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Christian Children in Public Schools - Missionaries or Prey?

By Pete Storz

Before diving into this topic, I want to define carefully what it is I am and am not writing so as to reduce misunderstanding. I do not, and will not, criticize parents and families who have, relying on God's guidance, carefully prayed, considered, and prepared for their children to be active, well-equipped witnesses for Christ while they attend public school. That is a matter between those parents, their family, and God. I will and do call into question the thinking of those Christian parents who, without prayer, consideration, and preparation, send their children to public school, assuming that they will be witnesses just by being present. I also will call into question the thinking of those who criticize, in broad-brush fashion, the education choices made by Christian parents who have decided, after much prayer, consideration, and planning, to homeschool their children.

Though the wording varies some, here is the objection that will be the subject of this article: "If Christian parents withdraw their children from public schools in order to homeschool them, how will public school students hear the Gospel?" This objection is one that Christian homeschooling parents hear frequently from other Christians. In this article, I will examine and comment on the validity of some of the thoughts implicit in this objection.

Perhaps I've missed it, but I don't recall ever hearing this question asked of parents who have enrolled their children in Christian private schools. In almost every church I've attended, the church has either run a Christian private school or encouraged members to support local Christian private schools (or both), and encouraged parents to enroll their children in one. Often the pastor's children were enrolled in a Christian private school. I'm not criticizing this. Christian private school students, however, are obviously not enrolled in a public school, yet it is Christian homeschoolers who are criticized for not enrolling their children in public schools, while the parents of Christian private school students are not. All in all, its a curious double standard.

One of the thoughts underlying this objection amounts to classic, hypothetical "What if everybody does it?" reasoning. Obviously, the fact that so many Christians raise this objection demonstrates the fact that many Christians will not homeschool their children. Thus, the voicing of the objection intrinsically refutes the "What if everybody does it?" premise of the objection. At this point in time, most Christian parents do not homeschool their children, and this is likely to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. Consequently the hypothetical concern underlying the objection isn't even close to becoming true. An objection based on an untrue premise is simply invalid.

Another thought underlying this objection is the idea that public school students will only have a chance to hear the Gospel at their public school. Frankly, I think stating this premise so plainly also makes plain its absurdity. Public school students do not spend their out-of-school hours in isolation from the rest of the world. Just like other children, including Christian children (as well as Christian adults), they play in parks, visit family, friends, and neighbors, join scouting organizations and various clubs, and participate in community activities. They may even visit a church, a Sunday school, a Vacation Bible School, or a Five Day Club. So the public school is far from being the only place a public school student who isn't a believer may hear the Gospel.

The Myth of Unilateral Influence, Part 1. This objection assumes that Christian students at public schools will influence their peers, while at the same time remaining uninfluenced by these peers. People who believe this need to observe their churches youth groups and notice: the degree of conformance to whatever clothing fashions are current; how many have trendy hair styles and colors; the frequent use of current idiomatic expressions; to what music these Christian youth listen and their favorite music groups and singers. These are examples of lesser, external, hopefully innocuous, areas of influence. But these examples also point to the likelihood that Christian youth could be being more deeply influenced by their peers, more than just pop culture and fashion, to the detriment of their Christian faith. The real question Christian parents should ask themselves is, "How many Christian children are being harmfully influenced through peer pressure rather than influencing their peers for Christ?" Peer influence is powerful, and is not unilateral.

The Myth of Unilateral Influence, Part 2. Peers aren't the only potentially negative influence at public schools about which Christian parents of public school students should be concerned. Most states require that public schools teach, along with the core academic subjects, such topics as the supposed "fact" of inter-species evolution, and sex education courses that start in the earliest grades and teach the idea that Christian morals are irrelevant and probably harmful. Christian parents need to find out what is being taught at their local public schools and ask themselves, "How much spiritual poison will my children tolerate before being influenced rather than being influencers?"

The Myth of Unilateral Influence, Part 3. When a country goes to war, does that country send into battle half-trained, semi-equipped conscripts? Or does the country commit fully-trained, well-equipped soldiers into battle? Keeping this analogy in mind, how many Christian children have been properly equipped to contend with the combined pressures of peers, anti-Christian course content, and the occasional anti-Christian teacher, and to resist the temptations of chemical escapes, immorality, and atheism falsely packaged as science? How much time might pass and how much damage might be done before Christian parents discover that their children's minds have been seduced away from their Christian faith by one or more of these influences? Will the parents be able to overcome the damage that has been done to their children's faith? To how much risk is it prudent for Christian parents to subject their children?

As I mentioned earlier, this article is not taking issue with Christian parents and families who have, under God's guidance, carefully prayed, considered, and prepared their children to be witnesses for Christ while they attend public school. But how many Christian parents have actually made this investment of prayer and preparation? And how many Christian parents have really prepared their children for the challenges to their faith that they are likely to face when they enter public school?

The purpose of this article has been to examine the validity of the reasoning found underlying the objection, "If Christian parents withdraw their children from public schools in order to homeschool them, how will public school students hear the Gospel?" Along with pointing out the curious inconsistency that parents whose children attend Christian private schools don't have this question thrown at them, the premises of this objection have been shown to lack validity. Christian parents who have, relying on God's guidance, carefully prayed, thought, and prepared to homeschool their children also deserve for fellow Christians to respect their having sought and followed God's guidance for their families. And Christian homeschooling parents should no longer be subjected to having to answer the invalid objection that has been this article's subject.

Copyright © 2002, Peter Storz and Homeschool

About the author: Pete Storz grew up in Woodland, CA, near Sacramento. His family attended a Lutheran church, and for grades 1 through 3, Pete attended the private school run by that church, and public schools thereafter. Pete attended a college in Phoenix, AZ, graduating with an Associate's degree. While in Phoenix, Pete worked in a Christian bookstore and tape library, was involved in a ministry that reached out to Jehovah's Witnesses, and ran sound for several local contemporary Christian music bands. Pete moved to "Silicon Valley" to work in electronics and be closer to his parents. He met Becky in 1978 at a church, and they were married in 1980. They have three children, Suzy, Chris, and Katie. Becky first heard of homeschooling on a Focus on the Family program, and about a video seminar by Dr. Raymond Moore that was to be hosted at a nearby church by his daughter. After attending this and a seminar by Gregg Harris, Pete and Becky were encouraged to believe that they could homeschool their children. Remembering that first year or two, when support was crucial but hard to find, Pete and Becky started a support group in 1992 with a special emphasis on fellowship, person-to-person support, and helping new homeschoolers get started. Though Pete and Becky stepped down from leadership after 4 years, SELAH Christian Schools continues to assist homeschoolers in the San Jose, California area. Pete and Becky continue to publish a resource directory for San Jose area homeschoolers as well as other support activities.

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