BreakPoint: Getting Creative with Education

Outsourcing Is Not an Option

Throughout history, Christians have been at the cutting edge of education. It’s time to reclaim that tradition.

As stories pile up of public schools teaching first-graders it’s normal to have two mommies or two daddies or hosting “coming out” events for transgender students, one might sympathize with the urgency many parents feel to get their kids out of “government schools.”

But for some, such as those lacking the time and resources for private schools or homeschooling, the options are limited. And let me be clear: There are many good public schools and many dedicated Christian teachers in those schools who deserve our support. But it’s also clear that current trends don’t bode well for public education in America.

So perhaps it’s time for the historic Christian commitment to creativity in education to make a comeback. Glenn Sunshine, a Senior Fellow here at the Colson Center, often says that wherever Christianity goes, education follows.

The examples are stunning: from the monasteries in Ireland that preserved learning and civilization after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, to the cathedral schools that reintroduced education to Europe and eventually evolved into universities, to the Brethren of Common Life that churned out some of the most brilliant minds of the Reformation, like Erasmus and Martin Luther.

Then there are figures like Hannah More, who helped bring education to women and poor farmers in England. Or William Carey, “the father of modern missions,” who helped consolidate Indian languages and facilitate education on an unprecedented scale there. I literally could go on and on.

These Christian forebears should encourage us, even as the American education system groans beneath federal bureaucracy and secular ideology intent on deconstructing reality, to join in this Christian heritage of educational innovation.

Thankfully, there are already some good models to look to and take seriously. For example, there are innovative charter schools, many of which are led by Christians. And I’ve worked with many private Christians schools over the years that are not only committed to academic excellence and virtue cultivation, but also to being more accessible. And then there are the para-educational programs that supplement school—before, during and even beyond college and graduate school—cultivating leaders, like Summit Ministries, Impact 360, Link Year at Kanakauk, plus post-graduate programs like the John Jay Institute or the Blackstone Fellowship.

Another set of options, which my wife and I are particularly pumped about, is what you might call “hybrids.” We homeschool, but we don’t do it alone. Partnering with other homeschooling families to offer a common curriculum and hold once-or-twice-weekly classes can be a powerful way to educate and still become part of a larger, like-minded community. Our daughters take advantage of both in-person and online hybrid opportunities.

But among the most exciting models are those reaching students in places where opportunities have long been scarce. The gold standard for this is Chicago Hope Academy, which boasts an unmatched record for affordable, private, Christian education in the inner-city among families that traditionally would not be able to afford any educational choice.

Now in my view, none of these emerging models are in and of themselves “the solution.” But all of them together are heirs to the rich Christian heritage we have of creativity in and commitment to education. Taken together, they’re the beginnings of a promising alternative to state-run education. And we ought be clear on this point as Christians: no matter what we use among the public, private, homeschool or hybrid options, ultimately the education of our children is a parental responsibility—one that we cannot outsource.

This is no time for guilt-tripping or judgment. Rather, we’ve got to build on this momentum, and join the long tradition of Christians educating the next generation with excellence, even if in less-than-ideal circumstances.

 

Getting Creative with Education: Outsourcing Is Not an Option

For more information on the educational options John mentioned, check out the resources linked below. As he concluded, a child’s education is ultimately their parents’ responsibility, the best reason to take it seriously.

 

 

Resources

Classical Charter Schools
  • Association of Classical Christian Schools
Kingdom Education: God's Plan for Educating Future Generations
  • Glen Schultz | Lifeway Church Resources | February 2003
Education a la Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options for Your Child
  • Kevin Leman | Fleming H. Revell Company | September 2017

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  • Christy Blackham

    My daughter in law ,who has a master’s degree was educated in a small parental co-op type school where the parents ,members of a small close knit church all taught the kids together at the church-each specializing in their areas of giftedness..Most have excelled and gone on to college .The pastor ‘s wife has an Amish liscence so no parent has to answer to the state, or do yearly evaluations.Proof that without state involvement kids can excell way beyond their peers contrary to what we are led to believe.

  • One of the answer is most definitely classical education, both the Christian variety, and the charter school variety. The explosion of classical education in the last 25 years gives me hope for our country’s future.

  • Andrew Paulsen

    As a youth pastor who is also a public school history teacher, I have a slightly different view. My concern with the explosion of the homeschool and charter school movement over the past 20 years or so is that many Christian families and teachers are removing themselves from one of the few places where “every tribe and tongue” still meet in our society: the public school. With all the ways we now are able to customize our information and social experiences, from choosing who we follow on instagram to filtering our news sources to picking our tv and movie lineups, there are very few common experiences for people in our culture. We aren’t a melting pot, not even a salad bowl in many ways as country. Public school is one of the last common places in America, the agora that Paul used so effectively to reach new people in the Greco-Roman world. Now yes, Christian teachers have their hands tied. Yes, kids excel at great level in the homeschool and private school world, as well as in charter schools. But the cost of all these individual success stories may be a more and more lost neighbors. Christ asks us to sacrifice to love the world around us, what if individual academic success was one of those things we need to sacrifice to love our neighbors? How cool would it be if many kids at school had Christian friends who were classmates. How cool would it be if schools had tons of Christian teachers. At my public high school, we still have a lot of Christians, and that has an impact on the local culture, the school environment. Schools across our country need loving, patient dedicated teachers. Christians would be great at filling that need and being a light to so many unbelievers. Daniel and his buddies served in a pagan government effectively, shouldn’t God’s people be able to do the same today? One of the problems of the monastic movement in the dark ages was that so many trained Bible teachers removed themselves from their community. Those medieval towns needed priests who were with them, not hidden behind the walls of the monastery. Could the homeschool/charter school movement be a modern monastic movement? A removal from the culture? I think a good question for many families is what is your motivation? Is it fear? Is fear a good enough reason? If you do homeschool or charter or go private, how are you engaging the people in your community who aren’t believers and modeling that for your kids? Our churches need our young people who aren’t afraid but confident in their ability to engage the culture around them and to live out their faith in a visible way.

  • Steve

    Classical education in a Christ-centered environment is the model that The Oaks Academy in Indianapolis is built upon. It is based on the teaching of Charlotte Mason. Latin starts in 3rd grade. All classes are infused with relationship to God. Personal responsibility is stressed. Socioeconomically diverse. The reading list for 7th grade this year includes The Epic of Gilgamesh, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Odyssey, A Pilgrim’s Progress, Till we Have Faces, The Lord of the Rings, Beowulf, Oedipus Rex etc. Truly amazing and a good template for others to emulate.

    https://www.theoaksacademy.org/

  • Nick Stuart

    A key indicator of how seriously a church’s pastor and senior leadership take the responsibility of bringing up the next generation of Christians is the extent to which they actively encourage and support private Christian education however delivered (homeschooling, church school, independent private Christian school).