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Concerns about our Public Schools

July 20, 2007

Before I discuss my concerns about public education and what our family has chosen to do to educate our children as a result of those concerns, let me give a disclaimer.  I make this disclaimer not because I am afraid to take a stand and thereby upset anyone, but because I truly believe what I am about to say. 

Disclaimer:  I am not a “homeschool only” or “public school only” or “private school only” mom, as are several people I have met.  In fact, given financial and governmental constraints, we have been blessed with an excellent kindergarten and first grade public school in our area.  I believe when making educational decisions parents need to take into account the quality of public and private schools in their area as well as their abilities to homeschool their children, based on mom and dad’s strengths and the personalities of the children. 

Honestly, I had hoped to homeschool my children, and still occasionally hope that it will one day be possible.  However, the unique circumstances of our family dictate that this is not currently in the best interests of at least one of our three children, perhaps even two of them.  Further, while private school might be wonderful, given the financial constraints one decides to accept when going this route, it may not always be the best option for a family if there are good public schools or charter schools (private schools funded through public education funds) in their area.

With that said…

In a complete about face of everything I used to be a proponent of, my children will be leaving the public school sector this fall in order to attend a small, classical curriculum christian school.  My mother is a retired public school teacher, and my siblings and I all attended public schools.  My brother is pursuing a Ph.D. at the moment, one sister is in veterinary school, and another sister has been successful in her career at an early age.  After graduating with honors from the university I attended, I was given a full grant to get my master’s degree in sociology.  So in terms of secular expectations of the public school system, I would say we are success stories. 

After working for a number of years, I am now a stay-at-home mom.  Frankly, it is the best job I can imagine.  Now that is about to change.  I will begin working part time this fall in order to assist with sending the kids to private school.  Why would I make such a drastic, and some might say, unnecessary change?  There are a myriad of reasons, some of which I will share below.

1.  The educational system in this country is not primarily geared to assist someone in being a productive citizen or a helpful person in our society.  Rather, it is an “all about me” approach.  By that, I mean that the individual’s success is highly prized because it brings more accolades, additional money, a better career, higher self-esteem, etc., but it does not promote godliness.

2.  American high school graduates, by and large, have memorized and subsequently forgotten a vast array of facts.  Not only can they no longer regurgitate those facts (and that goes for me also), they have never learned how to apply reasoning skills to situations outside the scope of what they learned in the classroom.  For the most part, they have not been taught how to think logically.  Very few people I know can articulately state their beliefs, much less make a defense for them.  In another post, I wrote about how our children accept at face value what they are taught.  While that was on an elementary level, its cumulative effect over time on a person’s worldview cannot be overstated.

3.  Many things taught in the public school system are contrary to what the Bible tells us is true.  Now, in a secular environment, I don’t expect a biblical worldview to be taught.  Hence, we have had moments where our kids have come home from school singing “I love money.  I love money.  I can never get enough,” because they have been taught a song about pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters in school.  Then I have to spend time (and a lot of it, because they love their teachers and tend to believe what they say) undoing this false teaching.  I remind my children that God teaches us to work hard, but that we are to be content with what we have and to be giving to the work of the church as well as those in need.  This is just one such example.

4.  Because class sizes are large and the ability of the children ranges so widely, the curriculum is not nearly as challenging as what you can get in a private school. 

5.  Not only is proper character development not taught in a meaningful way, the opposite is true.  That is, my oldest son has learned many improper things from other children in the school that should absolutely not be tolerated by the staff.  For second and third graders to be swearing, bullying, deliberately tripping, flipping off, and continually demeaning another child is unacceptable.  I realize that much of that comes from the homes of the other children.  I also realize that my children have areas of behavior that do not meet the biblical standard.   Nonetheless, these activities are not acceptable on an ongoing basis yet little is being done to stop them.  Counselors at the schools my children went to attempted to have “values of the week/month”, but the time spent on that is too minimal and particular to achieve much.  When the value isn’t taught pervasively throughout all facets of the day, it is just one more short activity that takes up time.  I am ardent about having my children in an environment that is not only academically stimulating but is also assisting my husband and I in developing their character and exposing them to what the Word of God says.

Even while I have these concerns about the public school system, there are also things I am concerned about in regards to private school.  Certainly, there is less financial freedom in doing this.  I want to take my children to places they have never seen and enable them to discover this amazing world God has made.  I want to serve in an orphanage during the summer and take mission trips to several areas of the world where I am particularly burdened to see people come to Christ.  These things, apart from God’s providential hand blessing us in a way that is currently unknown to me, will be difficult if not impossible to do.

An additional concern is that my children will be encapsulated in a world that shares my worldview.  They are in their early years.  As they are not all believers, I do not expect them to be full-fledged evangelists, although God can use anyone who shares His story.  So, this idea that we see freqently mentioned that families should stay in public schools in order to be salt and light in a lost world does not hold a lot of water for me at the moment.  However, I do want to make sure they are prepared for “living in the real world,” hence my concern about never being exposed to people who think differently than we do.

While in Kentucky, my husband and I met many seminarians who had gone to Christian schools from first grade through college, and could not even think articulately about how to share Christ with an unbeliever because they could not comprehend how non-Christians think.  I want my children to be able to know what they believe, why they believe it, and to be able to share that with a lost world.  I believe the classical curriculum will help provide that ability, but I will also be keeping an eye on how my children are developing in this area.

Overall, though, we have prayed and researched, and we believe leaving the public school system is the best route for our family to take.  All of my children will benefit academically, and I will receive a partner to assist in developing their character and worldview.  I am very excited about this change for our family and am thrilled with the school our children will be attending.  It is such a blessing to know our children will receive training for godly success…a far more worthy achievement!

Let me know your thoughts on the public school system in America and if it can be meaningfully changed.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. sphyrnatude permalink
    July 20, 2007 4:12 pm

    I pretty much agree with the points you have made. Aboutthe only disagreement is the whole chritian bent. I can understand that this is a driving force in your decision, and I respect your dedication to your faith. However, all of the issues you have brought up are also relevent to non-christians.

    While we may not be concerned that the schools are not teaching “christian values” (my term), the underlying issues are relevent, regardless of religion (or lack thereof). I don’t know a single parent that isn’t concerned abut some aspect of the social environemnt in the public schools. This also true tof the curriculum – “what the bible tells us is true” is not the part that I have aproblem with, but the underlying ethics, ideals and mores – your moeny example is a great one.

    The concerns you have about privte schools are also very real. The more different viws and experiences you ca expose your children to the better off they will be, and the more they will appreciate whet they have (both spiritually and financially). By moving into a private school, you will greatly truncate their exposure to other views. Travel – be it “vacation”, “missionary”, or “volunteer” all present excellent opportunities for both you and your children to experience other cultures and other world views. I would very strongly recomend spending at least a month or two doing something in the third world. If you have not been there before, it will drastically change the wqy you view the world, people, social intitutions and the luxury of living in the first world. The same goes for your children. It’s very hard to cmoplain about not having an Ipod when you personally know families that are literally starving.

    I guess the bottom line is that I think you are doing the right thing. While the details of some of the reasons are slightly different for me, the underlying issues are the same.

    By moving your children into a private school, you have to accept the reponsibility for making up for what theprivate school cannot offer, but the same is true for the public schools. In many ways, dealing with public school students is much more difficult, because you have to actually un-teach them what they have already “learned”.

    Congradulations, and good luck.

  2. Slava Bogu permalink*
    July 20, 2007 5:05 pm

    Sphyrnatude,

    I understand that we are not coming from the same spiritual viewpoint, but we do have some thoughts in common. I have had the opportunity, although my children haven’t (at least at an age where they can remember it), of spending weeks in a third world country. You are right when you say you can’t worry about having the latest gadget when you have seen so many without what they need to survive. I came back with a different sense of what “need” is, thinking I would never be that materialistic again.

    Unfortunately, a few years back in the good ole U.S.A. and I am right back in the same rut of life. Maybe I need to go every year??

    It is a wonderful thing to live in the U.S. and be able to go to school and learn to read, write, etc. I know many around the world do not get that opportunity. Unfortunately, I often think we are wasting that opportunity.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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