I believe much progress continues to be made in this regard however there are still the usual voices in the evangelical world that still pop up making the same defenses public schools as a viable option for Christians parents, and the same tired attacks on those who are calling for a mass exodus.
Every now and again a voice from the reformed world pipes up to attempt to carve a hole for the viability of Public School education as a legitimate choice for Christian parents to consider, even those with the financial means to choose a Christian education.
A voice who has recently thrown (or – rethrown) his hat into the ring along these lines is Pastor Tim Bayly, specifically with a couple of blog posts here and here. His posts are not explicitly aimed at advancing public school attendance, but for everything he says about Christian education, what is clear at the end of his arguments are that Public Schools are a viable option for parents to consider as an educational choice for their children. Again, this is even in cases where there isn’t a court ordered situation under duress, or a case of extreme poverty. His rationale employs argumentation which I would regard as “getting cute”. A few truths, some half-truths, a fallacy and a diversion or two and voila, public schools are a legitimate choice.
This post is aimed at directly engaging with Bayly’s argumentation on this particular subject and is in no way meant to write this man off with everything he writes. I don’t know much about him but I have had a few online interactions with him and some months back, I did purchase and read his book “Daddy Tried” which I found to be quite good overall.
So that said, here is a direct and to the point response to Pastor Bayly’s arguments:
Don’t send your children to any safe school or college. There are no safe schools or colleges, so if you think you’ve found one, you’re wrong. God is safe. God’s Word is safe. The Church is safe. Christian schools and colleges are not safe. The problem with Christian colleges is you don’t know who the enemy is, whereas at secular schools, it’s clear. Dad said this after decades of campus ministry, and he’s still right.
The exhortation for parents to be vigilant and not let their guard down just because their kids aren’t in public schools is a good exhortation. Christian parents endeavoring to provide their children with a Christian education and worldview via homeschooling or private education do need to be vigilant. In fact, if all Bayly did was write about dangers to watch out for with various forms of Christian education, then this would be simply wonderful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. His warnings about the dangers of Christian education are coupled with the presentation of public schools as a legitimate option. And did you notice what else Bayly says? He says “The problem with Christian colleges is you don’t know who the enemy is, whereas at secular schools it’s clear.”
This simply proves too much as it relates to public schooling for children. After all why would anyone choose an environment for their children where they have to defeat enemies that are sneaky and difficult to identify? This begs the question – why would I intentionally send my children to be educated by the enemy in the first place? And if we are going with “easy to identify enemies” as the ideal route, Tim needs to go further. Why not send our children to the local madrassa? Surely the the Muslims will be less sneaky then the secular humanists.
I am sorry but this kind of line in support of the viability of public schools is a poorly thought out cop-out. Christian parents should endeavor to supply their children with a Christian education and worldview, not a secular humanist education (which is what they will unavoidably get at a public school).
Secondly, to the contrary the lies told at public schools are not always easy to identify. It’s not like the minute the students walk into the public schools, the teachers start chanting “Hail Satan! The Bible is Wrong! Jesus never existed!”.
No. The comprehensive approach to education that the Public schools have adopted is to subtly teach children to first set aside the word of God and pursue knowledge independently of it. Autonomy is the goal. And the method to achieve that goal is indeed hard for impressionable children to identify as a respected authority figure attempts to brainwash them in it. The deception is that school is the place for “facts” and that notions of God and the Bible should be relegated to one’s “private religion”. It’s also what is emphasized and what is de-emphasized. Public schools completely marginalize God and the authority of scripture from the pursuit of knowledge itself. Irrespective of the actual “facts” taught in school, this very approach to learning itself is a very dangerous and sneaky to train a child up in. This approach will all be taught to them, usually without it ever being explicit brought to their attention.
If you’ll remember in the Garden of Eden, this approach to the attainment of knowledge and the evaluation of truth is exactly what Satan cunningly tempted Adam and Eve with. Satan didn’t tell them directly, “disobey God”. Satan instead tempted them to set aside what God said, and told them to pursue knowledge and truth independently of God’s word. Satan was advocating the secular humanist approach to the attainment of knowledge.
Once the child graduates from secular humanist elementary school and high school having been trained to think in this manner, he or she will go on to college and continue to evaluate the world based on criterion other than what scripture lays out – to one degree or another. The child will have been well trained in secular humanism, they may not even realize it. For more on the danger of inculcating children in this autonomous approach I highly recommend listening to Dr. Greg Bahnsen’s lecture on the subject.
Rather than encourage parents to rule out public schools for these reasons, Bayly advocates that parents consider public schools depending on the temperament of their children:
As a parent, it was clear to Mary Lee and me that each of our children was unique. You know, snowflakes and all that. But seriously, no one size fits all children when it comes to education, and that’s the foolish consistency you need to beware of.
Take homeschooling, for instance; in high school, homeschooling Joseph was easy while homeschooling Taylor would have been disastrous. Joseph was self-motivated to do math and chemistry and Latin and writing and church history while Taylor was self-motivated to do soccer and facebook and girls. We homeschooled Joseph but didn’t homeschool Taylor. Get the idea?
Some of our children need constant supervision and some don’t. Some of our children are wired for relationships and some aren’t. Some daughters are timid and some outgoing. Some sons are bright and some plodding. Some children are rebellious and some compliant. Some have faith and some seem not to.
Can you see how different methods of education would work better with one side or the other of each of these pairs? Don’t go against the grain because you always start with your ideology and rule things in and other things out. Because you always hold your preferences as if they are foundational principles of Biblical proportions. Like, for instance, that since government should not educate children, you should never put your children in a public or charter school. Or because the government’s taxes are theft, no one should drive on public roadways.
Christian parents. Beware this advice, and reject it. The conclusion to any analysis of the temperament of your children should never be “whelp, what they need in this case is some of that public school education”. Public schools are indeed centers of indoctrination in secular humanism. Secular humanism is a religion opposed to Christianity and seeks to destroy it. Imagine yourself thinking to yourself, “Hmmm, my child is an affable kid and fairly strong in the faith…what they need given their personality is an anti-Christian education.” This is just pure folly and too many Christian parents are falling for it.
Predictably the retort from some quarters will be – “you’re an isolationist!”The notion that either Christians send their kids to public school or their children will be “isolated” is a false dichotomy and a non sequitur. Isolationism is a possibility for Christian parents who don’t seek out other contexts to engage and interact in the world along with their children. But this is by no means a necessary consequence. There is a plethora of options for Christian parents to take advantage of along these lines. Another article could be written on this topic alone, but that’s for another time.
Secondly, it is indeed a parent’s duty to shield and protect their children from the corrupting influence of worldliness. Christians need to cast aside how well they think their little Johnny or Jill will fare, and remember what the scriptures explicitly teach us. “Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals.” Can there be dangers in a homeschool or Christian school environment? Yes! But, unlike public schools they are not necessarily dangers inherent to the methodological approach. For those with a choice, public schools are to be rejected out of hand as an educational option because 100 times out of 100 they do not have the correct foundation (God’s word).
As spiritually mature, grown adults who have been armed with a Christian worldview and education, we may then chooser to be employed at companies which are not founded on God’s word, we may attend a trade school or other institution not founded on God’s word, or we may vote in elections for governments which are not founded on God’s word. But we may not elect to intentionally train up our child in an anti-Christian worldview. According to scripture the education of our children is a different animal. God’s word makes clear that in raising children, there should be no area of life where his word is not sown in the midst of an education. And although in God’s providence, he can bring good from all of sin and all of our mistakes, nowhere in scripture is any parent ever commended for intentionally choosing an anti-Christian education for their children.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
This verse is more than a nice placard to hang in your living room. It is a command regarding the education of children and it is literally impossible to obey in a public school which does the opposite. It diligently teaches children the way of the heathen throughout the course of the day. Every day. Five days a week. Forty weeks a year. During your child’s most formative years where their minds are being shaped and fashioned. Must we even say it? Contrary to Bayly, the intentional decision to send your children to receive an antiChristian education is not comparable to the decision to “drive on public roadways”.
We live in a world and society awash in the filth of the fruit of a secular humanist ideology (the secular humanist schools having been instrumental in creating this dynamic). There are real situations created where parents are under serious duress and may have no choice but to send their children to such schools. Theses situations are frequently avoidable if parents were truly willing to make it a priority. It would be totally avoidable if churches wouldn’t refuse to change the way they operate so they are able to better assist parents who are trying to move heaven and earth to provide their children with a Christian education. Churches which instead outsource their responsibilities to the government cheese welfare education of public schools. There is blame to go around.
I have much more understanding for a family truly in a bind, than for those who teach that public schools are a viable choice based on the temperament of the child. For all the reasons above, this reasoning should be heartily rejected as foolish.
Bayly then goes on to say it is inconsistent to object to a public school education on the basis of it being funded by theft, but then then to accept tax relief and apply those dollars to a child’s private education. This is preposterous reasoning. He writes:
Maybe you respond that if Indiana is willing to give parents’ taxes back to them so they can use the money to help pay for a private Christian school, more power to our children for using that money, right? So then it’s okay for our children to take government money to educate their children if it’s a private Christian education, you say?
Well, what about the public charter school others of our grandchildren attend? All of it is paid for with government money, albeit tax money the parents sent to the state and county in the first place. But the charter public school is not Christian, so does that make it wrong?
Seriously? First of all, those who have stolen property returned to them and use that stolen property on their children’s education are not in the same boat as those who choose to go on government school daycare / welfare. I don’t know what Tim was thinking with this point. Suffice to say he is grasping at straws.
Bayly then doubles-down on his child-temperament based criteria for exoneration of public schools as a legitimate educational option. Bayly regards those who rule out government schools altogether for their children as being “weak”, “timid” and “not by faith”. All of these behaviors are sinful.
Here’s the point: go ahead and have your principles; hold to them firmly; write about them and help others to think Christianly about government and education and taxes and all. But don’t subject your children to the mistake of categorically ruling out any form of education regardless of that child’s weaknesses, strengths, disability, or personality, or the place you live and the educational possibilities available there. Such weak and timid decision-making is not by faith.
Ah…no. I certainly will categorically rule out government education and it’s not because I’m weak, timid or faithless. It’s the direct opposite. Choosing to take ownership over your child’s education in this society and doing what needs to be done to ensure they receive a Christian education (not an anti-Christian one) is strong, bold and faithful.
But alas, things keep getting worse. Next Bayly compares those who regard intentionally providing an antiChristian education for their children as being disobedient to God’s commands to actual Pharisees and then setting up more false dichotomies.
Pharisees are in the business of erecting fences on secondary matters and the problem with those fences is they always end up replacing the Law of God with laws of men. Keep your eye on the laws of God and make them rigid and unyielding in the lives of your children. No gossip. No fornication. Help the widow and orphan and sojourner in your midst. Argue for the faith. Expose evil. Flee from hypocrisy.
About that last one: I know a fair amount about quite a few private Christian schools, and if you gave me a choice between sending my child to a rich and hypocritical Christian school or a public school, I’d chose the public school at least nine out of ten times.
Let’s get this straight. The issue of whether our children get a Christian or an anti-Christian education is not, let me repeat, not a “secondary matter”. Secondly, Pharisees were not pharisees because they cared about God’s law too much, but because they were actually lawless. Pharisees were in the business of twisting God’s laws and leading people away from God’s laws. The person who stands up and says, “No! It is not right or loving to intentionally give your child an antiChristian education” is not being a Pharisee. The person who says that intentionally choosing to give children an anti-Christian education is fine and dandy depending on the child’s temperament is the one leading others away from obedience to God’s commands.
The Pharisee is also the one placing heavy burdens on people which are not in conformity to God’s law and which will only hurt them. Hence when Tim exhorts parents to “keep your eyes on the laws of God and make them rigid and unyielding in the lives of your children”. This is a task literally impossible to carry out in the context of public schools. You simply cannot diligently sow the law of God into the life of a child when the lions share of education they get day in and day out is performed by an authority figure dedicated to sowing into them an antiChristian worldview and approach to knowledge.
Finally Tim sets up the false dichotomy of the Christian school full of “rich hypocrites” vs the public school. Again, the alternative to a Christian school filled with “rich hypocrites” is not an anti-Christian education. It is to find a Christian school not filled with such people, or to endeavor to homeschool your child in a non-hypocritical fashion.
Elsewhere Bayly subtly blurs and reduces the link between training in godliness and the fruit it will produce and training in ungodliness and the fruit it will produce.
People who want to put their hope in their choice of schooling are wrong. Ruling out homeschooling will not make your children Christians. Choosing classical Christian schooling will not make your children educated. Choosing public schooling will not make them missionaries. The influence of the home, and particularly the father, is overwhelming.
It’s not that we need to put our hope in a form. We put our hope in God and we trust that if we obey what he commands it will go well with us.
This argument is along the lines of: “I know that salvation is of the Lord and I don’t think homeschooling or a Christian private school is what saves my child. God can save my child anyway he wants, even against the odds.”
Of course God can save whomever he wants however he wants, but is there any other area of parenting where you would employ this same kind of reasoning?
“Well, we know that church is a good thing, but we just let our kids sit at home and skip it every week, because if they’re elect, God’s going to save them whether they’re ever at church or not.”
“Well, we know that we should raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but we don’t ‘push’ our religion on them; we just let them choose for themselves, because if they’re elect, God will save them whether we teach them the Word or not.”
“Well, we know we ought to discipline them, but we know God’s will is going to be done regardless, so we let them do whatever they want.”
Such thinking is actually actually Hyper-Calvinistic. It denies the biblical truth that God operates through means. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” In His sovereignty, God is laying down a general principle here that makes clear that the consistent application of God’s word to a child’s life has the effect of protecting the child from departing from the way he should go. This is a relationship that God designed, and God has not excepted a child’s education from this relationship.
Bayly spends much effort to get across that his children are indeed bearing good fruit despite their being public schooled and says he “wasn’t worried for a minute” that his children would succumb to secular humanism because of all the godly influences that were around his children in other contexts. He regards “half-Christians” as the “real threat”. The notion that Christians can undo all the damage that is sown into them via secular humanism features heavily throughout. Not much new in this regard. The usual rationalizations for Christian parents make for putting stumbling blocks in front of their children. The foolish logic that would regard the sinking Titanic as viable because there are some lifeboats and not everyone will drown.
For myself, I never for a single minute worried that even one of our children would succumb to a secular humanist. It was the half-Christians who were the real threat to my children.
Not only does what Tim describes here display a flippancy and lack of vigilance towards the dangers of an anti-Christian education, Tim is also downplaying the effects of placing a stumbling block (which is what an anti-Christian education is) in front of children.
Sure, many children in public schools are able to emerge salvation intact and some of them who fall away may return to the faith one day. Some may be partially damaged with long term sin patterns resulting from foolish thinking that were sown into them in their formative years. Other’s may be less hindered. But there will indeed be legions who having been trained up to oppose Christ who will in fact do so as a result of stumbling over this stumbling block. Christian private education and homeschooling can become stumbling blocks if they are full of hypocrites. But again, the clear problem with public schools is that they are inherently a stumbling block 100 times out of 100. The intentional inculcation of a secular humanist worldview into a child is never good. That by God’s grace, children emerge from these environments without apostatizing is the grace of God! Not licences for Christian parents to continue in the same foolishness.
Having surveyed Bayly’s arguments and held them up to what scripture teaches, I hope that you will not be caught in the snare of repeating these fallacies. I hope that Tim, who is likes to herald the virtues of bravery, boldness and manliness will take a good hard look at what he advocates and realize that he is indeed serving up a plate of steak with a side of dung. I take no joy in pointing this out, but somebody needs to. We do need a clear and unmistakable call in the church for a mass exodus from Public Education from Christians across the country. We need to build up a rival social order not based on secular humanism and robbing Peter to pay Paul. We cannot be muddled in this call or compromised in our message.
Having been grounded in a convictional rejection of public schooling whole cloth, we should vigilant about sins that can creep into various forms of Christian education. Don’t ever for a second think the solution is to choose to embrace an anti-Christian education.