A reader kindly sent me a brochure of a Christian organisation that promotes the ‘extraction’ of the children of Christians from state schools, in order to place them in a Christian Schools or else to home-school them. I believe children are ‘socialised’ by exposure to others. Here are some points in support of ‘extraction’ and my response.
Some of the core reasoning in the well-written brochure was as follows:
1. scriptural assumptions
* ‘These words…shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise.’ (Deut.6:6-7)
N.B. Surely this refers to the Old Testament ‘theocratic community’. It also expresses the Middle Eastern cultural pattern of inter-generational family-oriented values transmission; a practice that sustained the Jewish community in many hostile environments. Surely Christians today should be ‘catechising’ their own children, rather than handing them over to the state or a faith school to do it. The Bible also urges us to: ‘Train up a child in the way it should go and when it is grown it will not depart from it’ (Prov.22:6). The Sunday School was set up as a Christian response to ‘catechise’ Christian offspring. Holiday Clubs are also an expression of this sense of Christian responsibility to the next generation. Muslims hold after-school Qur’anic classes for the same reason.
N.B. However, it seems to be a leap to transpose the pattern to western European education in the 21st century.
* ‘…every thought should be made captive to Christ.’ (2 Cors.10:5)
N.B. Surely this describes general Christian interaction with opposing ideology (religious or political) and is surely done in church gatherings and interaction with critics of the gospel. Scriptural proof-texts in support of an assumption are never enough to form a ‘biblical’ warrant.
2. ‘culture is the product of education’
Cultural anthropologists would say it’s the other way around; education is a sub-set of the culture it serves and is constructed to express it and sustain it.
3. ‘Education is a religious activity’:
I take this to mean…‘education is affected by the ideology of the one imparting it. Atheists, humanists and evolutionists are ideologies that involve ‘faith’ just like a religion. However a ‘religion’ and an ‘ideology’ are not technically the same thing e.g. Islam is a religion but ‘Islamism’ is an ideology.
4. State schools are places of godless secular ideologies:
It’s partly true that the prevailing ‘moral relativity’ is promoted in the school curriculum, however there are also many convinced Christians teachers; not to mention teachers from other faith backgrounds. In totalitarian regimes such as Marxist or Islamic, Christians have no choice but to pray their children through a state system.
It’s only natural to want to shelter our children from the ‘hidden curriculum’ of the playground (including potential bullying).
5. ‘Any curriculum has a belief-system behind it’:
This includes the curriculum of faith schools – including Christian ones. But “education” is the awareness of and social-skills in negotiating other belief-systems, whether sacred or secular. If ‘education is for life’ then children must be prepared for life in the real world with all its colour, richness and complexities (including its pitfalls). Surely to extract children from this is to put them at a disadvantage.
6. The model of Abraham Kuypur (a former Dutch Prime Minister and theologian) Kuyper founded the Free University in Amsterdam; a Christian institution with the laudable vision of ‘every area of life being brought under the control of Christ’. I’m writing in the Netherlands where I have just met a lecturer from that establishment. While he is a convinced Christian, sadly (like Yale and Harvard universities in America) Free University in Amsterdam is now theologically liberal training Muslim Imams and ‘Christian’ ministers (for liberal churches). So Christian institutions can and sometimes do lose their way.
I totally support the idea of providing a biblically-based response to the state curriculum; and supporting/training Christian parents and teachers by any means possible and the protection of religious freedoms – it doesn’t necessarily follow that ‘faith-schools’ are an expression of religious freedom (they are arguably the opposite).
We must come to terms with the “post-Christian” context. The proverbial egg cannot be unscrambled. We must not co-operate with the secularist and hive-off “people of faith” behind closed doors in ‘faith-ghettos’; instead we should support the Christian academics, such as friends of mine, who are challenging those who control the state curriculum recognise, respect and include the reality of people of faith in society.