Getting an Education: Learning about the World as It Really Is

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Patheos Public Square on Homeschooling and Public Education. Read other perspectives here.

The point of this post is simple: I believe it is wrong for Christian parents to send their kids to public school. Why? The Bible requires Christian parents to give their kids a Christian education. Public school does not provide a Christian education and therefore Christian parents should not send their children to public school. Despite the many excuses we make and the fears we have about removing our children from government schools, the Bible is clear on this point.

But can't my child go to public school and get a good education? That question assumes education is the accumulation of facts and skills. But is that an education? If my children learn math, science, Spanish, and history have they been educated? Or is there a moral dimension to education? Can it be a good education if it does not train "the whole man for his proper end" (R.L. Dabney)? Should Christian parents be content with smart children with high test scores? Is that all that the Lord expects of us? The answer is no.

An essential part of any education is the moral and ethical principles that are learned in the classroom. Education is an ethical endeavor. It cannot be morally neutral, no matter what educators in this country say. Children are taught every day what is right and wrong. They are taught how to think about the world, what great truths should govern their lives, what is true, good, and beautiful, what is important, and what is not. Education always shapes the heart and mind. It never just gives facts and skills. If education always has a moral dimension and that moral dimension is not tangential to education, but central to it then how can Christian parents send their kids to be educated in a system where God is absent? If God is not in the classroom can it be a true education?

The goal in educating our children is not simply to learn multiplication, the structure of a cell, or how to read Jane Austen. These are necessary for a good education, but not sufficient. The ultimate goal is to bring glory to God and to love our neighbor. To eliminate God's presence and authority from education is to eliminate the primary lesson that is to be learned. If children leave school not knowing the God who made the world, governs history, and created words, have they been educated?

God made this world from nothing. He rules this world. He redeemed it by sending his only Begotten Son. He gave man dominion over the earth to serve one another and build his kingdom. We are sinners, made in his image, but separated from him by our sins. This is reality, the world as it is. The Bible is clear that parents must bring their children up in light of this reality so they learn to love God with all their heart and to love their neighbor as themselves. This is not an option or suggestion. It is a command. Christian parents must not put their children in an environment where the essentials about the God, the world he has made, and mankind are denied or ignored. Scripture is clear on this point:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done (Psalm 78:4).

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Those are some obvious examples, but there are more. The entire book of Proverbs is built on the assumption that the child is being raised to love God. It is a covenantal book. Joshua's statement in Joshua 24:15, God's statement about Abraham teaching his children in Genesis 18:19, Psalm 1, Psalm 112, Psalm 128, and passages like Romans 6, Matthew 18:5-6, and 22:37 make it clear that our children are to be taught to think God's thoughts after him, to bring him glory, and to serve our neighbor. If a classroom does not do this, it is not education.

In our public school system God is neither acknowledged nor taught. He is an afterthought occasionally prayed to before a football game. But he is not Lord. His commands on sexuality, holiness, respect, kindness, and greed are ignored. Darwinian evolution teaches a false view of origins, which influences all disciplines, not just science. There is no standard for right and wrong because God's Word has been rejected. Therefore, pragmatism rules the day. The question is not what is right, but does it work and how does it make me feel.

Children are not taught how to glorify God in their studies or interaction with other students. Reality, the world as it actually is, is not taught. Important truths are ignored for the trivial. Self-fulfillment becomes the goal. That is not an education, even if it does help someone get a job and make money.

Christian parents should want their children to grow up loving God, their neighbor, and Jesus. They should want their children to learn math and science in a place where God's glory is the great aim. Public education does not provide this. Therefore, outside of circumstances where there are no other options (for example, a single mother) Christian parents should not send their children to public school.