It’s no surprise to me that I stroked the cat’s fur the wrong way with my two posts about homeschooling over the last couple weeks. It’s not popular to decry a trend that is burgeoning among both right-wing and left-wing Christians. But I, dear reader, stand here in the center and attempt to humbly guard our space.
But seriously, I know that my posts were provocative. But they weren’t personal. The fact that so many people took them personally makes me think that homeschooling has, for some, become a little too important. That being said, I have listened carefully to the arguments against my posts, and I am aware that my argument has some weak spots. I am also aware that my children have the good fortune of being in a very good school system.
Lots of vitriol has come my way in the comment sections of those posts, as well as on Twitter (Facebook, on the other hand has been relatively silent). There have also been some smart blog responses, and these three stood out to me:
Danielle Shroyer, pastor of Journey in Dallas:
I don’t believe there’s any way anyone can actually choose to opt out of the social contract. They can be bad at it, but they are in it regardless. (Maybe, Tony, your argument would be better served in saying you don’t believe homeschooling produces responsible members of the social contract, or some other value judgment…but good luck getting anyone to agree with that either!) There is no firm boundary between sacred and secular. There is no outside and inside the system. To say that someone who homeschools or sends their child to private school is not an active member of society is beyond silly.
Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia:
The next issue is more to the point: while we might have an obligation to improve society by being part of it, how far does this obligation extend? If you are in a good position (due to career, physical proximity, or connections of friends and family) to fight drug abuse, should you become an addict and live among addicts? Of course not. But by parity of Tony’s reasoning, one might think so: perhaps, by joining the addicts, I can improve society in profound ways that I could not do from outside the addicted fold. This is speculative, however, and I am sure no one believes any such thing, and certainly no one is obligated to act a certain way due to such speculation. The point is that, clearly, there are lines and standards we are justified in drawing: our obligation to improve society by being part of it does not impose endless requirements on us.
Based on the posts in question, Tony is not going into the public schools to be the hands and feet of Jesus; his children are. Certainly parents of students have a small presence in the school system; however, if Tony believes he has a God-given obligation to show Christlike compassion in the public schools, shouldn’t he be the one going in? How is his children’s presence in the classroom him being salt and light? A Christian who works in the public schools is showing Christlike compassion, shining God’s light, etc.
In addition, some children are ready to be God’s hands and feet. Some are not.
Please, allow me to respond:
No, I don’t think you should raise your kids among drug addicts because you might help the drug addicts. We have not decided as a society to publicly fund the healing and reparation of all drug addicts. We have, however, decided to publicly and collectively educate our children. When Christians opt out of this collective societal agreement, society is hobbled.
There are many families at my worshipping community who opt out of the system of immunizations that our society requires. They are making a serious misjudgment that weakens our society and is, if I may be so bold, self-centered. I realize that many of you will argue that your first commitment is to your own children, not to society. Fair enough, but that’s not how I make my determinations — and I don’t think that the two are mutually exclusive. If you repeatedly make decisions that put your family ahead of the other families that surround you, well, I just don’t see how that is following Christ’s example.
Secondly, no, your own personal experience with homeschooling, no matter how positive that may be, does not negate my argument. I realize that many people have many different experiences with homeschooling, but this isn’t about your personal experience.
Think of it this way: tonight on the news, you might see someone interviewed, man-on-the-street style. He’ll say, “Yeah, the economy sucks, because I lost my job last year and haven’t been able to find a new one. Vote Romney!” But you and I both know that one person’s opinion is not a gauge of the health of our society. The economy is judged by meta-trends, not by micro-anecdotes. The same goes for public education.
I’m looking ahead, and I think there will be a huge price to pay if my fellow Christians continue to withdraw their children from public schools. If we abandon that public institution, the toll will be this: in two or three decades, our culture will be less educated and less civil. I can’t imagine any Christian wanting this.
Finally, to Joy’s criticism, let me say this: my children are not my proxies. Their education in public school has necessitated my own involvement in that institution — on the PTA, as a volunteer, and as a generally engaged parent. Sometimes I wonder if homeschooling is a choice that parents make to allow their own adult avoidance of rolling up their sleeves and making public schools better.
Thanks to those who wrote critical pos