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Education: what’s a dad to do (3): foolish consistency

Education: what’s a dad to do (3): foolish consistency

UPDATED 9/22/18

This is third in a series on educating our children.

Last time I wrote:

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.

Of course, as expected, I got pushback on this. How could I possibly countenance public education? It’s government education and government has no business educating parents’ children. The last thing a Christian child needs to grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is government secularists and pagans taking his tender soul in hand and tormenting or destroying him—and this not even to mention how destructive the other kids will be!

Now I understand that complicated decisions are made easier by going to first things and trying to establish one or two that preclude a host of possibilities. This is often the way we make decisions concerning the education of our children and I’m against it, not only as a parent and grandparent, but also as a pastor.

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.

Think about this. Many of our grandchildren are in schools where their education is paid for through the state’s department of education. Is that wrong? Does it make a difference that one of those schools is a public charter school and the other a private Christian school? Remember, you think government has no business being in the education business, so what say you?

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?

If you say “yes,” would you have responded differently if you had known this charter public school uses a classical curriculum? What if it was a charter public school focussed on the arts and your eldest daughter was gifted at music? Or your youngest son was gifted at drawing and painting? Maybe one of your sons is quite bright, wants to be a research scientist, and a local charter school is part of the International Baccalaureate program or offers a lot of Indiana University courses its students can take and start knocking off college credit hours?

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.

Blinkardly ideological decisions about the education of children that start by ruling out any public schooling because you took a firm stand with your half-Christian relatives against government education aren’t necessarily good decisions. Remember that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

So make your high-minded arguments about this or that form of education and then demonstrate inconsistency in your decisions with this and that precious child. Be unpredictable in your decisions—eclectic, even.

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.

We always want to reduce the Christian life to law rather than faith. This is true with the choice of a method of educating our children as it’s true with the choice of a church. In both cases, there are no simple decisions so don’t fool yourself.

There’s an old quip about the man who only considers a few things having no trouble making up his mind. Don’t let that man be you. You’re a father and that’s never easy work. Don’t cheapen your calling and responsibilities.

* * *

(9/22/18): After hearing the criticisms of this post by some over on FB, I responded:

The discussion here presents a number of examples of the very things I cautioned against in this post.

The father who chooses the secular humanism of the public school over against the materialistic idolatry and hypocrisy of his city’s private Christian school is no pragmatist. He’s principled and wise, in my view.

That the church is filled with men and women who have spent years learning and writing against the dangers of secular humanist government education while learning and writing nothing against the dangers of homeschooling or private “Christian” education is predictable. The church of our time never stops condemning the world’s evils all-the-while cultivating ignorance of her own.

While it’s true that I would not put on a level the dangers of homeschools, public schools, and private “Christian” schools, there are such serious dangers in each of them that I would not rule out any of the three depending on the particular risks of the other two given the location and institutions and teachers and the strengths and weaknesses of my own child. As one example, consider how much more destructive the pressures to adopt the feminist rebellion are when taught in Bible class by your local hipster church planter who teaches part time at the local “Christian” school than when this rebellion is taught by the public school lesbian who thinks Christians died out long ago.

This is suggestive of the sort of hard thinking Christians need to give themselves to instead of assuaging their consciences by saying they are the righteous ones because they don’t allow public school teachers to indoctrinate THEIR children in secular humanism.

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.

I realize this is not true for all parents, but I’m sure it’s true for some who are writing here in condemnation of any consideration of putting a child in public schools, charter or otherwise. Be of good cheer, though; I will continue to say these same things although, for now, I’m done. Love,

* * *

(9/24/18) Now, more response here.

 

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About The Author

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Tim Bayly has been senior pastor of Clearnote Church, Bloomington since 1996. Married to Mary Lee, the Baylys have five children and twenty-something grandchildren. Tim's book on fatherhood is titled "Daddy Tried" and he is co-author of a book on homosexuality titled "The Grace of Shame.’

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