Editor’s note: In this final part of a three-day series, WND’s Vice President and Managing Editor David Kupelian offers a penetrating and personal look at the homeschooling revolution – and why it may represent the last, best hope for preserving America as a free, independent nation.
In Part 1, Kupelian takes readers on a harrowing guided tour of education hell. And in Part 2, he shows how and why America’s public school system has been intentionally transformed into the bedeviled mess it is today.
“Why Christians don’t belong in government schools” is excerpted from the November issue of WND’s Whistleblower magazine, titled “THE FLIGHT FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS.”
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” –Deut 6:5-7 KJV
I had the opportunity a while back to interview a whole slew of teacher candidates seeking employment at the private Christian school on whose board of directors I have served for the past eight years. After a screening committee vetted dozens of applications and pre-interviewed the more promising ones, one other board member and I conducted the final grillings.
We took our task very seriously. We knew that whomever we hired, 24 precious children were going to be compelled to look up into that person’s face every single day for six hours. So the teacher had better be a work of art.
Many of the questions we asked were unconventional, designed to bypass the tendency of some applicants to “perform” for the interview – to say what they know the employer wants to hear. One of our offbeat questions, which we asked every interviewee, was this: Looking back on your own years of schooling, out of all the teachers you had, how many of them really made a lasting positive impression on you, truly influenced you for the better, inspired you to accomplish something good, opened you up to greater understanding and virtue? In other words, how many of them had real love?
Before I tell you the surprising answers, stop for a minute and ask yourself the same question. How many of your teachers, as you were growing up, had real love?
Well, virtually every one of the teacher candidates told us there had been only two or three teachers – total – that had really been worthwhile to them all the years they were students. Two or three! What of the dozens of other mediocre teachers they had to endure during their magical growth period, during their “stem-cell” years?
We also discovered that many of the teacher candidates had ended up going into the very same subject field taught by their inspiring teachers. Some of them had never before realized the connection between their teacher’s love and their own subsequent affinity for the subject. There was a mysterious transference that somehow had taken place during their mentorship with a truly inspired teacher.
Although we’re trying diligently to develop a private school where all of the teachers have this quality, where all would be remembered years later with appreciation because they had truly inspired their students, it’s a daunting task, fraught with difficulties and setbacks. But with God’s help we’re getting there, and the school’s future looks very hopeful indeed.
And of course there are many private religious schools across the nation – and new ones sprouting up every month – offering a better alternative than government education for all those souls who, like veteran teacher John Taylor Gatto, just can’t stomach public education any longer.
There is, however, what I frankly believe to be a far superior educational solution – since it has the unique potential not only of properly educating children, but of transforming the entire family as well. I’m talking about homeschooling, which is the avenue my wife and I have chosen for our own children.
The simple truth is, we love our kids more than any teacher could possibly be expected to love them. That’s not to our credit; it’s just a fact of life – they’re our children, whom God has given to us to “teach diligently” as it says in Deuteronomy. With a little diligence on our part, our children’s teachers will always be memorable to them.
The Christian homeschool movement
While not all homeschoolers are religious, Christians are unquestionably the driving force behind the rapidly growing homeschool movement in America today. Virtually all of the curriculum and moral support groups, the networking organizations, the legal battles, the publications and curriculum fairs are the passionate work of Christians who fiercely believe a de facto atheistic government school system is no place to “train up” the next generation of “warriors for Christ.”
In fact, the motivation and intensity of many committed Christian homeschoolers is strikingly reminiscent of the Pilgrims. Everyone knows the Pilgrims left England for Holland because of religious persecution. But why did they leave Holland and make the incredibly dangerous trip across the Atlantic to America?
William Bradford, one of the Pilgrims who established the Plymouth Colony and later served as its governor for more than 30 years, explained what motivated them to leave Holland, despite the freedom from religious persecution they had found there.
“Many of the children,” wrote Bradford of the English transplants, “influenced by the great licentiousness of the young people of the country, and the many temptations of the cities, were led by evil example into dangerous corners, getting the reins off their neck and leaving their parents.”
The Pilgrims saw their children were in danger of being corrupted, and for this reason they left for uncharted territory – America – where they would have the chance to create a new civilization in which their posterity could flourish, uncorrupted by a decadent and perverse culture.
In other words, the pilgrims came to America, at great cost and sacrifice, for the same reasons many Christians, Jews and other people of conscience today homeschool their children – to protect them from corruption and to give them a powerful grounding in godly principles of life.
And yet, a troubling question arises. Even though homeschooling is growing at a dramatic pace –15 percent per year according to the National Home Education Research Institute – the vast majority of American Christians still enroll their children in public schools. How do they justify putting that which is most precious to them – the lives and souls of their own children – during their all-important “stem-cell” years – into the hands of what is unquestionably an atheistic school system viscerally at odds with everything Christianity teaches?
For many, the immediate reason is economic. Like all Americans, Christians are saddled with excessive taxes and regulation. In order to keep the wolves away from the door and maintain a comfortable lifestyle, many succumb to the two-wage-earner solution – which makes homeschooling difficult, although not impossible.
Some Christians, aware that the modern public school has become a God-free zone, comfort themselves with the notion that their Christian children are bearing witness to their unsaved peers. This, increasingly, is being seen for what it is – a convenient excuse. Children are not meant to live and learn while encamped behind enemy lines.
Others feel academically inadequate to the task of teaching, or don’t think they could command their children’s attention and respect, or don’t want to be around their kids that much, or are too attached to their careers, or a hundred other reasons that seem to rule out the homeschool option.
Regardless of the outward reasons, most Christians just don’t see an insurmountable problem with sending their children to public school. But what does that say about our standards?
“Most Christians, most Evangelicals today, are very happy and satisfied if their children by the age of 18 have not lost their virginity, if their children are not on drugs, if their children are not caught up in the world,” says homeschool advocate and attorney Douglas W. Phillips in “A Home School Vision of Victory.”
“Brothers and sisters, is that the right standard for us? How low have we sunk? God would have us raise up warriors for Jesus Christ. … But this means giving them a warrior’s education. Warriors are not trained in the school system of the world. Warriors are trained separately. Warriors are trained uniquely. Warriors are trained by God’s standards – they’re taught to stand alone. This must be what our vision is. How sad if the best we can see is to simply keep our kids off of the perverting influences of the popular culture.”
However, the main reason – face it, the ultimate reason – most modern Christians turn their children over to a government school system that brainwashes them and spits on their religion is the compartmentalization Christians have evolved between their religion and real life.
Many Christians feel that as long as their kids have been persuaded to believe Jesus died for their sins that they are saved for eternity, and not much else really matters. It’s an almost irresistible, unconscious calculation we make when our concept of salvation is divorced from any real need for obedience to God’s laws. Our basic selfishness and sinfulness tempt us to believe unconsciously that, “What does it matter where they go to school or what they’re exposed to or even how sinful they become? They’re already saved and going to Heaven.”
What a shame. This is the basic deceitful condition we need salvation from, and yet we foil God’s very plan for us, and for our children, while convincing ourselves we’re embracing it.
It’s as though we’ve won the $26 million lottery – so what does it really matter if we misbehave on our day job now? Who even needs a job? We’re set for life!
That’s the secret, deceitful calculation. But on the conscious level, we think: “Well, I went through public school, and I turned out OK. So, my children will get through it fine, too. I’m not worried.”
Hey, I also went to public school, and my mind and soul are intact today. But isn’t that a sad excuse for giving our children an inferior experience when we know we could do better? And of course, as we have seen, government schools today are far more corrupting and traumatic than they were a generation ago.
Healing the past
One of the blessings of parenthood is that God mercifully seems to grant us a second chance to re-live our childhood in some ways – to re-experience traumas, to forgive, to heal the wounds of our youth, to become whole. Homeschooling offers an exquisite opportunity for this healing.
My wife Jean, while growing up in South Africa, was sent away to a Catholic boarding school at the tender age of five, where she grew up for the next five years in the hands of frustrated and impatient nuns. Her memories are mostly of outrages and injustices – like being forced to stand in the corner with the spiders if she didn’t finish her meal or committed some other imagined offense.
As she grew up, those convent years receded from her mind – but they had of course made their mark on her soul.
A few years back, while discussing whether to send our kids to private school or to homeschool them – public school has never been on the table – Jean looked up at me and said with memorable conviction: “I am these children’s mother. Who has a better right to teach them than me?” The truth of her logic penetrated my mind and pierced my heart. Today, six years later, I can say that homeschooling has been a journey – sometimes bumpy, occasionally tumultuous – but overall a wonderful, painful, well-planned, spontaneous, serene and rollicking adventure.
But it’s not just about better curriculum and protecting your kids from school shooters, lesbian poetry and jihad studies. It’s a way of life for the entire family.
I’ve watched as every family member has grown in character, as Jean and I have both filled in gaps in our own educations by teaching – and learning – history, geography, literature, science, math and more.
Jean has even forgiven the nuns for their thoughtless and cruel discipline!
But more deeply, and ultimately more importantly, the homeschooling experience is sewing our family together as a unit. For the family that learns to learn together, work together and play together is the family where the siblings become best friends for life, and their family becomes a rock – a powerful godly subculture – to which they can always return for guidance and rest.
As for my boyhood question – “Is that all there is?” – it has been answered most graciously. No dramatic visions, no 300-foot statues of Jesus – just a gentle and progressive unfolding of understanding from that “other dimension” beyond time and space. With the Holy Spirit as my compass, and guided by the Scriptures – the blueprint for our character, shown with exquisite clarity in the life and words of Jesus Christ – I hope, like every Christian dad hopes, to lead my wife and children safely toward that distant shore. After all, we’re all pilgrims.
“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
Editor’s note: “Why Christians don’t belong in government schools” is excerpted from the November issue of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine. Titled “THE FLIGHT FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS,” it focuses cover-to-cover on the ever-worsening government education system, and explores the homeschooling revolution.
Read David Kupelian’s “Important letter to WND readers.”