What about Christian schools? Isn’t that a live option in terms of education choice? Sure, just like public school and homeschool are live options for families. It is one option on the table. But is it the best? Sometimes, but not always.
When it comes to forming your kids according to Christ’s teachings, Christian schools are not a silver bullet. Christian school may be a part of the solution, but it is not a panacea. There are lots of ways formation happens, and doing it deeply as parents takes intention and constant attention.
A few things to consider:
First, not all Christian schools are created equal. Just like not all public schools are equally bad, not all Christian schools are good for proper formation of the next generation.
Some have crossed the line in regards to what they teach and how they form, some recently, others a long time ago, some will in the future. Some are up front about this, but most pay lip service to the truth, but undermine it in their actual day to day discipling. Examples are legion, and this tends to be the way the wind is blowing. Avoid these schools. To find the “true blues” from the pretenders, don’t just look at their statement of faith. Most of these tend to be pretty standard and anodyne. You must get a good gauge of what happens on the ground in the day to day, both at the admin level, curricular level, teacher to student level, and the student culture as a whole. That kind of look is possible to get, but hard to come by. For the schools that are true blues and are staying faithful in their formation of studentsl--are they preparing students to hold the line at great cost to themselves? Are they making disciples who can persevere when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, and when such a commitment costs respect and cultural cache? Are they preparing disciples who are ready to live out, follow, and sacrifice for the Truth? Or is it simply the “success” model of education, that trains students with an eye to college and career, climbing the success ladder at work, and gaining esteem and prestige in our culture, with a thin veneer of Christian justification sprinkled on top? Those things are good, but far too often, Christian schools make them the focus, rather than living within the Truth as the focus. To answer this question, again, don’t pay attention to what administrators say when the cameras are on, for example, the vision/mission on their website, which all tend to be pablum, just like the statement of faith. Pay attention to the day, in day out. Now and more in the future, being faithful to the permanent things is going to cost us success, respectability, reputation, and much more. Are the true blue schools and families really preparing students to face that faithfully? I can’t answer that, but it is a question that all true blues and families should really wrestle with. I recently read Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance’s autobiography of his spiritual journey. That is a great example of my point here. There was a point in time when Vance was in college where he became a thoroughly secular atheist. He admits in the piece that this wasn’t something he reasoned to so much as something he put on to go along. Secularism was the zeitgeist among the smart people he wanted approval from. God just wasn’t taken very seriously by hardly anyone in his social circle, and because he was chasing meritocratic success, he intuited that he needed their approval to be able to move through society like he wanted, so he, likewise, donned their secularism. Though he couldn’t see it at the time, he can see it now in hindsight. A lot of Christian kids are like that, and many Christian schools don’t prepare them well and thoroughly to be able to resist that pull. Here’s the primary reason, though, that Christian schools are not an automatic “fix:” the school is a key discipler, but definitely not the only. Other things catechize too: music, TV, screens. Even if you keep a watch on all this, their friends’ parents might not, and they can be getting it from them too. This goes far past using foul language, exposure to glorified nihilistic violence, or pornography, etc, all the obvious things we tend to associate with those sources, and goes straight to the fundamentals--anthropology and what it means to be human. In a lot of ways, by giving your kids a smartphone, they can technically never be exposed to any obvious anti-Christian ideas, and still be thoroughly catechized in a secular therapeutic mindset just by the nature of the tool and the apps they are on. It’s not a tool, and its not neutral. It’s like Winston Churchill said: we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us...with screens, that is the reality times a thousand. Moreover, we’ve all heard stories of kids who went to good Christian schools, but the student culture was one of deep and rank hypocrisy. That can be a stumbling block and turn off, maybe even more than a secular education, in some instances. Lastly, a Christian school for many kids and families can be part of a social bubble that shelters kids from challenge, and can therefore easily pop when (not *if*) they get out into the world. It need not be that way, but it can happen. That doesn’t mean that public school is the automatic and only antidote to the bubble--it simply means families must be intentional, like in all things, in innoculating, not sheltering. The point of all this is that sending your kids to a Christian school doesn’t give you a reason to relax. You are still the primary educator. You still must stay on top of things and actively disciple your kids and form them. You cannot sit back in the comfort that your kids are being educated by a good school. Even if that is the case--and sometimes it’s not--a Christian school is not a cure-all for the influence of a secular culture. And guess what? Homeschooling is not a panacea either! It can be done in poor ways, and it is not a cure-all for the influence of a secular culture either. The salient point in all this is that education--school--is *one* part of the larger discipleship/formation pie. Granted, it is an awfully big piece, but there are other considerations too. The key is what is perhaps an evangelical buzzword (for good reason!): "intentional." Purposeful. Decisive. Thoughtful. You must put a lot of sweat equity into wrestling with the question and coming up with a plan, then you must act, and keep it up, for the long haul. That is something that all families--public, private, and homeschool--must take seriously. That will look different for families in each situation, but this is no time for anyone to rest on laurels.