Jul 9, 2010  •  In Christianity, Parenting, Personal

Sending Christian Kids to Secular Schools

I recently joined an online Christian mommies group and came across a discussion debating the merits of sending your kids to a secular/public school vs a private Christian school or homeschooling.

Having attending public schools all my life (well, technically the university I attended is a private institution but it does not have a religious affiliation), I was shocked at how many Christian moms were against public schools.

J and I have had many discussions about sending our children to private vs public schools. J has attended private schools all his life (he even attended boarding school in England) and thinks that private schools offer the best education. I see no problem with public schools just as long as the area we’re living in has a good school district. We are still undecided on a final answer, but luckily we have some time before a decision needs to be made.

However, the topic on hand isn’t a “private vs public” discussion. It is a “secular vs Christian” one.

The argument for sending your kids to private Christian schools, or even homeschooling them, is so protect them from outside influences that might derail their faith. One mom even likened sending her daughter to public schools to “throwing her into a lion’s den.” Many Christian mothers feel that their children would be exposed to non-Christian ideas, experiences and influences at public schools, and that children should not have to defend their faith at such young ages.

Most also agree that discussion and exposure to other beliefs and lifestyles should be introduced by the parents under controlled environments, and guided by them in accordance with what each individual child is mature enough to process at any given point, not by the child’s peers or teachers.

My own experience has obviously shaped my opinions regarding this discussion, because I strongly disagree.

I attended public schools all my life and I am very grateful for it. Since I was exposed to various religions, ideas, and even the “bads” of the world starting at an early age, I am now even more confident than ever in my beliefs. If anything, knowing about different religions and lifestyles (and befriending those whose religions and lifestyles differ from mine) has strengthened my faith.

As a youth group teacher at my old church, I noticed that my students who attend public schools were often more mature and prepared to handle the secular world because they have had to decide their faith earlier in life.

I have also met many people at my university who attended private Christian schools before coming to college. They were generally less prepared, both emotionally and spiritually, to be out in the secular world on their own.

I believe that children are susceptible to potentially harmful ideas and influences whether you choose to send them to a Christian school or not. Even homeschooling does not guarantee a child free from unfavorable experiences (unless you plan on keeping your child in a box). You cannot shelter them forever.

How will they fight for God and their faith if they do not know the enemy?

Lastly, you can’t discount the potential for your children to be ambassadors of God. You never know what kind of light your child will shine in a public school.

So, as of now (barring the future addition of policies that will openly persecute Christians in public schools), I am fully willing to send my children, who will be raised in a Christian household, to public schools. I will keep them in prayer, make sure that they have a strong support network of Christian friends in the church, and encourage them to discern what is best for them and their faith.

I think that this question is applicable to my non-Christian readers as well:

Will/do you choose not to send your public schools in fear that
they will be exposed to unfavorable ideas and experiences?

53 Responses to “Sending Christian Kids to Secular Schools”

  1. Megan:

    I think the problem some people have with religion (i.e. Daniel) is that it is often confused with either extreme conservative or extreme liberal beliefs. Neither category of which the majority of religious people fall into.

    While I am not religious or have a particular belief system, I don’t think sending kids to a private Christian school is a bad thing. The only worry I would have is how tempered the education is. If I were to send my future children to such a school, I would be sure to encourage my kids to question things and do their own research. Not in a "fight the system" way, just to be sure that what they are learning is true. It would be the same way with public schools and secular private schools.

    The only thing about some Christian actions that worry me, are when they are blatantly denying things that are true or widely accepted as true. Such as the whole debacle in Texas with teaching Creationism and not Evolution. And abstinence-only education, which has been proven to not be effective.

    I guess to me, the important thing is teaching kids the value of having faith, spirituality, and acceptance. Without those, then we would descend into the violence and disease and death that Daniel claimed Christianity was full of.

  2. Megan:

    same commenter as above.

    I forgot to mention that I went a public school, however it was a very very small school (graduated with a class of 74!) in a very very small town. And absolute clear majority of the kids who went there were Christian. Even our lunch menus were influenced by all the Catholic kids in town (which was probably 1/3 of the entire school) during Lent! And then I went to a private college but not affiliated with any denomination.

  3. If parents are afraid public school will ‘derail’ their kids’ faith, they must not have very strong beliefs in the first place.

  4. Kate:

    While I wish Daniel hadn’t continued on for so long, I do have to agree with his first comment – about a lack of morality and humanity – specifically how a Christian faith can demonize homosexuality, and supposedly espouse goodness at the same time – is absolutely beyond me.

    Ask yourself that every night before you go to bed, and if that is moral, or in the name of humanity. Being left-handed also used to be ‘evil’ in the eyes of the Church. I can only ‘pray’ (full irony intended,) that your ‘Faith’ will deem gay people worthy of the same acceptance.

  5. Geek in Heels:

    @Kate — I, and my faith, are not for hating homosexuals or condemning them. Anyone who attacks homosexuals on the basis of the Christian faith is not being a true Christian, in my opinion. However, I do believe that God intended for sexual relations to be only between a married man and a woman, and that homosexuality is a sin. Just as lying, cheating, and murdering are sins. As I myself am a sinner I do not think I am a better person than any homosexual.

    John Piper, one of the most renowned Calvinists of our time, says:

    My prayer…is that we as a church, and I in particular as the preacher, will find a Biblical balance between clear conviction about the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, on the one hand, and patient compassion to come alongside those of you who have homosexual desires, and your friends and relatives, and seek your good. I have no desire to drive homosexual people away. On the contrary, I would like to be able to say of our congregation what Paul said to the church in Corinth: after mentioning "fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, swindlers," he says in 6:11, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."

    I would like us to be a church like that – justified sinners battling together to walk in purity, with all of our differing genetic, hormonal, environmental disorders that incline everyone of us, in varying ways, to do sinful things….the point for now is simply this: we want to be a church where homosexual people can either overcome their sexual disorder, or find the faith and courage and help and love and power to live a triumphant, joyful, celibate life with the disorder.

  6. Geek in Heels:

    @Kate — Regarding your comment about left-handedness… There is nothing in the Bible about left-handedness being a sin. That was an error made by the early church, and as the church is a product of man (and man is sinful by nature), I can only admit that it was a horrible mistake, made by PEOPLE, not our faith. A true Christian will put the Bible as his/her foremost authority on earth. There are, however, multiple statements in the Bible about homosexuality being a sin and that is why I believe it can’t be compared to examples such as left-handedness, the sun revolving around the earth, etc.

  7. Daniel:

    Hello! I would like to clarified a point.
    That was your comment:
    "Personally I would rather that my unborn daughter has an IQ of 80 and have the love of God in her heart, than be a genius and/or be very successful (or at least be acknowledged as a success by the secular world) but not be a Christian."
    We know my comment and then you tweet this
    " Today I was called monstrous & labeled a danger to my baby for defending my faith. Only the name of Jesus has the power to incite such anger"
    I use the word "monstruous" not because you defended your faith but because you rather have an handicap child as far as she believe in YOUR superstitions . No parent want a disabled child with all the stigma attached to it. The health of a child is the prime worry of a parent whatever are the belief of that child.
    I m sure you are not monstruous and you did not meant your comment but think about it. That why we consider christians as immoral and inhumane.
    There is a site call " god is imaginary"
    They have short video for educated christians please give it a chance and look by yourself what we think, your faith won’t be in danger if strong.
    If you look there is centillons of atheist site. You are intelligent,use your critical mind 
    Respecfully  Daniel
    PS homosexuality is not a disorder ( christian immorality again)

  8. Daniel:

    And one for all : your bible have 14800 differences with the original document and therefore the bible is VERY innacurate, a total fraud actually.

  9. Lillian:

    By exposing a child to a school that preaches only one school of thought, instead of a variety of beliefs and cultures, you risk the child becoming ignorant and brainwashed.

    A Christian+ private school is a pretty western concept, that smacks of exclusivity and perhaps racism. Would non-white children from families that aren’t extremely privileged be welcome? Would Science be taught in the way that it should be? Would a school that preaches only one school of thought, be welcoming of other cultures and races? It isn’t religion per se that causes conflict or incites strife, but man’s pride. How does segregation from an early age help a child be a contributing member of society?

    I would have thought that any parent would want to send their child to a school with a good syllabus and good discipline.

  10. Lillian:

    Furthermore, I’ve noted that the Church has a very high incidence of molestation of young boys, yet it continues to loudly label homosexuality a sin. Is Hypocrisy a sin?

  11. Geek in Heels:

    @Lillian — Yes, hypocrisy is a sin. I am saddened that the image of the church has been marred by these horrible events. I personally do not believe in the requirement of clergymen to be celibate for this reason. (FYI, I am not Catholic and I disagree with many of their doctrines, including this one.)

  12. Kate:

    Umm, it’s a person’s sexual ORIENTATION, not a disorder. Please be respectful. Just as I use the terminology you do (and capitalize ‘God’ and the like, out of respect for your Faith,) then please be respectful back in the way you term those people who are gay.
    The point is, there’s obviously no point in talking abou t this. You can’t reason with people like you. You are blinded by your Faith.

  13. Geek in Heels:

    @Kate — I hesitated when I saw that John Piper used the word "disorder" in that quote, but left it in there out of respect for him. I’m not sure if I would have used that specific word because it carries with it harsh connotations, but if we’re being technical, yes it is used correctly (by definition) for what our faith states.

    I do have respect for gays. Just as much as they (and the rest of the world) have respect for other sinners, including myself. I too, have many "disorders" because I am a sinner.

    And thank you, because I take it as a compliment that you believe me to be blinded by my faith. I wish I could be overcome with faith all the time.

  14. Daniel:

    How can you respect a man who use these words?

  15. Daniel:

    "Frater Ravus"      Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions

  16. I know I am late on this discussion. When I originally saw it in GReader, I clicked over to comment and your site did not come up. I don’t know if it was just a blip, or what.

    Anyway, I homeschool my kids, and these are my thoughts.

    * I absolutely do *not* homeschool (or parent) with an aim to shelter my kids, protect them from ideas that are different, or delay their discovery of the real world. When I have important discussions with my kids, I often include "the other perspective," because I want to make *sure* that they don’t think I tried to hide it from them. I know that they interact with a lot of people who don’t believe as we do on various issues, and we talk about that. I do explain why I believe my perspective is right (which, of course I believe it is, or it wouldn’t be my perspective), and I am grateful for the chance to be part of their discovery of how the rest of the world thinks.

    * I do believe that my role in guiding my kids and explaining our beliefs when they are exposed to something different is very important, and I’m glad to be here with them all day every day so I can do that, BUT the whole idea is to teach them how to handle it on their own. The goal is for them to understand our beliefs (yes, hopefully they continue in the beliefs we instill), to be able to defend those beliefs on their own (without parroting us), and to *not* be thrown for a loop when they meet people who believe differently.

    * I do believe that it’s better for a Christian to have an education that, even in seemingly secular subjects, acknowledges and recognizes God. Certainly a familiarity with one of the world’s predominant religions aids the study of Western literature and history, at least. I also believe that knowledge of a God who created an orderly universe out of chaos informs our understanding of art, math, and science (far beyond the creation vs. evolution debate). The way I see it, everything we learn in school is a study of Him and His creation, and it seems weird to exclude him from the discussion. Obviously a faithful parent could teach these things outside of school hours; I just prefer to teach it all together. Remember, the first colleges and universities in the Western world were run by churches, taking their cue from the Bible’s open admiration of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

    * I also believe, simply, that the public school system is flawed. There’s a bloated bureaucracy that sucks up money and has no interest except increasing the bureaucracy. Worse, not nearly enough of the money that we spend on education seems to make it to the classroom. Too often teachers are underpaid *and* have to buy their own classroom supplies. I also have some issues with the basic concepts involved in grouping all of the children who were born within nine months of each other and expecting them to all learn the same things in the same order in the same way and progress at the same pace — but that’s often an issue with private schools, as well. Personally, I attended public schools K-12, and I felt like I learned more from the books I read on my own than I ever learned in the classroom.

    * Additionally, when I was in public school I saw many abuses of children with extra needs. I felt like the school system looked for an excuse to label children with whatever disorder they could, then exempt them from standardized tests (thereby raising the school’s scores), shuffle them off out of sight, and then tell them, "Oh, it’s ok if you don’t learn anything, you can’t." For example, my brother has ADHD. (So do I, but I wasn’t diagnosed until adulthood.) Instead of giving him the little extra help he needed, he was stuck in a classroom for "problem" children where he learned little and got sent to the principal for ridiculous infractions like tapping his pencil. Nearly every day. Another one of my classmates graduated high school without being able to read — no one bothered to teach her because she had a learning disability, even though she was plenty smart. Yet another of my classmates was told that her learning disability meant she didn’t even have to stay awake in class if she didn’t want to, so she slept through class most days. When I compare that to the simple things I have learned to help two of my own children who have ADHD, or the things I see friend’s children succeed despite autism, it makes me kind of sick to my stomach. (I do realize that there are good teachers and programs in the public schools who really help kids with disabilities. I just hate the way that it’s like a crapshoot — if the school your child is zoned to sucks, you’re out of luck. If this year’s teacher is horrible, too bad.)

    * Finally, I just believe that God entrusted my children to me (not the school), and that the default is for me to teach them. There are situations where I might choose to delegate that to a school, but to me homeschooling is the starting point.

  17. rn:

    i would have to strongly disagree with the majority of you. all you have to do is check out national findings of private christian school success in public university. it far out does the public school in public university. i believe if can protect your kids from evil and foster innocence and Christ's virtues at anearly age.you can take your kiids to a soup kitchen, feed homless, let them see "the world" but not brainwashed by it. 90% christians kids enter collegeonly 45% exit the university envirnment. all it takes is to look at our country. are we Christian? really? His number one attribute was Love out of Humility. that doesnt describe your average american. protect your kids from the onslought of "the worlds" lies. God guides you. so many people dont want to "push" religion on their kids…..but we force citizinship, language, culture on them….they dont get a "choice" in that. which is more important? speaking englis? knowing how to act in american culture?being an american citizen? or living in eternal fire or eternally with God…we are decieved…Jesus got angry very few times. one of them when it came to His children….."if anyone causes my little ones to sin, better he tie a tether around his neck and throw it in the ocean than to see what i have in storefor him" paraphrased.we are decieved…..innocence lost is exactly that…..lost

  18. M:

    What a peculiar assortment of comments.

    For what it's worth, I spent my entire school career, including university, at a series of explicitly Christian institutions. While they provided me with a exemplary education (if standardized test results are to be believed), they didn't manage to keep me in the fold. After four years at a Christian university, I left with my degree, but without the faith that had brought me there in the first place.

    Perhaps my experience lends credence to the suggestion that kids should (from the perspective of Christian parents) be brought up from the beginning in public schools? I don't know. It certainly doesn't offer any comfort to posters like the one above me, who seem to imagine that keeping kids apart from "worldly" thinking is a reliable means of shepherding them into Christian adulthood.

    It's impossible to know whether I'd have turned out differently if I'd been raised in the public school system. While there are certainly plenty of very intelligent people of faith, level of education beyond high school does correlate inversely with religious belief in the broadest sense, at least as far as studies indicate (which I think is what Daniel was getting at in his own rambling and obnoxious way). I don't know whether any work has been done on the connection between childhood schooling and adult adherence to a particular religion. I'm certainly curious.

    And to think that I stumbled on this blog while trying to figure out how to disable the WSYWIG editor in Squarespace. :)

  19. elise:

    Just wanted to thank you for your post! I know this was an old one, but I just came across it. We just put our 2 kids in a public school after trying to home school them. The home schooling wasn’t working for us, so we decided to put them into our local public school. It is so nice to hear from a Christian prospective someone who has been through the public school system and came out okay in the end! :-) We have lost friends over our decision and have found out the hard way how judgmental fellow believers can be. So, thanks for your encouraging words!

  20. Lynel Willis:

    ‘m so glad for your comments on this. I live in a community and have lots of Christian parents who hound me a little for not sending my special needs daughter home to be homeschooled and question if I will send my preschooler next year into the public school. We are also in the ministry, my husband being a worship leader in the area. Since Haley (special needs) began pre-K a few years ago, I worried about school being good for her vs. being taught at home, but what I found later was that it was not only benefitting her by being in the public school, but others were benefitting by being around her. She has been integrated in classrooms and she is now in the 2nd grade. The kids love her and love being with her…and it hit me one day when one of her little buddies came up to me and said “thanks for having Haley in our class…she makes me want to be better.” Earlier this school year there was a little first grader who didn’t speak one single word and she was sent to the resource room with Haley to get some extra attention. After sitting by Haley for the first day, Haley talked and played with her and before everyone knew it, this little girl began to talk and come out of her shell. Her parents expressed to me later how grateful they were their daughter could get to know Haley as she was such an encouragement to their girl.

    What I began realizing once again was we were never designed by the Creator to be sheltered and hidden away…we were called by the Great Commission to go into the world and be a light. I know our kids are facing different challenges in school that we didn’t face as children, but I think our parents thought the same thing when they sent us to gradeschool.

    If all the Christians in the world decided to pull their kids from public school and shelter them from the “evils of society” how sad it would be that we deny our kids to be a light to their friends around them and even to those who are not so friendly around them. I just had this talk with my preschooler, who told us that another child had been mean to her…we were able to use that moment to teach her that even though others are not kind to us, we can still be kind to them. It has to start at home…teaching what is right and wrong, what God says is right and wrong, being a role model for our children, being their heroes of the Faith…so that when they are old enough to spread their wings of faith–they will be able to do that and not be surprised by the evil in the world, but rather, know how to do battle and to help them know who they are when they know Christ as their Savior…Victors!

  21. yuwsv:

    Seriously? Public school, or at least secular private schools. We need to open kids to other beliefs so that they know how to deal with non-Christians.

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