American students), but attempted to segregate kids from harmful and objectionable elements of 'the world'.  There was too much emphasis on 'moral instruction' and not enough on challenging students academically. 

It often felt more like Christian rehab than school, what with all the dire warnings against sex, drugs, and Barry Manilow.

Barry Manilow is pretty dangerous! Smile

farmer Tom N's picture

I have to wonder... Do you really not know that he is talking about racial segregation which by the way is indeed a bad thing?

I assumed nothing! Therefore I wanted a clarification of which  kind of segregation  he was referring?

Since segregation is not always bad, and is in fact sometimes a good thing, simply making an open ended statement that ,

"One of the original distinguishing factors for many Christian schools was segregation" leaves me no option but to ask?

I'm personally in favor of more segregation rather than less. I want to see Christians set themselves apart from the world in their lifestyle, their dress, their education, their churches and school choices. The way I see it those are good things. So when a statement is made which implies that segregation is a bad thing, (and it was only implied) my response is to remind all of us that segregation is not always bad.

Did some Christians/churches segregate themselves based on skin tones. Yes, Yes they did. Both black and white, and the Korean Methodist Church I drive by regularly. Is that a bad thing. I don't know?

Does Christ love all the people, red and yellow, black and white, ginger and brunette? Yes, Yes He does.

So again the question is, is it a bad thing if some parents choose to educate their children with individuals of the same color, culture and traditions? I don't know the answer to that. But, I do know that just because someone practiced segregation, does not necessarily mean they did it for reasons of race.

So I asked a question, to find out what the comment was meant to imply.

 

JobK's picture

"Did some Christians/churches segregate themselves based on skin tones. Yes, Yes they did. Both black and white, and the Korean Methodist Church I drive by regularly. Is that a bad thing. I don't know?"

Segregation and voluntary association based on race are two different things. Segregation means barring people from churches and other religious institutions on the basis of race. That absolutely is sinful. What black, white and the Korean Methodist Churches do are voluntary association. Blacks, whites and Koreans choose to attend those churches. More to the point, nonblacks, nonwhites and non-Koreans choose not to. While that is not ideal, it is most certainly not sinful.

Equating what majority-minority churches to what many white churches did during Jim Crow and the segregation era is a false equivalency. For example, even during slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights/black power eras, no reputable black church ever barred anyone from joining because of their race. By contrast, plenty of respectable - and quite prominent - white churches and religious institutions did so until at least well into the 1980s.

And as for asking if it is a bad thing, here is why. You stated the importance of "segregating children from the secular humanist indoctrination of the progressive left" and "I want to see Christians set themselves apart from the world in their lifestyle, their dress, their education, their churches and school choices." Well because of the economic effects of segregation in the larger society, virtually no black churches or Christian groups had the economic resources to start their own Christian schools. It took decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act before more than a tiny number of black churches obtained the means to start Christian schools (and sadly a great many such schools in my area have closed as a consequence of the great recession). So by barring the door to nonwhite Christians based solely on their race, these Christians knowingly left blacks with no schools other than the public ones, no way to "segregate children from the secular humanist indoctrination of the progressive left" and without a major practical way to "as Christians set themselves apart from the world in their lifestyle, their dress, their education, their churches and school choices" because the churches and schools barred the door. And the anger and resentment and mistrust against the segregated religious schools - and the churches who sponsored them and the people who patronized them - lingers to this day. It would have been one thing had a "separate but equal" effort been instituted where the Christians who excluded blacks from their schools raised money to found and support Christian schools for blacks, but they didn't even do that. That fact makes it impossible to conclude that these schools were founded and patronized on Christian motives.

Now to address your question: "So again the question is, is it a bad thing if some parents choose to educate their children with individuals of the same color, culture and traditions?" well can you think of an answer now? The segregation academies - as they were called in my area - produced no positive benefits but plenty of negative ones.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
http://healtheland.wordpress.com

Andrew K.'s picture

farmer Tom N wrote:

I have to wonder... Do you really not know that he is talking about racial segregation which by the way is indeed a bad thing?

I assumed nothing! Therefore I wanted a clarification of which  kind of segregation  he was referring?

Since segregation is not always bad, and is in fact sometimes a good thing, simply making an open ended statement that ,

"One of the original distinguishing factors for many Christian schools was segregation" leaves me no option but to ask?

I'm personally in favor of more segregation rather than less. I want to see Christians set themselves apart from the world in their lifestyle, their dress, their education, their churches and school choices. The way I see it those are good things. So when a statement is made which implies that segregation is a bad thing, (and it was only implied) my response is to remind all of us that segregation is not always bad.

Did some Christians/churches segregate themselves based on skin tones. Yes, Yes they did. Both black and white, and the Korean Methodist Church I drive by regularly. Is that a bad thing. I don't know?

Does Christ love all the people, red and yellow, black and white, ginger and brunette? Yes, Yes He does.

So again the question is, is it a bad thing if some parents choose to educate their children with individuals of the same color, culture and traditions? I don't know the answer to that. But, I do know that just because someone practiced segregation, does not necessarily mean they did it for reasons of race.

So I asked a question, to find out what the comment was meant to imply.

 

Not inherently, no; but I would certainly question the motivations behind such a choice. It's hard to imagine a case in which some concept of prideful superiority isn't present, particularly as it relates to something as arbitrary as skin pigmentation. What would you say about a family who chose to put their children it an all-blonde school? Some rather nonsensical/sinful idea lying at the root of that decision, no doubt.

神是爱

farmer Tom N's picture

Andrew K first,

As I train my children "in the way they should go", eliminating  all of the outside influences which would cause them to stumble is the first thing I attempt to achieve.

We're talking about school OK. Dumping my kids into a classroom with other uneducated and unlearned pagans is not conducive to building them up in the faith. There are cultures and traditions which are contrary to the principles laid out it Scripture. To segregate my children from those cultures and traditions seems logical to me. Thats the motivation I'm defending.

Why other people do what they do is none of my business, as long as it is not within my church or my family.

I fully admit that their are Christians out there who do things out of wrong motivations. Hey, some Christians sin sometimes. But, a blanket statement implying that segregation is always wrong bugs me.

JobK,

As a life long northerner, who grew up in rural Iowa, Jim Crow laws and racist behavior by whites is simply not on my radar. I don't  think about church or anything else in terms of race. Yes there are stupid people and stupid churches out there. Not in my circles though. So I don't think from that perspective. It's foreign to me.

I think I tend to disagree with you about the consequences of the racist acts of white though. Yes the black churches did not have the resources that white churches did, but there are many other areas of organization issues within black churches that affect this more than lack of resources. To often in black churches it was organized as some mans personal piggy bank and the available funds went for his personal benefit rather than those of the families in the churches. Add to that the tendency for every little disaffected group starting their own "church" and there is no financial stability to do something like start a school or any other long term ministry.

 

PaulF's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Steve Newman wrote:

to the rest of the article.

We deal with parents who don't want their kids to be in the secular school system, but need to keep costs down. Often they don't feel like they have the means to send kids to Christian school, but don't feel like they can teach them by themselves. 

 

Steve,

They are almost always wrong on both counts. Any parent with a high school diploma can teach their kids through at least middle school without any outside assistance. Costs are entirely relative. I meet single income families all the time raising schooling their own children on little more than what the government calls poverty level income without depriving the family of any necessities or many luxuries. The income problem is much more often a question of priority than necessity.

Chip, I do agree with you that it can be done and is done as a sacrifice. My wife and I homeschool our 4 boys. We do this for a couple of reasons: One, there isn't any Christian school alternatives in our area we are comfortable with; and two, the ones around are too pricey for us. I'm a pastor of a small work, I work 3 days a week, my wife works some also. We have teen kids who will be starting college and we are helping them save for that. We can't afford Christian school, but we can afford home school. It is not "sacrificing more" that we need at this point, but a different, more affordable, school model that we need. With the amount of technology available, we would think there would be less need for paid staff to run things and then costs could be kept down.

Steve, read your post on homeschooling.  My wife and I homeschool two boys.  Stephen just graduated and we found an interesting alternative to traditional college called CollegePlus (www.collegeplus.org)  which enables the completion of most of the degree at home using CLEP exams and linking that independent study to either a brick and mortar school for the final classes in the "major" field of study, or linking to an online university to wrap it up.  There's vocational testing to help assure that the student isn't investing four years into a dead-end, and there's bi-weekly coaching by phone with a CollegePlus counselor to help keep it all on track.  Much less expensive than a state school or private university.  I found this resource at this year's homeschooling conference in PA, but wish we'd heard about  it sooner -- they actually encourage students to get a head start on initial credits while still in Junior/Senior year of high school.  FYI in case you hadn't heard about it.

Romans 12:9-13

Paul Farrell, A homeschooling Dad.

Ron Bean's picture

. Dumping my kids into a classroom with other uneducated and unlearned pagans is not conducive to building them up in the faith

As someone with nearly three decades experience in Christian education, this statement hit home. If someone chooses to think that all or most of the kids in Christian schools are Christians who are going to encourage their classmates "to go in the way they should go", that person is a bit naive. Are there some good Christian kids in some good Christian schools? Sure. But often the majority of a Christian school's student population is made up of students who may have made a profession of faith (if it was required for admission) and are conforming to the rules for reasons other than spiritual ones. Someone said that Christian school adminstrators often spend more time checking hemlines and haircuts than they do hearts.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Ron Bean wrote:

. Dumping my kids into a classroom with other uneducated and unlearned pagans is not conducive to building them up in the faith

As someone with nearly three decades experience in Christian education, this statement hit home. If someone chooses to think that all or most of the kids in Christian schools are Christians who are going to encourage their classmates "to go in the way they should go", that person is a bit naive. Are there some good Christian kids in some good Christian schools? Sure. But often the majority of a Christian school's student population is made up of students who may have made a profession of faith (if it was required for admission) and are conforming to the rules for reasons other than spiritual ones. Someone said that Christian school adminstrators often spend more time checking hemlines and haircuts than they do hearts.

I've often said that Christian schools are public schools with a cross on the door and chapel 3 times a week. The teachers might be Christians, and they might be mature Christians, but very few of the kids are either. The idea that Christian schools are bastions of spirituality and morality is laughable. Sometimes I think they are worse- the peer pressure amongst kids in church and in a Christian school is much different than what is faced 'in the world', where the lines are often much more clearly drawn. 

I'd send my kids to a public school before I'd send them to a Christian school. School is, IMO, about academics. I do not want teachers parenting my child, nor do I want them to attempt to 'instill character' or direct their moral compass. That's the parent's job. Which is why it makes sense IMO to homeschool- killin' two birds for a lot less money, as it's more efficient and effective. 

The traditional classroom is quickly becoming obsolete, and it wasn't that great to begin with. I'll be glad to see it go the way of the T-Rex.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan R wrote:
I'd send my kids to a public school before I'd send them to a Christian school. School is, IMO, about academics. I do not want teachers parenting my child, nor do I want them to attempt to 'instill character' or direct their moral compass.

Susan,

Could this be a "little bit" of an overstatement? Not all Christian schools are as you described in your first paragraph. Furthermore, to use your rationale here, we shouldn't allow our kids to attend any church activities either since the leaders might be parenting the children, attempting to instill character or direct their moral compass. I agree that academics should be an important part of the educational process, but I don't think we can neatly divide the various aspects of child rearing the way you have here. Personally, if I had to enroll my kids in a school, I would, hands down, rather have them in classrooms where the teachers and administration are pulling in the same direction I am pulling rather than a public school that is fundamentally opposed to biblical teaching and principles. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Susan R wrote:
I'd send my kids to a public school before I'd send them to a Christian school. School is, IMO, about academics. I do not want teachers parenting my child, nor do I want them to attempt to 'instill character' or direct their moral compass.

Susan,

Could this be a "little bit" of an overstatement? Not all Christian schools are as you described in your first paragraph. Furthermore, to use your rationale here, we shouldn't allow our kids to attend any church activities either since the leaders might be parenting the children, attempting to instill character or direct their moral compass. I agree that academics should be an important part of the educational process, but I don't think we can neatly divide the various aspects of child rearing the way you have here. Personally, if I had to enroll my kids in a school, I would, hands down, rather have them in classrooms where the teachers and administration are pulling in the same direction I am pulling rather than a public school that is fundamentally opposed to biblical teaching and principles.

Unfortunately, Chip, it's not an understatement. Every unGodly and immoral thing that has happened to my kids has been when they were at church, at a church function, or with a church family. Add that to my own experiences in Christian schools, as a student and then as a teacher, and there is no way I'm sending my kids to a Christian school. 

We currently attend a church that is very family-inclusive. There is no push to segregate kids from adults, or children from their parents. In previous churches, when we did not trust a teacher or youth leader and did not want our children under their tutelage, instead of dealing with the issues in a Biblical manner, we were accused of being too overprotective, undermining the leadership, not being submissive, and blahblahblah. 

Personally, when a youth leader thinks it's ok to show movies at youth activities that contain sexual situations and obscenities, he should be the one subject to discipline, and not the concerned parent. 

But let's just take content for a minute- when Sunday School lessons are shallow, and as much time is spent playing games and eating cookies as is spent teaching, I think a parent should not be ostracized for keeping their child in church with them so that they get meatier teaching. And perhaps church leadership should think about the quality of their SS classes, and why they even have them in the first place. 

As a parent, it is my job to decide what is and isn't beneficial for my child. No one gets to wave their degree or office under my nose and demand that I concede my own best judgment for theirs. And that is what we run into again and again and again with Christian schools and youth programs. 

Bottom line- I am sure there are good Christian schools out there. . . somewhere. I just ain't never seen one. 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan,

I essentially agree with everything you said in this last post. My contention (in the mildest sense of that word possible) was with the blanket statement that you would choose a public school over a Christian school in every instance. I agree there are many bad churches and many bad "Christian" schools, I just don't agree that public education is better in any way - ever, speaking as a homeschool parent, former Christian school principal/teacher and current public school teacher. If homeschooling was not an option for me (for instance if the Lord took my wife home), I would never consider the public school as an option. In my current context, that would require moving someplace with an appropriate Christian school option since the Christian schools in my area are too much like the ones you describe. But, I don't see a problem with moving. People move all the time for better houses and better jobs and better communities, but Christians seem flummoxed at the thought of moving for better churches or Christian schools. Seems like those are much higher priorities for the believer than the number of bedrooms/bathrooms in my house or the number of zeros on my paycheck. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Charlie's picture

I have often thought that many of the challenges Christian schools face are directly related to their close attachment to a single church. From the perspective of the church, the school can become a distraction for personnel shuffled back and forth between church and school duties. It is many times a drain on resources. Conversely, if the school is very successful, it can become the major partner in the relationship, which was surely not the church's intention.

From the perspective of the school, the church relationship can limit the available pool of faculty by requiring faculty to be members of that church or by constantly scrutinizing and hounding faculty that aren't members. Often this leads to underqualified and undercompensated faculty, both results of a monopoly on hiring. Also, having all the beliefs and policies of a single church dominate the school can lead to conflict with parents who attend different churches. Their children will often receive the message that their church is bad. Schools that adopt stricter enrollment policies will almost always have funding crises that negatively impact education.

I think interdenominational Christian schools are worth a look. The school can just be a school, not trying to be a church. Children will learn early on that there are Christians with different beliefs and practices, and how to get along with them. That is, with the goal of absolute homogeneity removed, differences among churches won't create so much tension for families. Churches won't have to deal with quite so pronounced a youth group divide between the kids who attend the church school and everyone else. The school will likely have better funding and better educational opportunities. And there can still be enough structure that major forms of unhealthy behavior are kept in check.

I think the major obstacle to the creation of such schools is the love of control featured among fundamentalists. One of the attractions of the church school was that the church would be able to control every detail of the education so that only the official position on whatever ever gets through. A world where no child has to be aware of anything their church doesn't want them to! How wonderful ... ly frightening.

 

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

FWIW Charlie, I lean the exact opposite direction. I have no problem with true parachurch ministries - those which aid the church in accomplishing its mission. However, I am completely opposed to "ministries" which attempt to replace the church. What the Christian school does overlaps both home and church ministry, but it should not seek to replace either. There are three biblical institutions. The church and family have leadership structures defined in scripture. When we deviate from the blueprint established by God, we should expect trouble. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Susan,

I essentially agree with everything you said in this last post. My contention (in the mildest sense of that word possible) was with the blanket statement that you would choose a public school over a Christian school in every instance. I agree there are many bad churches and many bad "Christian" schools, I just don't agree that public education is better in any way - ever, speaking as a homeschool parent, former Christian school principal/teacher and current public school teacher. If homeschooling was not an option for me (for instance if the Lord took my wife home), I would never consider the public school as an option. In my current context, that would require moving someplace with an appropriate Christian school option since the Christian schools in my area are too much like the ones you describe. But, I don't see a problem with moving. People move all the time for better houses and better jobs and better communities, but Christians seem flummoxed at the thought of moving for better churches or Christian schools. Seems like those are much higher priorities for the believer than the number of bedrooms/bathrooms in my house or the number of zeros on my paycheck.

Well, I didn't say public school was better, I said I'd send my kids to public school before I sent them to a Christian school. I've homeschooled for over 20 years, so I think my stance on the best option for education is clear. 

As for moving to be near a good Christian school- if you can afford to jump through all those hoops, why not homeschool? However, if a family is committed to sending their kids to a Christian school, then sure- it makes sense that they'd move to be near one. We moved to go to a better church, so I'm in agreement with that. The problem is that our 'better' church became completely dysfunctional with a new pastor, so we had to leave. We've found a good church in our area, so thankfully moving isn't required. 

One of the points in the article resonated with me:

Without giving overly specific examples, why would a school feel compelled to state that it is better for its students to learn how to live than how to make a living? Does this school believe that a Christian education cannot deliver both? Or what purpose is served by a school declaring that its desired spiritual outcomes for its students are institutionally a higher priority than is student academic achievement? Does providing a Christian education necessitate making such a choice?

I have heard that idea several times- that it is better to equip a child to be Godly than to get a good job, and that sounds good at first. But as the author notes- the false dichotomy this creates is completely nonsensical, since one of the marks of a mature Christian is caring for family, spiritually and vocationally. Cultivating one's gifts and developing a work ethic is very much part of a good education and growth in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I think the either/or of academics vs moral/Biblical instruction is an excuse to guilt parents into plunking down tuition.

Yeah, I'm typing with my cynical hand again.

. . . parents are also aware that God has initiated only two institutions, the church and the home, both of which are charged with the spiritual and moral instruction of children. Christian schooling (in the modern sense) is an oftentimes desirable extension of these two timeless institutions, but is itself not scripturally mandated.

This is something that churches with Christian school often overlook. They see the school as an extension of the church to the point that opting for another school of any kind is seen as disloyalty and treated with suspicion. I've yet to see a school that hasn't caused major problems in a church. Of course, I've also never seen a blob fish but I understand that they do exist somewhere on Earth. But churches really need to ask themselves if they are equipped to host a Christian school that can offer quality academics as well as solid Biblical instruction.

Charlie's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

FWIW Charlie, I lean the exact opposite direction. I have no problem with true parachurch ministries - those which aid the church in accomplishing its mission. However, I am completely opposed to "ministries" which attempt to replace the church. What the Christian school does overlaps both home and church ministry, but it should not seek to replace either. There are three biblical institutions. The church and family have leadership structures defined in scripture. When we deviate from the blueprint established by God, we should expect trouble. 

Chip,

I don't think I understand your response here. When you say you lean in the opposite direction, do you mean you disapprove of the idea of an independent Christian school? Do you think such a Christian school would replace the church and home? My idea was that such an independent school would have less risk of being confused with either. It would be more free just to be a school. 

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Yeah, Charlie, I disapprove of independent schools. They are adopting the ministry of the church and home without submitting to the ordained authority of those institutions. I much prefer a church run school that is cooperating with churches in the surrounding area.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ron Bean's picture

Where is the Biblical mandate for churches to educate children?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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