At the risk of sounding alarmist and a proponent of the culture wars, what I write below must still be said. If you don’t want to read the entire post, here is a summative question: who is discipling your children, and are you comfortable with them being the primary influencer in your child’s life?
1. Discipleship is schooling and schooling is discipleshipPrior to the shift of American culture to the compulsory school system in the late 19th century and early 20th century, no Christian would have argued this fact. However, the bifurcation or split of the education of children from the church and Christian family for over a hundred years now has caused us to
question the validity of this statement. It no longer seems feasible to understand schooling as a form of discipleship, even though it absolutely is a form of guidance and direction, and formation. Our children’s desires are being formed every day by the adults and other children and teenagers they interact with at school. In essence, they are being discipled by those individuals they interact with the most on a daily basis. Are we comfortable with adults and teenagers with non-Christian views forming the hearts and minds of our children? As Alan Pue so poignantly asks, “Why are we surprised that when we give our children to Caesar for their education that what we get in return are Romans?
2. Every educational organization has a primary purpose
Reading the history of education and the shifting aims of those involved is fascinating. What’s most important for our purposes here is this: every educational proponent throughout history has had a primary purpose for education. In the western world, from early in the fourth century, Christian families and churches were the primary educators of their children. This lasted consistently until the late 19th century in America, when the aims of schooling shifted. The father of public schools, Horace Mann, said that they “are not Theological Seminaries” and are thus “debarred by law from inculcating the peculiar and distinctive doctrines of any one religious denomination amongst us … or all that is essential to religion or salvation.” From the outset of the modern school movement in America, the purposes have clearly been antithetical to the purposes of Christian discipleship. Much ink has been wasted noting the purposes of public schools and the attendant stakeholders there. Even in the “conservative” south, where educational purposes have been more tightly controlled in hopes of avoiding any semblance of wokeness, they are not advocating for a return to the formation of Christian disciples in school. Currently, our schools are obsessed with measurable achievement, and in middle- and upper-class circles, a neurotic culture focused on entrance to elite colleges as if life depended on it. Christian schooling is about holistic education: forming head, heart, and hands. Its aim is to teach our children and teenagers to desire God above all else. So again, I’ll close by asking, who is discipling your children, and are you comfortable with them being the primary influencer in your child’s life?