Five Questions to Ask a Christian Secondary School

New Covenant Christian School gave me more in high school than I gave her.

The coaches let me play a high school sport with limited talent. I was able to play an instrument and do a play with even less talent. Miss Balentine taught me English grammer and writing . . .and is not to blame for the mistakes I still make. (Miss Balentine: I still cannot edit my own work.) Mr. Larkin fired a passion for Church history. Mrs. Baker made me write and write about history and limited me to five paragraphs. Mr. Demint took me to sporting events, ran with me, and gave me lasting advice.

If you are not on this list, it isn’t because I don’t remember you, but because Mrs. Baker told me not to go on and on.

My Mom and Dad helped start the school and Mr. Osborne ran it. Mr. Osborne is still my idea of a smart and a godly administrator. I discovered I could not do what he did or teach secondary school as well as any of my teachers.

Secondary education is a job I could not do and I admire those who have done it well, as I did not and could not!

You should consider a Christian high school, but not blindly. Ask questions.

Let me head off a concern:

My previous suggestion parents ask questions of their Christian college caused one administrator at a School Not HBU to bloviate that such questions encouraged a “culture of suspicion between the school and parents.”

Indeed, that was exactly my intention.

Parents should be aware that there is moch to suspect and that Christian colleges will often treat them like customers when it comes to billing, but like parishioners when it comes to complaints. They will be hurt when you ask questions, but send professionally produced statements when it comes to money.

Professors do deserve the respect shown pastors and missionaries, though they also should be judged by the standards of those in ministry. Administrators have two roles: we also serve the ministry, but we must also run the business side to make the ministry possible.

Jesus had a similar arrangement within his ministry and the disciples would have done well to be more suspicious of the one who kept the purse.

As many Christian secondary schools charge a great deal of money for a secondary education, parents should also ask hard questions. Here are five I would suggest as a start:

First, how defined do you want your Christian doctrine to be?

High schools kids are not in college. If you want your kids to grow up Protestant, then one influential Catholic teacher matters. If you are a Pentecostal, and that is worship to you, go to chapel and see.

On the other hand, many schools are Christian in name only, particularly Catholic schools. Do all the faculty have to make a profession of Faith? If not, do you care?

Ask to see the standards. How often is this reviewed?

If you don’t care, government school is free and you get to support the community.

I think the ideal is a “mere Christian” high school where faculty are urged not proselytize for their particular point of view, but where all the great streams of Christendom are taught fairly.

Second, how defined do you want the social or political views of faculty to be? 

Google and Facebook the faculty. Most schools will have younger faculty and the pressure of academic excellence can “liberalize” social views.

What are your standards? Some Christian schools don’t ask the faculty, but the faculty do tell the students.

Nothing is more influential than “insider” knowledge coming from a beloved faculty to a student against what the student perceives to be the establishment view.

 “Look,” he says, “your folks are pro-life, but lots of Christians are not. Whatever my views may be,” wink and nudge, “consider these other ideas that are the future of the Church.”

Do you care? Don’t limit your questions to a few hot button issues. How important is their view toward the poor to you? What is their view?

Do you care if faculty privately support what the Church teaches is a vice if they don’t teach it directly in class? Does the school?

Here is a warning about a common confusion:

If you are a small government conservative hoping to pay for a private school that supports your political views, recall that is different from a Christian school.  Christians have a diversity of political opinions on issues such as what to do about global warming. If you want both a conservative and a Christian school, ask.

I would not, however, on the whole advise such a choice. I would want my politics represented fairly (not always true for conservatives), but not a litmus test by any means. A pro-family, pro-marriage Democrat would do kids some good if they live in my household!

My own choice would be a “mere Christian,” politically diverse school with a strong statement of faith and Christian code of personal conduct reviewed yearly.

Third, does the school use dreadful textbooks? Is the school dialectical? 

Christian textbooks, at least most of them, are very bad. This is not because they are conservative or Christian, but because they contain errors, are overly narrow, and are poorly written. Some are racist, many are misogynistic.

Any use of Bob Jones or Abeka textbooks should warn you off. Read one.

Of course, secular textbooks tend to be full of errors, overly narrow, and poorly written. One evil does not justify another.

And after all why should schools use textbooks in many classes?

Find a school that uses textbooks as little as possible and where they must chooses the best available.

Next, if classes center on lectures, do not go. Look for active learning using a range of methods, but a school that makes heavy (though not exclusive) use on discussion. Secondary school should not mostly by about fact gathering.

Finally, don’t assume AP classes can or should replace college. Such classes may simply teach to a test: if the teacher couldn’t be hired by a college you would want to attend, then don’t cheat yourself out of that class in college. Instead look for a school that offers dual enrollment to juniors and seniors with a local college (in actual college classes), like that offered by HBU’s Academy program.

In any case, pick a school with great teachers, but avoid any place that churns teachers. How can you tell? Could or has anyone spent an entire career at the school? Are there diverse ages of faculty?

Avoid a school with no teachers in their fifties if you can.

Fourth, is the school a “white flight” haven?

Need I say more? If the school does not reflect the demographics of the area in which it is built, why? Is it cost? Is there a scholarship program?

Finally, where do the graduates go and how do they do years after high school?

Ask for graduate lists from the last ten years. Facebook and Google the graduates. Send a random selection email and see if they appreciate their high school education still.

A warning flag should be failure of local colleges to easily take transcripts from the school. Good classes don’t always count, but they mostly do.

And by the way, New Covenant (sadly no more!) would have answered, joyfully, all these questions to my satisfaction.


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  • RevBill

    Perhaps a preliminary question should be, “Why should I send my child to your school rather than public school?”

  • Noah172

    Fourth, is the school a “white flight” haven?

    Need I say more? If the school does not reflect the demographics of the area in which it is built, why?

    I couldn’t let this pass unremarked. I do not appreciate Mr. Reynolds’ aspersions here. There are plenty of public schools (usually in wealthy districts) that are “white flight havens”. Moreover, is Reynolds practicing what he preaches? According to an online bio, he and his wife homeschool their four children. That is a decision that I applaud, don’t misunderstand — my wife and I intend on homeschooling our own children (our first is in the womb) — but it is unfair for Reynolds to insinuate racism in others when he chooses not to enroll his own children in racially-mixed public schools. I do not know exactly where Reynolds lives, but Houston Baptist University, where he is provost, is located in a heavily non-white (mostly Hispanic) section of that city; if Reynolds lives near his place of work, then his home would be zoned for public schools where his children would be conspicuous racial minorities (and in any case, the public school population of Houston across virtually every neighborhood is overwhelmingly non-white).