Christian Schools

Cars and Christian Schools: Concerning Curriculum

evosRead the series so far.

Henry Ford is widely associated with numerous familiar sayings, some of which he actually said. One that is contested, although Ford himself recounts it on page 72 of his 1922 autobiography, My Life and Work, is “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” (Black paint was reportedly less expensive than other colors, and reputedly dried faster.) In retrospect, Ford’s directive was not strictly implemented. The Model T was available in several other colors for much of its production run.

Neglecting customer’s legitimate needs, wants, or expectations does not abet a sustainable business plan. When competition exists, businesses must continually strive to attract and retain customers. Competition expands choices; choices empower customers.

A third element of a Christian school that influences enrollment is its academic reputation. When given a viable choice, what conscientious parent would send his or her child to a Christian school not known for providing a quality education? The answer may be obvious, but the question is flawed. The problem is that few observers of Christian education can agree on what “quality” means.

Some would be satisfied with the most basic, conventional curriculum as long as a daily Bible class or chapel service is included. Others would presuppose an array of courses befitting the most storied New England prep schools. Impressive lists of required classes and extensive selections of electives are no guarantee of quality, however. Depth of instruction is as vital as breadth of instruction. Without sufficient academic depth and the critical-thinking skills it engenders, Christian schools may produce graduates more adept at rote memorization and recitation than at inquiry and discernment. This can have serious consequences.

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The Christian School


Christian primary and secondary education (sometimes called “Christian Day School”) became popular among fundamentalists during the 1970s. While some have alleged that the Christian school movement was a response to racial integration,1 it was more likely a reaction against the increasingly vicious secularism of public education. For a generation, many Christian parents sent their children to Christian schools, even when the cost of tuition meant significant financial sacrifice.

Over the past decade, however, most Christian schools have begun to decline. Administrators speculate about the reasons, but at least a few seem pretty obvious. These are generalizations that will not hold in every instance. Certain tendencies, however, can be observed more often than not.

First, Christian schools have not typically produced a better academic product than public education. True, the average test scores from Christian school students are higher than those of public school students. That is partly because public schools are required to accept students (including special education students) whom Christian schools uniformly reject. Take the top ten percent of graduates from the typical Christian school, and compare them to the top ten percent of graduates from the typical public school, and you will likely find that the public school graduates are better prepared.

A second reason that Christian schools are in decline is because they do not generally produce a better quality of Christian. Granted, the environment of a Christian school does shield its students from the most brutal influences of the secular school environment, such as rampant drug use and open promiscuity. It also grants Christianity a normative status, so that a student’s faith is not overtly and constantly under attack. Nevertheless, graduates of Christian schools do not seem to be noticeably more spiritually minded than Christian graduates of public schools. The real test is in what happens to Christian school students after they graduate. How many of them are walking with the Lord five years later? The proportions do not seem markedly higher for Christian school alumni than for other Christians of the same age.

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Homeschooling: Why We Did It, Why We Stopped

If you’re a parent wrestling with the pros and cons of educational options for your children, my wife and I can sympathize. A few weeks ago we officially enrolled in a local Christian school (a classical academy). It will be the first year our children have attended school outside of our home.

So why have we quit? Why did we choose homeschooling in the first place? Perhaps the answers to these questions will be helpful to some parents who are trying to sort out what they ought to do.

Why we homeschooled

Four reasons come to mind when I look back on why we chose homeschooling.

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"If they're going to single her out because she conceived prior to marriage, but allow people to remain employed who conceived during a marriage, isn't that discriminating against her based on her marital status?"

Are Rules Dangerous? Part 2

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“Rules were meant to be broken,” an old adage goes. Christians tend to have a different attitude, but we recognize a kernel of truth in the folk wisdom. Rules are just so often wrong-headed, excessive, or motivated by foolish fears or lust for power. Sometimes they get in the way of the very things they are intended to accomplish.

Christian ministries can have too many rules and develop a cold, offense-focused culture. They can also err by according some rules a spiritual significance and power they don’t possess. These problems require that we give serious thought to what rules we have and what they are really accomplishing. But we should not overreact to the excesses and errors, criticize rules systems too broadly and blame them for problems that have other causes.

In Part 1 of this series, I presented two arguments for valuing rules more than most young Fundamentalists are inclined to. Here, I offer a third argument, then respond to some objections.

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Are Rules Dangerous? Part 1

“Young Fundamentalists” are generally not fond of rules, especially in ministry settings. Exactly why this is the case is an interesting study in itself. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that many of them grew up in rules-heavy Christian schools in an era full of glowing idealism about what these highly-disciplined, conscientiously spiritual educational environments would produce. The inflated hopes of those days were sure to result in disappointment. And maybe the current rules angst is the result of a generalized disgust with the whole concept and all that seems connected to it. In defense of those who feel this way, it is only too easy to find examples of rules excesses and absurdities.

Whatever the reasons, young Fundamentalists are often eager to cast “man-made rules” in a negative light and to argue from Scripture that these rules are dangerous at best, and downright hostile to Christian growth at worst.

My aim here is to offer a “young Fundamentalist” perspective that differs from that of many of my peers, but one that I believe answers better to Scripture and wisdom.

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