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Christians and Public Education

August 9, 2010
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I am frequently asked for my thoughts on “public education.” Granted this is a dicey issue that can get you into a lot of trouble very quickly. However, the question is legitimate, given education’s enormous role in shaping our children; thus, as Christians, we have no choice but to wrestle with the answers, even if we don’t like them.

Martin Luther wrote almost 500 years ago, “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of Hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.” Clearly the Scriptures do not reign paramount in today’s public educational system and, true to Luther’s prediction, the institution has indeed suffered corruption from its earlier intentions. 

Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Theological Seminary and host of the nationally syndicated radio program The Al Mohler Program, revealed the secularizing influence on contemporary public education in an article, “Needed: An Exit Strategy.” I would only expand on his foundation to reinforce the veracity of his claims.

F. W. Parker, the so-called father of progressive education and inspiration for John Dewey (an educational reformer), told the 1895 convention of the National Education Association (NEA) that “the child is not in school for knowledge. He is there to live, and put his life, nurtured in the school, into the community.” According to Parker, the family home and religious faith must give way to a “grander vision” for society that is cast by the state. Recent initiatives promoting acceptance of homosexual conduct, historical revisionism, multiculturalism, and the like reveal the antireligious and anti-Western nature of this “vision.”

Allan Carlson, Ph.D., professor of history at Hillsdale College and director of the Family in America Studies Center writes, “From the very beginning, public school advocates aimed at undermining and displacing the family as the center of children’s lives. The most important claim for public education was [and continues to be] that only a compulsory system of this sort could unify a scattered and diverse people: the parochial ideas of families obviously stood in the way.”

This is the fundamental and often overlooked problem with the modern public education system; it is its goal of supplanting the family as the principal influence and primary means for preparing the nation’s children to be “good citizens.” Where do we get this idea that upon age six (at the latest) we should send our children away for six to seven hours a day to be trained by others? The fact is, prior to government-funded schools Americans, generally speaking, were better educated. My concern with public education centers principally on its role in elevating the state’s authority above that of the family.

Norman Ryder of Princeton University, writing more than twenty-five years ago in The Population Bulletin of the United Nations, “Education of the junior generation is a subversive influence. Boys who go to schools distinguish between what they learn there and what their father can teach them. The family structure is undermined when the young are trained outside the family.” Ryder adds, “there is a struggle between the families and the State for the minds of the young.” In this struggle, the state serves as “the chief instrument for teaching [a new] citizenship, in a direct appeal to the children over the heads of their parents. The school also serves as the medium for communicating ‘state morality’” (Norman Ryder, Fertility and Family Structure, “Population Bulletin of the United Nations 15,” 1983, p. 29).

Lesslie Newbigin, the famed theologian and missiologist, stated it this way, “The transmission of traditional wisdom in families from the old to the young is replaced by systems of education organized by the State and designed to shape young minds toward the future that is being planned.” Of course this planned future is grounded in secular humanistic hopes for humanity that, it is believed, can be achieved through education. In this secular scheme, sin is nowhere a factor in what ails humanity, our social ills are the product of ignorance, and human beings have a natural propensity for doing good that is only inhibited by external influences. The institutional emphasis of state-directed education aggressively excludes any recognition of the biblical concepts of sin, the fall, and mankind made in the image of God.

The modern idea that education is the ultimate responsibility of the state originates directly from atheistic, enlightenment thinking, which perceives the state as savior. Throughout Scripture it is parents who are charged with the responsibility to raise and train their children and the nature and scope of that training is made quite explicit for those who profess faith in Christ. Unfortunately, too many Christians consider education collateral to their faith, merely preparation for a job. In thinking this way Christians are making the same false distinction between the world of “facts” and the world of “values” that the Enlightenment thinkers made. The Bible makes no such distinction. The world of facts—the material world including all of God’s creation and the social structures of man (facts), can only be fully understood in the light of God’s revelation (values).

It is the neglect of this truth by many professing Christians that has subsequently allowed the public school system—as an institution—to achieve its secular drift. Couple this form of education with the diminished emphasis upon theology, doctrine, and discipleship by many churches and it is no wonder that Christianity has become a marginalized way of thinking in American culture.

So, do we fold up our tents and run or do we stay and work to affect change from within? I say it may be a little of both. One possible solution is the idea of returning to a decentralized education system. It is the concentration of bureaucratic power that has rendered public schools incapable of localized reform and enabled the influence of special interest groups and union organizations such as the NEA.

In 1932, there were 127,531 independent school districts in the U.S., many of them operating a single school. By 1990 there were only 17,995 school districts left. This consolidation of control into bureaucratic structures only further undermined parental influence and input. Dr. Carlson suggests “a radical deconsolidation of the public system, down to even the single-school level.” He goes on to say that this “would weaken bureaucratic and union strangleholds on the schools and so return them to real community control, where parental and neighborhood moral judgments could again play a role.” This structure would certainly afford active Christians a much greater opportunity for positive influence over the institutions they allow to educate their children. Presently, only private institutions and homeschooling offer any measure of real parental influence.

Finally, there are those who argue in defense of their children attending public schools that “our children will serve as ‘salt and light.’” However, this argument really doesn’t come close to addressing the institutional and philosophical problems now ingrained in public education. Frankly, I would add, this approach must be carefully weighed against the psalmist’s charge to walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (see Ps. 1:1).

© 2010 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : John Howell  

August 9, 2010 9:30 AM

So.. you disagree with Jesus words that were should not be overcome with evil but that we should overcome evil with good. If all Christian child should leave the public school it seems a simular arguement can be made that all Christian teachers should abandon public education as a lost cause or a cause of the enemy.
The primary resposibility for education and moral development is the family. If that is deligated to the public school without parental involvement there are dire consequences.
I have also seen home schools and Christian schools which were like being raised in a "greenhouse" and did not prepare children to live in the real world. From grade school my children learned apologetics and how to defend their Christian faith. We went to seminars on the Bible and science. We bought books about evolution and creation. When in the course of their education they attended public universities they were prepared. Sadly many raised in the "hothouse" are not.
What models of education do you see in the scriptures? Deut. 4 certainly supports home school. Elijah had the school of the prophets. That supports the church based education. However it seems to have been God's will that Moses was given a secular education in the household of pharoah. Daniel and the three Hebrew children attended the leading public educational system of their day. In spite of the testing in these settings their devotion and impact for God is without question.
I believe that each parent must consider what is best and what is available for them and their child. Sometimes there are finacial constrains. sometimes there are physical and emotional limits as to what a parent is able to do. Parents should prayfully consider home school, church school, private school and public school. We see examples of all four in the Bible. Whatever school they choose their involvement in the lives of their children is essential.

Response from : Adam  

August 9, 2010 12:46 PM

@John, I think the issue here is not how much Godly influence our Christian kids might be able to exert in a public state school. After all, if we as Christian adults have not exactly been able to ignite a revival in our place of work, we can hardly expect our little child to accomplish it in his school. No, the issue is, how do we provide a viable education for our children without Satan's Hothouse (ie the public schools) recruiting them before Jesus can?
Forget about assuming your kid is going to be salt and light and overcome evil with good in his public school. The poor kid is not. He has enough pressure on his plate already just trying to make and keep good friends and get good grades. Let's just concentrate on trying to get him to age 18 unspotted by the world. That'd be enough of a challenge right there, and a good start. Just quietly but firmly raise a new generation of Christian young adults and voters first, and THEN we can start reclaiming the nation.
Your ten year-old is NOT going to be able start the revolution this week (this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting) but when he's twenty, (in another ten years) he WILL.

Response from : Karyn Brownlee  

August 9, 2010 3:31 PM

As a former public school principal and devout believer, I couldn't wait to read your intelligent response to this important issue. And it was exactly that - intelligent, as always. You hit the nail on the head.

The struggle remains, however, that we are not to be "of the world" yet we are to walk "in the world". I love your reference to Ps 1:1. As public schools continue to become even more liberal, the level of concern for allowing our children to sit in these seats rises. While we cannot as believers pull away completely from interacting with the nonbelieving world, there is a difference in being available to minister to the world and being a prisoner to it. As we all know, being a minister in the public school is increasingly difficult, and so is having control over what our children experience while there.

I will testify, and not at all to boast except in the Lord, that He did use my daughter to lead at least one of her public school friends to Him. And this is just the one to whom we can attest has made a decision and a public profession. However, things have changed even in recent years. If I had a young one now, I have told many that I would likely not send her to public school. This is not to disrespect my former colleagues in any way. Our district in particular offers an outstanding education from a rigor and achievement standpoint. But the worldviews that are being communicated through the various teachers, textbooks, and curriculum concern me much more today than ever before.

I recently heard the research reported by Barna, that of self-proclaimed born-again adult believers, only one in ten holds a biblical worldview. The others have a worldview that may contain elements of biblical faith, but is clouded by worldly humanistic philosophies. More often than not, people do not even realize their view is skewed. But here's what is even more startling. Of self-proclaimed, born-again youth, only one in two hundred holds a biblical worldview. Why do you think this is? There are many factors to be sure, but public education is certainly one of them.

In closing, I'd just like to appreciate and encourage those who work in the public school systems who believe God continues to call them to that mission field. You do make a difference. But be on guard; even spiritually mature adults must be careful sitting in the seats of public education as teachers and leaders. However, they are surely less susceptible to the schemes of the devil than the developing minds of young children.

Response from : Nick DeNardo  

August 9, 2010 8:53 PM


I want to comment on your public school article. I agree with all that you have written but you made a faulty assumption. The implied assumptions in your argument are that the parents are fully involved in home schooling and wholly absent in public schooling. From my personal observations neither is true. I have seen both of those assumptions violated on a routine basis. Parenting is hard to begin with and sound Christian parenting is even harder.

My wife and I send our daughter to public school. We stay engaged with what she is learning in school and church. The key to successful Christian parenting is this engagement. The world is the world regardless of the setting of the school. Let me illustrate:

The home schooling group that meets in our church is riddled with worldly children. They actually put up signs that say 'No PDA' (public display of affection). Also, we have had severe cases of vandalism which required remodeling and no one came forward to admit they were responsible. These are the 'good' Christian home schooled kids. The issue is the integration of the world with the church.

The solution to the root cause is effective Christian parenting, not changing the setting of the education.

Thanks for listening,

Response from : Pierre  

August 10, 2010 9:24 AM

Hello Michael,

I have read many of your articles and often I agree and appreciate your perspective. This time I have to say that I disagree overall (not with everything).

For one, I was raised in a very sheltered Christian home and attended Christian school. Anyone who put their children in public school was considered to be unsaved, stupid, or backslidden. I also attended a Christian college, no way were my parents going to allow me to get influenced by secular education. Actually my dad was the Principal of our Christian school.

I have two main issues with your article. First, I believe that your usei of quotations from leading educators down through the decades is highly misleading. Trust me, I have read all the books about the horrors of public education, but what I continually notice is that their argumentation is very similar to yours. They use a quote from a well-known and influential educator like Dewey concerning the role of the school and then apply that across the board. Or they will use an extreme case from a very liberal school system and act as if that is completely commonplace. My wife and I have been discussing this for some time now, since our first child enters Kindergarden in a few weeks. We met with the teacher and talked with the principal of our local public school. Guess what? They aren't statist/communist/socialist zombies. Sure they read those books and heard those quotes too. But their primary concern was that we as parents were involved and active. They were actually ecstatic that we were willing to volunteer time and be involved in the classroom at different times throughout the year. So, while I agree that those quotes are scary, we have to step back and realize that not every public school, principal, or teacher is espousing those philosophies.

My second issue is revealed clearly by the second comment on this page by Adam. He said, "Let's just concentrate on trying to get him to age 18 unspotted by the world." I believe this is a statement and a philosophy that has been taught and propagated in our churches that is rooted in faulty theology. The issue is here relates to the nature of sin. We have begun to view sin as an outside source or influence that we can protect our children from. This is completely unbiblical (and is the same trap the Pharisees fell into). Sin is something that the Bible tells us is inside of us. It is a part of our very nature. We all know the verses in Jeremiah that teach that our heart is so wicked we cannot even know it. The Bible is very clear that sin is not something that we can shelter ourselves from because it is a part of our very nature. I mentioned that I attended a Christian school. We were considered to be one of the most strict and conservative schools in the area. Yet every year students were kicked out for sexual activity, drugs, and all sorts of other sins. But even that statement reveals a false nature of sin. As if sexual sins and drugs are worse than producing self-righteous, lying, arrogant, Christian kids who thumb their noses at those "other" kids who attended public school (and if you think I am exaggerating the problem then you don't really know Christian school or homeschool kids).

To wrap this up, I believe that we as Christians have become so afraid of the secular world that we have to creat our own Christian sub-culture. It is almost as if the secular world could never teach us any of God's truths. I just don't understand how an atheist teaching my child that 2+2=4 is any different than a Christian teaching the same thing. I have heard all the arguments about a Christian worldview being important, but isn't that my responsibility as their parent to teach them that at home? That isn't the schools responsibility. With all respect to Martin Luther (whom I love to read) he was wrong in his statement. We have to stop trying to make the school system something that it isn't. It isn't there to teach my children about God or a Christian worldview. It is there to educate my children about math, grammar, reading, writing, science, etc. It is my responsibility to teach them the about Christ, the Bible, and their spiritual walk with God.

Response from : S. Michael Craven  

August 10, 2010 11:15 AM

Dear Pierre,

I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinions. However, let me respond to your argument. First, I never suggested that anyone placing their children in public schools were, "unsaved, stupid, or backslidden." You seem to suggest that because local teachers, administrators and the like are nice folks and because they are unaware or indifferent to the prevailing educational theories, they are immune to their influence and thus there is no danger. You must understand the nature of culture, what it is and how it is formed. The fact is, public education as it exists today is not influenced locally in any tangible form and parental rights are continually subjugated to the authority of the state. This is why there is the growing clash between the private actions of Christian parents/students and the governing authority of the school system. Increasingly parents are losing these battles as the courts affirm state authority over and against the rights of the parent. Furthermore, you could have every teacher/administrator in the school be Christian but they do not establish curriculum or philosophy, that occurs at the institutional level, which is precisely how culture is effected. Culture is formed from the top down not the bottom up. It really doesn't matter what the majority believes or thinks; what matters is what the cultural "gatekeepers" believe and think and in the matter of public education, the cultural gatekeepers who have formed the institutional ideology are consciously secular and anti-Christian. The ideological trail confirming this is long and undeniable. The "institution" is profoundly and decisively pagan with clearly defined goals that are at odds with the Christian worldview.

Now, that doesn't mean we don't work to change the institution; we should. The question is how. Given the fact that we are talking about institutional change from the top down that would clearly exclude our children as instruments of any proposed change; they can't change anything relative to the institutional policies and philosophy of public education so what benefit derives from placing them in such a system? I would argue none and doing so is likely to do them harm. This is akin to using our children as "bait." The fisherman may be in control of the rod, may even reel in the fish but the bait gets devoured! One would be hard-pressed to offer theological support for voluntarily turning their children over to a system to be educated in the truths of reality that actively contradict the revelation of God on virtually every matter.

To your second point, you are right, there are many Christians who are inclined to withdraw from the world in fear. That is not what I am advocating in the slightest. I am merely pointing out the naivety of the notion that sending Christian kids into a pagan school system will somehow change it. This is simply preposterous and lacks any thoughtful understanding of culture and the Christian's mandate to exercise dominion.

Additionally, you argue that the school system "isn't there to teach my children about God or a Christian worldview. It is there to educate my children about math, grammar, reading, writing, science, etc." There is no question that the public school system isn't there to teach your children about God. In fact, you can rest assured they won't even broach the subject and if you or your child ever attempts too, you will be reminded that such ideas have no place there. The lesson for your child? Christianity is a private belief and not a public truth! Also, you assume that the school system is worldview neutral or philosophically benign. Dear brother, you are either exceedingly naive or grossly uninformed. There is no such thing as ideological neutrality and every worldview either advances or opposes the biblical revelation. If the philosophy of contemporary education doesn't advance the kingdom of God then it, by necessity, opposes it; nothing is ever neutral.

Finally, your condemnation of a consciously Christian education seems to be rooted in your exclusive experience, which you perceive as "sheltering." I can only assume that you were raised in a very legalistic (and judgmental) environment based on your own comments, namely the "unsaved, stupid, or backslidden" statement. I do not advocate a consciously Christian education as a form of separatism but rather proper preparation for world engagement, being trained in the philosophies of the day but from a consciously Christian perspective in the same way that Paul was well versed in the pagan ideas of his day through his rabbinical training. There is a time when children are ready to engage the world with gospel of Jesus Christ but it isn't while their most basic conceptions of reality are still being formed.


Response from : Cheryl Wilson  

August 10, 2010 4:40 PM

You now assume that most children enter the education system at age 6 however most children are much younger. Because of today’s two parent working households and single parents many children are in childcare centers or in other early childhood education programs that may or may not have a Christian influence. So you need to look at what type of environment is your even younger child in and are you as a parent involved in it.

Response from : Renee Jordan  

August 10, 2010 8:56 PM

You have absolutely lost your mind. For you to make the statements about public schools (way too many to mention) that you have is absolutely ignorant. You are obviously NOT a Christian teacher because you would not feel this way if you were. Public Schools are no more the enemy than grocery stores or movie theaters or parks or any other community dwelling. It is not inherently sin nor does the Bible even HINT at that. Your scripture to justify that idea is totally taken out of context and even if it wasn't it doesn't fit what you are trying to say at all! I've taught in both public and private Christian schools over the past 14 years and I can assure you that in both cases we, as teachers, BEGGED for the parents involvement in their child's education. Maybe your article should be about all the dead-beat parents (Christians included) who don't teach their children necessary life skills growing up that directly affect the way we are able to do our job effectively. And I bet you can guess which parents are the most difficult to work with....the Christians of course! Am I one? You betcha. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the age of 7 (WHILE attending public school) and have been a faithful follower of Jesus my entire life. Perhaps you need to direct more of your articles to CHRISTIANS and how we CAN be salt and light AND still be in this world but not OF this world. (THAT'S scripture!) You could even mention the fact that Christian education has become so expensive (and the teachers are paid so little) that maybe THEY could begin to reform THEIR way of doing "business". AND SINCE WHEN IS MULTICULTURISM A SIN???????????????? PLEASE SHOW ME THAT IN THE BIBLE. Oh I just pray that all non-Christians somehow miss this article of yours. Oh the damage that would be done. Why not write about what Christians are FOR, instead of what they are AGAINST. Why would anyone want to be one with all the hypocracy???!!!

Response from : Becca  

August 10, 2010 10:27 PM

Thank you for summarizing so well why my boys attend a private christian school and why we as parents have to be ever diligent in what our children are exposed to. My parents also had me attend private christian schools from K-12, my husband attended public schools. He saw how my education influenced me and wanted the same for our children.

Response from : Allyson Martz  

August 11, 2010 7:49 AM

Enjoyed and whole-heartedly agreed with your article. My husband and I both work in public education and send our kids to Christian school. Glad to find the wisdom so clearly articulated and supported in your writing. Thanks.

Response from : Concerned Private School Parent  

August 11, 2010 9:25 AM

Having a child at a private Christian school, I can tell you I see the same problems there that I see in public schools. The difference is that it is on a much smaller scale. A growing concern is that private Christian schools are increasingly expensive thus squeezing out wonderful Christian families that can no longer afford it. On the flip side to this, some families that claim to be Christian but actions prove otherwise are allowed to stay due to affluence. I would ask you to be in prayer for ALL private Christian schools as well as public schools.

Response from : Hope  

August 11, 2010 9:40 AM

We are followers of Jesus Christ and we send our kids to public school. This is our choice. While there are many reasons why the main motivation is to train our children to be in the world and not of the world. Discernment is our goal. While reading your article (and by the way not totally disagreeing with many of your points) I couldn't help but wonder how much more fruitful a ministry could be if it would purpose to help train, protect, educate parents (and therefore their children) on how to navigate the muddy waters at school. At some point in a person's life they are going to be asked to 'work' in the world. Wouldn't we benefit from encouragement and education that supported our christian views while we and our children are in the world? Why not help to train our children now while they are in the house and will listen and learn from us parents? As parents of public school children we work along side the school. We do not leave all educating to the school. There is much teaching done in our home on a daily basis. And part of that learning is how to discern the truth from lies.

Response from : Cyndi Haden  

August 11, 2010 9:57 AM

I agree with this article completely, yet as a single parent in a small town with limited private school options; my only choice is to combat all I can on the front side. To get this word out is SO important, but also to press the need for resources for people who don't have enough income, is ALSO important.

Response from : T. Freeman  

August 11, 2010 10:52 AM

It is unfortunate that this article was published and these Un-Christian views are put forth. Jesus surrounded himself with others who believed differently that he constantly. The fact that we can worship our Lord is a product of the religious freedom we have as a country. Others are also free to practice their beliefs. Just as I don't want my kids to have Islam taught to them in school, nor should mine be taught. I've read many other devotionals talking about the family as the dominant role in the development of our youth. My children are encouraged to tell us what their teachers are saying and we talk about it. I explain that we feel differently about certain issues and that the teacher is only a flawed human being as we all are. While I read many, many "Christian" articles, touting the school's indoctrination of other lifestyles (especially this unbelievable fear of homosexuality), I've yet to talk to any parent who can provide an example. Actually, my large school district doesn't talk about personal sex lives of others at all. One can remove their kids from the public school system and enroll them in private religious education or home school them. I know of many who have chosen this route. Their kids have the same vices we all do - teenage sex, drinking, bad choices, etc. because they live on earth. Please do not blame schools for our fallen nature. Also, school districts have gotten smaller due to the financial needs and the continuing mandates they receive from our government, not because they want to undermine parental influence. Let's all live in this world, be beacons of light and let the words of our mouth and the mediations of our hearts be pleasing to the Lord.

Response from : Kay Freeman  

August 11, 2010 10:53 AM

When are we going to quit talking about the school systems as if they are evil institutions with aims to take over our children. Look at the total picture. Our family units are the ones who are failing. If our nation had strong family Christian units, strong principled elected people at the local and state levels, the parental nurturing nature of schools would not be necessary. It is because of this tremendous vacuum that has demanded the need to care for children when the parents do NOT. Churches have failed to reach out to families of need and young couples with financial or criminal problems. As a nation, we have failed to address a growing legal and illegal immigration problem that has tremendous filtering down effects to children, neighborhoods, classrooms, and our economy. Our society looks to the schools to educate all the children to be able to read and write and function in an adult world. It is the parents responsibility to teach their children to love God, grow in his Word, and to love others. The churches have a much bigger role than what they are doing to reach their communities for Christ. I am a Christian and a public school teacher of children of all walks of life, from the wealthy to the homeless, from USA kids to kids from all over the world. If you take the Christian influence out of the public school system on all levels, then it really will go to a degraded level in a hurry. Our job as Christians is not to run away, but to stay, apply our faith and make a difference in a dying world.

Response from : Wallace Liechty  

August 11, 2010 2:40 PM

Amen. Thank you.
I am always thankful when Christian leaders do not pull their punches.
I would add that the Biblical prescription requires parents to parent, together; mothers to be mothers and fathers to be fathers. It entails parents to truly know the Bible themselves; to manifest Christ before those watching impressionable eyes.

Response from : Amy Gillespie  

August 11, 2010 5:52 PM

As a lifelong Christian, raised in a Christian home, who attended both religious private and public schools, and the mother of three children, I believe I can comment on this article. My observation is that schools are being pressured by the communities they are in to fill the gap between what parents can or will provide and what children need. The school systems I have seen have little money and are focused not on a hidden agenda, but on providing services with inadequate funding. Secondly, one of my children has Asperger's Syndrome. There is not a religiously affiliated school in our state, and only one in our time zone, which can or will meet his needs. What would you have parents of children with special needs do? I am disturbed by the implication that public school will negate the influence of a loving Christian home, church involvement, and a Christian world view. I want my children to have answers to the challenging questions of unbelievers, not rote ones drilled in their heads. God can withstand honest questioning and challenging situations. Christ did not hide from the world, but moved through it, changing everything with His divine love. I don't think knowing the theory of evolution means believing it. There is a reason so many fall away from their faith in late adolescence and early adulthood-they aren't taught apologetics. They can't answer truly challenging theological questions. We need to teach kids the reality of both Christ's redeeming love, and our fallen world. I believe it can be done in the context of public schools and involved, caring, Christian parents.

Response from : Chris Shannon  

August 11, 2010 9:15 PM


Thank you for having the courage to write about such an important topic and convey the truth in such an insightful, intelligent and winsome manner. Anyone who has spent time studying this issue, and understands the purpose of education from a Christian worldview, knows that your words are true. I am not surprised at the vitriol coming from some people though. As you know, studies show less than 9% of professing Christians have a Christian worldview, so most Christians are so secularized they cannot rightfully comprehend your comments and thus they wrongly take offense to them. They are sifting your words through their secular grid. Most Christians do not understand the fundamental worldview issue involved with this topic. Let me explain it a different way for people and see if it helps. Christians send their children to the government five days a week, for most of the day, to be stepped in a secular humanistic worldview. Now, is the problem with this not blatantly obvious? Maybe the below will help...

Secular Humanism is an attempt to function as a civilized society with the exclusion of God and His moral principles. During the last several decades, Humanists have been very successful in propagating their beliefs. Their primary approach is to target the youth through the public school system. Humanist Charles F. Potter writes, "Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school's meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?" (Charles F. Potter, "Humanism: A New Religion," 1930)

Please keep speaking the truth.

God bless you and your ministry,


Response from : Steve  

August 12, 2010 10:07 AM

While I certainly appreciate the concern Mr. Craven raises over the rising influence of the state in the lives of children, I have another concern about the potential "exit strategy" from the public school system. The natural tendency I've seen in families is to remove children from the public system and enroll them in a private Christian school or home school with the intent to isolate them from dangerous viewpoints and perspectives. I think this is wrong headed. Christianity is not an isolationist faith, and many I've seen who have come from strict home school or Christian school backgrounds do not know how to deal with a world that is rife with plurality of faith, morals, politics and world-views.

In the end the real responsibility lies with the parents who need to be actively involved in the lives of their children wherever they attend school. More and more Christian schools and universities are espousing unbiblical views, yet parents don't take the time to engage with these elements because they believe that sending their child to such an institution will teach them all the right things. Parents need to be invested emotionally, socially and intellectually into the lives of their children. This means becoming well versed in the dominant cultural and academic trends. It means regularly spending time with children (more than is often spent now) and teaching them how to relate socially. And it means creating a safe emotional environment where kids can be open about their struggles, hurts and questions.

If parents really do this, it won't matter where they send their children to school.

Response from : Chris Shannon  

August 12, 2010 4:48 PM


You make the below comments…

“The natural tendency I've seen in families is to remove children from the public system and enroll them in a private Christian school or home school with the intent to isolate them from dangerous viewpoints and perspectives. I think this is wrong headed.”

Do you realize what you are saying? You are condemning Christians for shielding their children from “dangerous viewpoints and perspectives”. Do you honestly think children should be exposed to “dangerous viewpoints and perspectives?”

I have many friends who send their children to Christian schools or home school them and none of them do this to “isolate them.” As a matter of fact, it is a myth to believe that anyone can isolate their children from the world any way. Some Christian schools and most homeschoolers actually are focused on equipping children to have a Christian Worldview so that they can understand all of reality in relation to biblical truth. The public school system teaches children to understand all of reality without biblical truth. These children are handed over to the government to be indoctrinated into whatever the government chooses as the current secular humanist agenda. Do you think that is biblical?

What does the research show for homeschoolers in particular?

A study by NHERI involving children who were home educated revealed, among other things, that compared to the general population (public and privately schooled children), home school graduates were more likely to keep their faith: 94% of home school graduates keep their faith, and 93% of them continue to attend church after high school graduation.

What do other studies show regarding the general population of young people?

Lifeway found 70% of youth leaving the church:

Barna Group found 75% of youth leaving the church: (81% are churched and 75% of them fall away).

69 to 94% of our youth are leaving the church:

The Southern Baptist Council on Family Life found 88% of the children raised in evangelical homes leave the church at the age of 18, never to return.

Evangelicals Fear the Loss of Their Teenagers:

What's Happening to Our Youth?

Survey: Most Young People Are 'Lost' Despite 'Christian' Label

Under 1 Percent of Young Adults Have Biblical Worldview

Survey shows only 9% of Christians have biblical worldview§ion=miscellaneous

Charles Potter was right and his ilk are truly winning the war.

Obviously, parenting is fundamentally important, but as a parent it is fundamentally important to make the right decision and educate your child with a Christian Worldview as the foundation of all learning. If your child is sitting under the tutelage of the government and being indoctrinated into secular humanism all day long for five days a week, then it is incredibly difficult to counter that. We won’t be able to start turning the tide until we understand that. I pray we will before it’s too late. Blessings

Response from :  

August 13, 2010 9:03 AM

I for one am staying and affecting change. I watched as my Mom was very active in our public school. She did not bend her Christian beliefs to appease those who "didn't want to be bothered with faith".

My husband and I have made the decision to send our children to public school. However we also made the commitment to be there, as often as possible...right in the classroom helping out, on field trips, and at PTA meetings.

We believe that with God's help we can affect change in our community and we plan to be in this for the long haul. We are also committed to helping those Christian parents who don't have as much career flexibility have a voice even though they may not be able to be at every meeting.

I believe we were called to stay and help change from the inside out. But I don't think everyone is ready/willing/called to do that. Each parent has to choose. For us, this is what we believe God has called us to do.

Sure it can be draining but it is worth it!

Response from :  

August 13, 2010 9:59 AM

I have to raise this comment after reading some of the others. I for one am confused.

We read/write/talk about Christian martyrs all over the world who we want to praise and function in societies where they and their families are killed on sight for their belief. We teach them to boldly live for Christ. Yet we are not ready to make the same commitment in our very comfy USA.

So it is okay for other Christian parents and their children to risk their very lives in countries that are hostile to them, yet we want to teach our children in the USA to separate themselves from those who "disagree" with their beliefs. In other words, to the other Christian families, do as I say and not as I do.

How very sad indeed.

Response from : Jill Morrison  

August 13, 2010 11:10 AM

I always love the articles you write and appreciate your courage to handle the truth. However, this article seemed to hold a large element of ignorance. To assume that all parents of today would choose to educate their own children--or are equipped to educate their own children. I know my opinion is bias, since I work in a low-income public school with one of the largest rates of children in fostercare per-capita, but the article is simply not applicable for Christian educators at my school-site. I have not experienced public school educators to be the 'counsel of the wicked'--I have witnessed them stand in a support students/children who have no support at home. Although I agree that the training, teaching, educating, and imparting of values should be taught in the home, it is not always being done--in both Christian and non-Christian homes. The public school system is doing what they can with the resources they are given--we should be supporting the free education system and encouraging it to continue to improve and grow as an institution. Yes parents should have more of a say, but they have plenty of time in the home to educate their children. I for one am thankful for the public school system and for the Christian influence that is present there.

Response from : chris shannon  

August 13, 2010 1:10 PM

So you are equating: 1) sending trained adult missionaries to other countries to spread the Gospel with 2) sending unequipped and highly impressionable children to the government for indoctrination into secular humanism? Can you see the flaw in that logic? Do you think those missionaries give their kids over to the local Muslim government, for example, and have them educate them?

It is really quite simple…the government schools exclude God from everything. Should Christians put their children in this type of environment? Should Christian children be educated with God completely excluded? Is this biblical? People keep writing…”I think that”…”I feel that”…As Christians are we to just do whatever we think or feel? How about…”We have studied Scripture and clearly it is against us giving our children over to the government to teach them with God completely excluded so we are going to do whatever it takes to give them a godly education with biblical truth as the foundation”? There are so many alternative options for schooling today that there is little excuse for this (just ask me and I can give you some). As Dr. Voddie Baucham says “If you hand your kids over to Caesar to teach them, then don’t be surprised if they come home as Romans?” Again, just look at the statistics….I deal with young people and parents who have made this mistake frequently and can support these studies with numerous examples….people keep accusing lack of parental involvement as being the root of the problem on this issue…perhaps it is parental choice of education?

Response from : S. Michael Craven  

August 13, 2010 3:11 PM

Dear Jill,

Please bear with my "ignorance" but let me ask you. Do you believe public education as an institution is Christian in it's character and goals? I would hope you would recognize the obvious: it is not. That is not to say there aren't Christians working within the system but unless they hold the commanding heights of power, determining curriculum, influencing the interests of teacher's unions, etc., they aren't affecting "institutional" change and it is the institution that determines the culture not teachers, parents and students. This is the true nature of cultural formation—the top down and not the bottom up. As I indicate in my article, I most certainly agree that Christians should continue working to achieve those ends. However the decision on where to train our children is entirely different matter. That was the emphasis of my thesis. It was not so opposed to public education as some imagine.

Until such time as the institution serves to train "Christian" children, the decision to place our children there must be considered very cautiously. We (adults) can and should work within public education in same way we engage every sphere of culture but this is in no way equivalent to the training of impressionable children in an institution whose philosophy is opposed to Christian ends.


S. Michael Craven

Response from : Tricia  

August 15, 2010 7:49 PM

As a public educator and a Christian this article is offending. How is my work in the public education field not a mission field and my family's influence there less respectible than that of a family moving to a foreign country? My work is respectible and my children's lives have been enriched in being outside of the church's walls to learn to love others different than themselves. I have also taught in a Christian school where judgement is pervasive and loving others is only for those likeminded.

Response from : SH  

August 16, 2010 9:05 AM

I think people need to chill out and not take the article so sensitively. If we show a lack of grace to one another, it's not surprising we don't make a greater impact on the world LOL :)

Yes, it's a sensitive issue (more so in the US than here in the UK) but we all have different callings. I work in a state school in the UK (around 99% non-Christian) and some students at church from a Christian school or home educated. I have seen the benefits of the small Christian school where I live (around 30 students) and see the need to be a light in the high school of 1000, whose students I love with God's love. Both are worthy callings, neither are incompatible with the Christian faith. Just as some are called into ministry in the church and many are called into ministry outside the church, we're one body. We're different but serve the same God!

Response from : Sharon Nunn  

August 16, 2010 2:47 PM

My husband and I have decided to place our children in public school. We are also very active in church activities, and we teach our children Biblical truths and values outside of school. When we see contradictions in their public education, we are careful to teach them what we believe, and why there are differences. So far, this has worked well for us. (I only have one in elementary and one in middle school, so I can't predict what the future will bring). I am a believer that if we as Christians isolate ourselves from these institutions, they will continue to become more corrupt, and children who need to know Jesus will continue to be moved farther away from Him. I think the key is to be very involved in your child's school system, and be very aware of everthing they are learning there. We need to keep making our voices heard at every level in the educational process. I have no problem with private education and homeschooling, but it's often not practical or possible for families to do that. I believe the best approach is to dig in our heels and try to achieve change.

I also think it's important for my children to be exposed to our culture while we still have a chance as parents to influence them. I believe if we isolate them and protect them too much, they become confused later when they go out on their own, and will not know how to respond to situations they encounter.

Many may not agree with me. We all must choose what is best for our families and situations, but I believe a lot of good can come from Christians being involved in secular educational institutions. If no one questions or protests the school's policies, they will continue on their slippery slope, and many children will suffer the consequences.

Thank you for your insight, Michael. You give us a lot to think about!

Response from : Georg  

August 17, 2010 10:03 PM

God Bless You for speaking the truth about the public education system. It has become a pro-Marxist brainwashing tool that destroys the character of our children. It is a political network that is controlled by powerful unions who are concerned primarily with enriching themselves and their members, at the expense of our children. It has contributed to the weakening of our economy by reckless overspending at the expense of the taxpayers. When compared to other western civilized nations, the U.S. system is a failure when it comes to teaching the subjects that are important: math, science, history, engineering, etc. Worst of all, Christianity, responsibility, morality, good character and family values are devalued and ridiculed. If and when a real voucher system comes into play, people will have a choice in how they educate their children, at which time the public school system will crumble.
Thank you again for your excellent article.

Response from : William  

August 18, 2010 7:51 AM

Michael, thx for your valuable insights. I add the following: first, even if public education were religiously neutral (an impossibility), Christian children are still not to be educated into neutrality; two, since the content of public education is secular humanism, which is a religious orientation as noted by the Supreme Ct., theologians, etc., mandatory attendance in such schools is a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; three, laws regarding mandatory attendance in public schools violates each parent's inalienable right regarding education of their children. But, MOST importantly, Christian parents violate God's intention regarding what children are to learn which in turn robs these children of their God-given identity. Yes, send Christian educators into the public school mission field but get the Christian children out! It's all spelled out in my book, "Tyranny Through Public Education". Thank you.

Response from : Joan Amato  

August 21, 2010 6:12 PM

Dear Michael: I read your commentary first on this article about what the State is doing to our children who attend public schools. Then I read your article. I totally agree with your views of this humanist, secular view that is now, as I write, set out to capture and shape the minds of the young. Look around and you'll see DVD's of the "new family:" a daddy and a daddy and a mommy and a mommy. Traditional family roles no longer exist. It's unthinkable that any Christian does not see this happening. The State is in control of the public schools and the liberal and left-wing agenda is in place. In Germany, homeschooling is not permitted at all. What happened with Germany? WWII and the Nazis. History is being changed as we speak and no Christian can use the public school for any kind of prayer or study service. Only Muslims are allowed their room to pray in. Some Christians are blindsided to see not only the control over the schools, but the control of the present government. It's my firm belief we are on the Socialist path leading to Communism. We all need to open our eyes to what is happening in the world and in our schools. I feel sorry for those who think this is the only responsible way to school their children. I also fear that the only thing we can do is to pray for a revival in this country and around the world for government and politicians to turn to Christ and get back to the values that are sorely in need. But my fear is that maybe it's too late.

Response from : Dan Beerens  

August 21, 2010 9:30 PM

Well put! As a 30 year veteran of working in public and Christian schools, I especially like to "debunk" the salt and light idea and list a number of other reasons why this is not a sound idea:
Keep up the good work!

Response from : John  

September 8, 2010 4:40 PM

First, I think this is a very timely and thoughtful article. The hard part is seeing so many replies ignore the article or straw man positions that they disagree with.

For instance, for the Freeman comments, no one is advocating at all abandoning the public schools. We think their should be more Christian involvement at all levels of society. What should not be happening is sending children into a warzone where there very eternal souls are at stake in a battle they barely understand and have not the tools to fight, when many are not even believers.

This battle is for believers, not children.

Second, how can Christian parents have any time to shape their children given the pervasiveness of the public educational system? I private tutor and can attest that the average public school (or private school for that matter) student sees their parents for less than 60 minutes a day. It is fool hardy to think that in those 60 minutes we can somehow magically undo the overwhelming cultural, school, societal pressures and indoctrination that take place the vast majority of the rest of our children's days. There are only so many hours in the day, and either our children spend them being taught biblical or not.

The fact is while at the ground level the average school is just working to get by, on a higher up level, there is certainly a satanic, evil force working to corrupt our schools, our societies, etc. (Ephesians speaks to this reality), so when Christians portray our current school systems as agents of evil, they have ever right to biblically, and more so, they have as many posters have shown more than ample evidence to this fact. To straw man Craven's article because you dislike this fact is a shame for a believer to do.

We may not like the truth about what our nation and schools have become, but people didn't like Jesus when He did the same thing in His day.


Response from : Phillip Storrs  

September 8, 2010 8:38 PM

There is definitely a lot of concern about public education and that is why we joined and appreciated Accelerated Christian Education designed by Dr Howard. Every child is taught as an individual and not bound in a class with many others. The child may progress at its own ability and does indeed learn about God and His Word.

Response from : LaRue  

September 9, 2010 10:17 PM

It would be wonderful if all children could attend a Christian School or had a parent intelligent enough to home school them. The Roman Catholic Church had schools where the children were taught their religion scrupulously; but when my brother-in-law tried to enter the RC High School, it was discovered that the only words he could read were the ones he had memorized. Of course that was quite a few years ago and no one recognized the problems that some children have with reading - but how good his mind had to be to remember all the words that he did remember. Unfortunately Christians in this country do not support their churches sufficiently monetarily to support a school and the children who most need a parochial education cannot afford it.

I would also like to say that it is not entirely the secular schools' fault that schools are failing. We live in a multi-cultural society and it certainly would not behoove a public school to teach children to hate others because of who their parents are or what lifestyle they live(and many so-called Christians do this). AS a matter of fact, it gives parents the opportunity to teach their children to love others in spite of who they are but to explain that God would not approve of their lifestyle - to see the face of Christ in ALL people.

Plans have been put into force to raise the standards, but without providing any funding. Schools are closing all around us and/or the classes are much too large to provide good education and help to those who need it. Besides that, I don't believe the schools have taken over the families. I believe that the families have GIVEN over the care of their children to the schools. So what do you expect is going to happen.

In today's world parents argue with teachers that their children can do no wrong! They have allowed extracurricular activities to take over their lives EVEN ON SUNDAY MORNING. The schools where I live do not even provide school supplies, but children must purchase their own at costs that often exceed $100 per student. They have even gone so far in some schools to ask children to bring toilet tissue to school. Imagine what that is like for poor families and the embarrassment that children suffer when they go to school without supplies - and other children are far from kind about it.

There is a lot more wrong with families today than just sending the children to public schools, and I believe that it is the family at fault more than the the school(s). What is one supposed to think when he or she moves into an area where the schools are on strike and all the letters to the editor of the local weekly newspaper simply complain that they will miss the first football game of the season and not that their children are not attending classes. Go figure.

Response from : Stanley French  

September 14, 2010 11:44 AM

Excellent article.

Response from : A Different Mom  

September 14, 2010 1:48 PM

Personally, I can't see how anyone professing Christ can in good conscience allow their children to be indoctrinated in government schools. "Render under Caesar that which is Caesar's." This does not include God's gift of our children! How can a parent compete with the influence of the schools and peers, just in number of hours alone. Read the article linked here, where this is beautifully, biblically supported:

Response from : E  

September 16, 2010 11:41 PM

It appears that reason is gone out the window here, but lets try again. The point of the article is that a parents job is as the primary educator. Knowing that, you can't say that a child can filter everything out that is bad. It would make more sense for me to have my daughter watch bad tv and movies all the time so she could learn to filter sinful media. It is clear that the dual income philosophy that has entered the family has clouded all reason. It is sad, b/c children need their parent's protection. When did it become Christian to make your child the whipping boy of humanistic ideologs? Sheesh, do you people even think? I have worked in public schools for 6 years and the change in language, manners, behavior et. all is disgusting. You don't build strong minds by feeding them 20% of the time with truth and 80% of the time with state sponsored values. Beyond that, does it strike anyone the complete idiocy of a system where the law is from a cultural expediency perspective as opposed to a Lawgiver? Consumerist values permeate the church and clearly how many Christians raise their children. The idea that being able to see your children on a camera from work through the internet as an option for a Christian family is self centered and as nonsensical as it gets. Wake up people. The end of the Christian kids in public schools is a lose, lose. Don't dilude yourself that they are missionaries any more than you would be a missionary if you had to clean sweat off a strip club dance floor. You wouldn't put them in a sewer to build their immune system, so don't do the same to build their moral compass.

Response from : Karen Stroud  

September 24, 2010 1:32 AM

This really needed to be said...Thank you!

Response from : David Sheffield  

October 8, 2010 1:47 PM

I thought you might be interested to know that you echo many of the concerns about public education that Thomas Jefferson made. For example, he thought that districts should be 6-square miles.

"A bill for the more general diffusion of learning... proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square; establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive at the public expense a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, to be completed at an University where all the useful sciences should be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts." --ThomasJefferson to John Adams, 1813. ME 13:399

"My partiality for that division [of every county into wards] is not founded in views of education solely, but infinitely more as the means of a better administration of our government, and the eternal preservation of its republican principles. The example of this most admirable of all human contrivances in government, is to be seen in our Eastern States; and its powerful effect in the order and economy of their internal affairs, and the momentum it gives them as a nation, is the single circumstance which distinguishes them so remarkably from every other national association." --Thomas Jefferson to Wilson C.Nicholas, 1816. ME 14:454


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