Why Public School is The Bomb

Essays, Featured — By on September 17, 2009 at 12:00 am

AAFY001003You’ve witnessed the scene in 24, Lost or many other nail-biter action shows:  a time-bomb is ticking down to zero; the hero or heroine must act quickly to avert mass destruction; a red wire or (wait…was it?) blue wire must be cut to avoid the apocalyptic blast of fire, concrete, and combustible carnage.

Sound familiar?  If so, then you already know exactly how I feel whenever a well-meaning soccer mom from church asks me this question:

“So, are you guys going to home-school?”


The topic is an unstable atom, a shaking bottle of nitroglycerine, a lump of C4 your toddler mistook for play-dough.  Contrary to the typical high-octane TV series, defusing the home-schooling “bomb” is no Keanu cake-walk.  It makes me nervous.  Maybe because, as NPR’s “Monkey See” blog claims, home-schooling is the number one toxic topic to avoid discussing on the internet.

But what recourse do I have?

Choosing to involve my kids in the public school system has a.) taught valuable life/character lessons, b.) promoted social justice, awareness of the marginalized, and community building, and c.) encouraged our family’s faith and that of the Christian teachers working missionally within that environment.  Public school is a viable option for conscientious Christian parents.  So please bear with me as I push this ominous red button while gripping a grenade tightly between my teeth.

For the record, I am definitively not against home-schooling for its own sake.  Last year, when we were living in a rural Tibetan town, my wife and I home-schooled our five and seven-year-old daughters.  It was a great experience because of the one-on-one involvement, the child-tailored learning, and the unhampered spiritual input we could provide.  We all benefited from that experience, and it suited our situation and the developmental needs of our kids.  I am not grinding my axe here.

When my wife and I returned to the States, many people in our broad Christian community assumed we would continue home-schooling.  In the three years we were living overseas, there was a subtle paradigm shift that occurred with many evangelical Christians.  Home-schooling was suddenly the spiritual option; public schooling was considered, at best, unspiritual/uncaring, and, at worse, a form of Christian child abuse.  At least that’s what some parents’ looks, awkward pauses, and sighs seemed to imply.  As a returning ex-pat, I thought maybe I was over-reacting, but hearing an NPR broadcast (All Things Considered – The Changing Face of America) confirmed this growing home-schooling trend.  According to that program, there are now 2 million home-schooled children in America, a number that has been rising over the last ten years, up 15% annually during that time.  While not all of these home-schoolers represent a “Christian” belief, the report claimed “an overwhelming majority” are motivated by religious reasons.  This is not unwarranted.  Obviously,   Public school provides a very natural platform for Christians to engage with their local community in redemptive, relational, and loving ways – like Jesus did.  If parents are willing to model this active involvement, it should be no surprise when their children grab the baton and run.

When we enrolled our kids at the local public school, we were shocked by the ethnic, religious, and economic diversity in their classrooms.  This was surprising because the school is located in a scenic suburb of Seattle known for its affluence.  (I guess you can’t judge a town by its Starbucks-density anymore.)  With over 32 languages spoken, at least 7 different ethnic categories represented, and a large percentage of its students receiving free/reduced lunches, the school felt like a melting pot of missional opportunity.  It was like we’d swapped the Far East for the ‘It’s A Small World’-ride at Disneyland.  Familiar with cross-cultural life already, our daughters could relate well to “foreigner” feelings and challenges, had been second-language learners themselves, and knew the awkwardness-leading-to-joy of making new friends in a pint-sized international community.

It was heart-warming and inspiring for us to see how our two young daughters translated “loving neighbor global” into “loving neighbor local” without any difficulties of translation.  One day. our kindergartener came home telling us how one of her friends at school, Christina, wanted to know about Jesus.  Christina, who was born into a Buddhist family, told Sarah she had never been to church before.  When we asked Sarah how she had responded she said, “Oh, I took her to my sister, Anna, because she knows lots more about God than me.”  Then Anna finished the story, “Yeah, I told Christina all about Jesus and how he is God and how he loves all people.”  Smile.

When I hear after-school stories like this, when Anna or Sarah wants to take their Bible or China pictures in for show-and-tell; when I see how concerned the girls are for their classmates, I can’t help but think of how salt works its way into a bland meal—flavoring it.  I know I’m biased and think my kids are special, but the way they are active shouldn’t be seen as extraordinary; it should be seen as standard practice for believers of all ages.  It challenges me.  Love, grace, compassion, social justice, mercy, vulnerability, honesty, relational empathy—these fruits of the Spirit shouldn’t be rotting on the tree.  They are meant to be picked and shared lavishly with the rest of the world.

Christians, sadly, tend to believe more in the negative power of sin than they do in the redemptive power of Christ in the lives of His people.  The Watkins family, the Christian home-schoolers interviewed by NPR, said they didn’t want their kids in the public school because of the negative influences.  Mrs. Watkins, a former public school teacher herself, said this:

“A lot of it was peer pressure, attitudes; you could have a bunch of really good kids in there and you only needed one to destroy all of it.  You only needed one.  And there was always one.”

I know there are great challenges facing believing students (and parents) within the public school system.  I often think of Columbine, drugs, teenage sexuality, and the bitter Darwin-obsessed biology teachers out there.  I’m not naive; I went to public schools myself.  But does the “bad apple” theory really hold sway over salt-n-light?  And if so, is avoidance and disengagement the answer?  It points to fatalism and a disbelief that Christ really changes anything in individual lives or society.  If one “baddie” can destroy the lot, isn’t it also possible that a single “saint” could reform a school?  When I send my kids off in the morning I like to think of them being unleashed.  Watch out world!  You don’t know what’s about to hit you.

But it’s not just about the kids.  Adults—teachers, faculty, and parents—have to be an integral part of kingdom-building in public schools.  My wife began by volunteering two mornings a week helping out in the girls’ classroom.  As a family we attend fund-raisers, PTA-events, harvest parties, and open school assemblies.  We’ve met other like-minded Christian families through this process.  The more engaged our family has become, the more our eyes have been opened to the great needs and opportunities.  Felix, in Sarah’s class, told a story about how his family went fishing one time because they didn’t have any food to eat.  Omar doesn’t speak a word at school…ever.  His parents, raised in a different country, refuse to enroll him in a special class because they believe this will reflect poorly on him.  After school, Madeline and her younger brother are often seen waiting on the curb for many hours.  If asked, they will tell you a friend will be picking them up; it’s never a parent.  As we engage with these real-life problems, we are trying to find practical ways to reach out to these children and their families.  Knowing them, and sharing life together, is the crucial first step.

These social problems would seem overwhelming if not for faculty and teachers who actually care.  One of the bright spots in this whole journey for us has been getting to know Anna’s teacher, Mrs. McCullough.  Besides being an amazing teacher from the scholastic standpoint, she has also modeled social justice to me by her willingness to sacrifice economic and professional gain by working in a high-needs school.  Much like us, Mrs. McCullough was at first surprised by what she saw in these multi-cultural classrooms.  She wasn’t fully aware of the needs when she made the move, but after teaching at this school for some time, she realized it was where God wanted her to be—and that she could make a difference.  In practical terms, education becomes ministry and vice versa; Mrs. McCullough is a first-rate minister even though her job title might read First Grade Teacher.

Even Christian teacher-ministers need the encouragement of Christian parents and students.  On one particularly tough day, Mrs. McCullough was counting down to three o’clock.  It was “one of those days” we all have on occasion where we find ourselves praying one of Anne Lamott’s favorite prayers:  “Help me! Help me! Help me!” So when the class went off to P.E., Mrs. McCullough was happy for the break.  It was then that she found a colored note from Anna sitting on her desk.  The top facing page of the note read:


When she turned the note over, this is what it said on the back:

I pray my prayers
when I do something wrong
or when something bad happens
because God wants me!

Later Anna told us that she had originally made the note for herself, but that she felt that day Mrs. McCullough needed it.  She did.

God does want us and He wants our neighborhoods, our communities, our schools.  I think that’s why he asks us to be salt, light, and effervescent metropolitan centers on a hill.  There’s no age-limits set, but there is a risk involved.  Our children could fall to the various temptations and depravity of our sinful world.  Or, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, the world could fall to the enticing temptation of the loving Spirit of God actively present within our kids.  And that possibility could be quite explosive.

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  • Emily Timbol says:

    Wonderful, wonderful piece. I could not agree more. Locking your self or family in a safe Christian bubble is not what Jesus wants us to do. Sheltering your children will do more to hurt them then help them because it robs them from experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power that comes when standing up for Christ or working on His behalf.

    Plus, home-schooled kids are usually really weird and can’t spell for beans. Just saying.

  • emery jo says:

    My heart is screaming “YES!” to every single word written here.

    Thank you for this. I believe this, but have recently wondered if this belief of mine betrays some weakness in my ability as a parent… like, really I’m just too ‘lazy’ to homeschool my boys, and if I were a better Christian mommy, I would buck-up and do it.

    But I am realizing that sending my kids off to public school is not ‘the easy way out’ that it is sometimes portrayed to be in christian circles. It is an offering up. A commitment to involvement in the classroom, even to the other children that aren’t your own. A willingness to coach them through the hard circumstances they will face. A letting go. A trusting. An act of Faith.

    I believe God will bless those things. I believe God will bless me and my husband and my kids and their school and my community and the world, if I will just be generous with what I’ve been given: two amazing boys who could alter history- if given the chance and freedom and opportunity to do so.

  • JamesW says:

    As with many spiritual issues, there is more than one appropriate answer here. It’s a case-by-case basis. Shame on those home-schoolers who judge parents who send their kids to public school, and (just as important) shame on any parent who chooses the public school route then becomes judgmental of home-school parents.

    This is something each parent should pray about and let the Lord guide them. The question isn’t: what’s best for all kids? The question is: God, what do You want us to do, in our family?

    • Tracy says:

      I agree with this… I am homeschooling my children and don’t believe it is the ONLY way. I get angry with other HS parents who treat others with disrespect for choosing public school…

  • JamesW says:

    Disclaimer: We have our kids in a Christian school which works on the University model. They’re in class two days a week, then they have lots of homework to do the other three days, administered by parents (usually moms). When they get to 7th grade, they are in class 3 days instead of 2.

    I say this to explain where we have arrived as a family after years of praying and researching. We strongly considered public schools, and after several days of praying, sensed strongly that the school we have them in is where we need to be. It works for us, so far (twins are in the 2nd grade this year).

    Disclaimer2: I am a former public school teacher, and I know that public schools are full of Christian students and teachers, as well as unbelievers who are a positive influence, and am thankful for all of them.

  • Troy says:

    Isn’t it weird that this is something we fight about?

    Why does anyone care where my kids go to school?

  • JamesW says:

    When I look back at the question which was asked to the author, it was pretty understandable. They had home-schooled last year, and were asked if they were home-schooling this year.

    But I wasn’t there, so I didn’t hear the tone. I have definitely been around enough Christians to know that some home-schoolers are very judgmental about this sort of thing. As are people who take the opposite point of view.

  • JLoo says:

    Excellent piece, Todd. I have been waiting to read this ever since you told me about it.

  • Arielle Swanson says:

    I don’t have children yet – but I’ve thought a lot about how I want to educate them growing up. I lean more towards homeschooling, because I want them to be brought up in me and my husbands love and nurturing, and not just shipped off to school all day to be influenced by peer pressure and stressed, uncaring teachers. Also, I just don’t like our public school system of grading and testing. Your article, though, makes public school sound like a possible and very positive option, where I as a parent can and would be very involved, and my kids would still be supported and grounded in our family. And even as far as the pressure of grades, my husband and I would be able to cultivate an overall family environment that puts love over achieving grades. When I have kids, I intend on making a decision with prayer, taking into consideration the individual needs of each child. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Also, your daughters are amazing!! Definately a challenge to me, personally, to be more bold with Jesus’ love.

  • Liz says:

    Todd- Love it! As usual, you make a difficult topic approachable with your thoughtfulness and wit. No wonder your family is my favorite salty family ;)

  • Thank you, Todd.
    I am a Christian High School teacher working in an Urban school. In fact, just 2 days ago Jordan posted a blog about something that was happening at my school that day. The incident, like so many other events, could have happened anywhere(Christian school, the mall, a post office) but it happened in a public school. You can imagine what the community is saying about us this week. We’ll see what happens next week.

    I appreciate your article because I do feel that this is my mission field. I used to be a missionary in North Philadelphia and my work is not that much different now. I love where I work and wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it causes a lot of stress.

    My request is this: that you and your wife NEVER STOP your involvement in education. As a high school teacher I’ve never seen a parent volunteer. They do not come to my room and help me for a day. There is no appreciation given for high school teachers. It seems that local businesses, churches, and families find it easier to support young kids and the support ends there. Please know that High School teachers need support too!!

    Thanks again,
    Diane Nienhuis

  • berta says:

    Thank you for putting your thoughts in writing. There is so much literature defending homeschooling but I haven’t found as much in print defending the public school choice. Our children were educated in the public schools but I did feel as though I did plenty of Homeschooling as well. It took great effort to track what they were learning in the classroom as well as in the hallways. Honesty was one of our most valued character traits, because they needed to have the freedom to report what they had heard and how they responded. I needed to respond to their honest reporting with a quiet spirit, not alarm. We then thought, talked, and prayed through solutions, sorting out truth and error, love and judgement. Thank you so much, Todd. I’d love to hear more on this topic as your girls get older.

  • Bryan says:

    I honestly don’t think this is a cut and dried issue. A lot depends on the school system you’re in, the principal of your particular school, the temperament of your children, whether you’re being missional in other ways than what might be available at the public school (i.e. not in a “bunker” mentality) and so on.

    We happen to live in an area with a very good elementary school. The junior high and high school we’re zoned for are pretty crappy. So in 5 years or so, we’ll have a decision to make. Magnet schools are a possible option but there’s no guarantee we’ll get there. The behavioral issues and less than stellar academics in the regular schools at that level make them a non-starter. So we will either go magnet, private, home school or move to a better district by then. I’m all for my kids being salt and light, but I’m also for my kids getting a good education and being safe. Hopefully that’s not a lack of faith, but I tend to be more protective of them than I perhaps would be of myself.

  • Beth says:

    I am so glad that you wrote this post- I’ve long felt this way about the importance of enrolling my children in public school. Before I had my daughter, I was surrounded by many homeschoolers, and it was refreshing to me to hear an older Christian man (one of my best friends’ dads) speak about why he had chosen to enroll his children in public schools- many of his reasons sound similar to yours. Because I was fortunate enough to grow up with his daughter, and learn from his example, and be salt and light (I hope!) in my own school, I would very much like to do the same for my daughter. Anyway, thanks for the post :)

    P.S. Which suburb? I was just reading an article in Seattle magazine about the schools in… Burien? Kent?… that have a huge refugee population, and it almost made me want to move there from my current quirky Seattle neighborhood…

  • Kaitlin says:

    Thank you! I was homeschooled from 2nd grade on. My parents had their own reasons for making the choice, but none of these reasons were religious. So many of my peers espoused strong religious sentiments that turned every imagineable question into a moral issue. I’m very thankful to be in graduate school now, but am often reminded just how easy it is to let human nature kick in and bring arguments that waste both our time and emotional energy. God help us!

  • jamie says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It warms my public-school-educated, public-school-teaching heart. I am always SO thankful for the students in my classes who, along with their parents see our school as I see it: a mission field.

  • derek says:

    As Daddy to my 3 year old and a public middle school teacher, thank you. May this article reach many eyes/ears and open many hearts.

  • Avrie says:

    Todd- I totally agree. When I send my kids to public school everyday I pray that God will use them and I know He does. I love to hear their stories of sharing Jesus with friends and teachers- thank you Lord!

  • Thanks to all of you who have commented with encouragement, questions, and critical analysis. I was nervous to write this piece because it is a complicated issue and I am not one to espouse cookie-cutter formulas for missional engagement or Christian parenting. Obviously all kids, parents, and school situations are quite different and require mindfulness and prayerful consideration. For those of you who said things to the effect of, “we shouldn’t judge each other”, I couldn’t agree more and that’s part of the reason I wrote this article in the first place. Our subtle and not-so-subtle positions on topics of importance may lead to intended, or often unintended, judgment which is never the way of Christ (in my opinion). But I also believe, whole-heartedly, that when we consider education options for our families, we should consider things beyond just the quality of education/scholastic knowledge our children will receive; beyond the question of whether or not they will be completely safe (as if we humans have the power to guarantee that anywhere in our world); beyond the mixed value systems and worldviews inherent in a pluralist society; and even beyond our own healthy desires to be engaged with our kids as much as possible. I think we need to think about our neighbor and our neighbors’ kids, too. Are we hurting the community by monopolizing our kids? Are we missing opportunities to guide our kids through real life issues because we’re so afraid of the “influence of the world”? Are we hindering our kids from a more fluid lifestyle later on by creating a false homogeny now (i.e. yet another Christian ghetto.) I am not opposed to Church as “refuge” but I definitely believe we have been sent out to do something about the mess our sin creates.

    These issues should be a part of the equation is all that I’m saying. But most of us, in America, aren’t used to thinking that way. We make individual decisions based on the idividualistic needs of our family. We, sadly, think of others as an after-thought. I have been very guilty of this, but thankfully God extends grace to me (us) as an in-process project.

    Can home or Christian private school families impact their neighborhood / community in incredible ways? Of course they can, and they should. We all have a part to play. Public school can be a good option, too, and should be considered. Intentionality / engagement is key. So, let’s get out there and light some fuses…

  • James – Good comments. I think we should discern what God is asking us as parents / Kingdom builders. In terms of the tone of the education question, I definitely sensed a militant strain in a lot of the inferences. It took on the “good Christians do this” kind of rhetoric. I think we need to step back from that and stop polarizing ourselves that way.

    Arielle – I’ll be curious to see how this issue unfolds for you as you have kids and begin parenting. It’s funny that you mentioned uncaring / stressed out public school teachers. I was a stressed out, often apathetic, home-schooling teacher/parent. I did my best at it and Sarah really loved it, but I definitely wasn’t adequate to the task. Our experience (in school) makes a big difference in how we view this issue. I’m happy now to be an “educator” and social activist within the context of the public school system. Heck, my wife is the co-president of the PTA already so I’m like the first-man or something.

    Bryan – Good points. Definitely not cut and dried and I hope my article doesn’t reduce the issue to that sort of false simplicity. I’ve wrestled with the same questions and probably will more as my kids enter middle school and high school. When people say “good education” I often wonder what they mean. Reminds me of Dallas Willard’s discussion in The Divine Conspiracy on how our soceity has created highly educated people who aren’t ethically “good” people. I mentioned the “safety” issue above, but I definitely understand that concern.

    Beth – We actually live on the north end of Seattle burbs in the Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds area. You definitely wouldn’t expect it to be as diverse as it is.

    Diane – May God continue to bless you and your mission field. I take your advice to heart and hopefully can find ways to continue to be engaged throughout our children’s development. High school has to create new challenges as kids want more distance from their parents.

    To all the teachers and parents who commented – Keep up the good work. It will all be worth it.

  • RevBex says:

    Todd, my new favorite question might be “Are we hurting the community by monopolizing our kids?” I have a salt and light first grader – there are other kids she interacts with that need Jesus and she might be the best “in” He’s got. I desperately want her safe but not at the cost of the Gospel. I have every confidence in God’s plan for her life, and His ability to strengthen me as a parent in order to equip my kids to do the good works prepared in advance for them by Christ Jesus. Some other kids and families have other paths – thank God for His incredible plan to save all people! – but public school right now happens to be ours.

  • James says:

    Todd, thanks for not just reading comments, but actually listening as you read them. Great piece. Even though we plan to continue our school situation, you have prompted me to make sure I give my family lots of opportunities to be salt and light.

    Regarding the question by fellow churchgoers which initiated this whole thing, I want to relate this story: I love my church, but it’s imperfect. When my wife mentioned a few weeks after our twins were born that she would return to work soon (part time), one female friend/mom said “oh’” I can’t describe the tone of that one word, but let’s say she was surprised to hear that my wife was going to work at all outside the home. As it is, she works about 10 hours a week now, which is plenty, considering. But my point is that the lady who said “oh” is someone we knew and still know today, and is a wonderful person.

    It just goes to show that even the best of us have our judgmental moments. I really don’t know a lot of people who don’t have judgmental tendencies in some way.

    And yes, I see the irony in the previous sentence, where I am apparently being judgmental about judgmental people. I’m sticking by my statement. ;)

  • James – I wonder how many times in my life I’ve been the one saying *oh* or worse things to my brother and sisters in Christ (or others). Probably more than I think or would care to admit. Last night I was looking at some old letters from friends responding to letters I had penned to them–with all my best intentions. In retrospect, I couldn’t help but think, “man, I was being a real judgmental jerk.” But it was masked in Christian concern. As in many situations, hindsight is 20/20, our motives are always a bit of a mixed bag, and the “in-process” model holds true. We work out our faith, hopefully in “fear and trembling…”

    What’s funny about all of this is that I went to Christian private school from K-5, Catholic school in 6th grade, public school from 7-12, a local community college for my A.A. and a Christian liberal arts college for my B.A. I’ve done it all except for home-school and military academy. In each of those phases I was in a different place of life and spiritual development–often in counter-intuitive ways. The environment had less to do with my spiritual state than one would think.

    Anyway, thanks for helping me think through this stuff even more. I appreciated your thoughts on it.

  • Rebecca says:

    I have been told that Mrs. McCullough is my sister. There are many teachers who see their job as a mission of faith (that is why I work in the inner-city school); however, being government employees, we have to be careful of what we say about our belief. I ask the parents and the churches to let your children know that they have the right to speak up and not to be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Jerry says:

    It appears you have had your children in public school for a very, very brief period of time. Maybe it would be wise to refrain from stating such strong opinions about public schools being “The Bomb until you have truly experienced the entire system! It would be hard for anyone to truly tell whether public schools are “The Bomb” with such short exposure to such a small spectrum. It would be similar to being a first time car buyer and then telling everyone what car would be best for them. There are so many options and considerations. I also get the feeling that your experience with home schooling was not that great. However, there are a lot of talented parents who home school with great success and are blessed because of it. In my experience some things that in the short term appear to be the “Bomb” are really just duds. A wise man thinks long and speaks slow!

  • Beth says:

    That is surprising! I was expecting south end, actually (the article was about Tukwila, in fact, here). That’s really good to know, and makes me happier about potentially moving northward (which is where my husband would prefer to go). Thanks again :)

  • Jerry – I said in the article I “definitively” was not against home-schooling. Your comments seems a bit defensive.

    I also attended public school from 7th grade on so I have “driven the car for a while” but you’re right, my kids are young and only time will tell how the experience will be for them. As with many things in life, I believe the experience will be for them what we, as a family, make it, and if parents are engaged it can be a rich, spirit-lead experience. To think otherwise is to give in to a cynicism that the world espouses more than I belive Christ does.

    Just to clarify another point for you, some people I greatly love and respect are great home-schooling parents. If that’s what God has for their family, or yours, I’m not saying they should stop doing that. I don’t think my article is suggesting that at all. The article is refuting a very American, evangelical bias that says Christians should not send their children to public schools…because it’s unspiritual / uncaring.

    My experience home-schooling my daughter was rewarding and I think she enjoyed it and learned a lot. That doesn’t mean it was easy or that I was the best qualified person for the job.

    Also, the use of the term “the bomb”, which you seem to have such an issue with, was in reference to the volatile nature of this topic mostly. Education / child-rearing topics get heated quickly; your tone just proves my point. I think Christians should be able to discuss this without getting so upset about it.

    I could wait and write an article like this after my kids have graduated from college, once I’ve attained that long-term wisdom you’re referencing, but I think people that choose the public school option (or those Christians teaching in public schools) should be encouraged right now. Why not? Why is thinking and being missional in the public school setting *not* the bomb?

  • Beth – Yeah, I would imagine the south end has a lot of diversity and opportunity. The north end is weird because there are these random demographic pockets. It all depends on the neighborhood.

    • Jerry says:

      Oh Todd! How long ago did you attend public school? Have you not been keeping up with the most recent trends in public education. You can no longer pray in school. Under God is not allowed in the pladge of allegiance. Non-traditional family settings are encouraged as the norm. Are you sure you want to place your children on the front lines of these issues and so many others. Putting your child in this enviroment believing that these influences will be negligible do to home influences is being blindly optimistic at best. Just as evangelical Christians try to positively influence non-believing youth so does the secular education system try to instill there secular views in such subtle ways. All I am saying is drive this new car for awhile and make sure it is not a lemon before you recommend it. Dealers have three year/thirty thousand mile warranties for a reson. They know when the car is going to start having trouble (Middle School/High School)!

  • Todd says:

    Jerry –
    I graduated in 1992. There was no public school “prayers” or memorizing the Ten Commandments way back then. Did you read the article? I talked about some of the very legitimate concerns I have with public school (Columbine, drugs, Darwin, etc.)

    Back in the day, I knew a lot of public school kids who were influential ministers within that environment. I also knew a lot of home-schoolers and Christian school kids who were hell-raisers and still are far from following God. And vice versa! I’ve also worked with youth very recently and this still seems to be the case. Generalities don’t paint a full picture.

    If using a formula that says: public school = evil, helps you make decisions, then by all means go ahead. But I don’t think you should make other Christians feel bad if they don’t agree with your formula.

    I’ll keep driving this car and let you know how it runs in 5-10 years. Can I email you then and let you know how it works out?

    We can invest the talents he’s given or we can bury them in the sand. Investment takes risk and that’s scary, but I’m not willing to abandon the world just because it seems daunting. How could I teach my kids that kind of fear / impotence?

    I’m also curious, in closing, whether you believe in global missions at all? Should families take their children overseas in those harmful environments?

    • Jerry says:

      First, your kids are not your talents but your responsibiltiy. Second, your kids are not commodities to be traded on the public school market but a gift from God. Third, I am not willing to take risk with my children but would rather them take there own risk when they are old enough to make educated decisions. Fourth, I never said public school=evil, you did, I just think there are way better options. Fifth, when you said in your original article: “There was a subtle paradigm shift that occurred with many evangelical Christians. Home-schooling was suddenly the spiritual option; public schooling was considered, at best, unspiritual/uncaring, and, at worse, a form of Christian child abuse”. Was that not a gross generality of evengelical christians? Like you said: “Generalities do not paint the full picture”! It is obvious you are going to keep driving the same car. Just please, for you and your kids sake, at least where your seat belts. Or is wearing your seat belt not trusting God?

  • Todd says:

    I think our conversation has reached an impasse where neither of us is really learning anything from the other. We should probably just agree to disagree, eh?

    And yes, I’m wearing my seatbelt, trusting God.

    • Jerry says:

      I agree! I pray that God blesses your family throughout your childrens educational years whether that be public school, private school, or home school. God bless!

  • Sian says:

    Hi Todd,
    I’m a public high school English teacher in Canada, where teachers are valued and make good wages. (e.g new teachers start at 40k and currently top of the scale is 80k in my province). I think you get what you pay for. It’s a profession. I have many friends and family members who homeschool. I have been delighted with the maturity of some homeschool children who’ve come into my classroom, and appalled at the lack of knowledge of others. Some people do not have the education to teach, but one on one time is a valuable thing and there are worse things than narrow life skills, I suppose. I could never have taught my own kids. I have great success with disadvantaged and struggling senior high students. I am patience incarnate with them and make them love reading, and love learning in my class, but I suspect I’d have been a ranting harpy with my own. Recognising what is best for the individual child and parent demonstrates that the world is not black and white. I have rarely been cussed at, never been assaulted, and only twice had to break up a fight in 17 years. Kids are as good as you believe them to be. Look for hellians and you’ll create them. Look for God’s children, and there they’ll be. I love my public school job. I taught in a Christian school and it was so horrendous and abusive I vowed never to teach in one (or have my kids in one!) again. Oh, an addendum: We can discuss God in our public classrooms, and on test days, I’m pretty sure there are lots of prayers going up. I think God tends to favour those who studied, though.

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  1. Hope Ink Magazine | - 29 Sep 2009