Four Advantages of a Christian School
A parent who sends his child to a public school may assume that he will be immune to the ungodly side of his education. But Scripture warns,
Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.
Years ago, my wife and I asked ourselves how we could give our own children a proper education. We decided to put them in a Christian school where we ourselves served on the faculty. Since then, we have spent many years teaching in Christian schools. We have worked in Christian education because we ourselves believe in it. We are convinced that children should attend a good Christian school not only in grades K-12, but beyond as well, since their experience during college years will be critical in forming lifelong values. A good Christian education serves the spiritual welfare of children in four ways.
1. A good Christian school does not teach the contemporary "isms" hostile to Christianity.
These "isms" are all varieties of humanism, the world view which assumes that man is the measure of all things—that he can determine what is good and true without help from divine revelation. Humanism ultimately derives from Satan's lies in the Garden of Eden. Some of these "isms" are as follows:
- Evolutionism. Building on the theory that man evolved from simpler life forms, evolutionism teaches that man and society will continue to evolve, eventually coming to a glorious utopian future. Evolutionism undergirds the modern myth of human progress.
- Situational ethics, or cultural relativism, or pragmatism. The philosophies within this subdivision of humanism teach that in a given situation, "good" is whatever works—whatever achieves a desired result.
- Behaviorism. Behaviorism teaches that man is basically an animal.
- Socialism. Socialism teaches that to overcome the ills of human society, government must usurp or limit the responsibilities which God assigned to the family or the church. Socialism is government by Big Brother.
- Existentialism. Existentialism teaches that the meaning of life is unknowable; that all we know for sure is our own existence; and that the only purpose of life is to assert and actualize ourselves. Existentialism puts self at the center of all and supports "me first," the principle at the basis of modern theology and psychology.
2. A good Christian school emphasizes the most important subjects.
The following list shows the correct priority:
- Bible. The Bible is the revelation of God's will to man. A good Christian school teaches the Bible and Biblical values in every course.
- Language. Language is the medium by which we comprehend and communicate God's will.
- Music. Music is God's appointed medium for private and collective worship. We will sing in heaven, but probably we will not do math. As far as most students are concerned, it would not be heaven if we did.
- Other academic subjects. The main subjects in this group are math, science, and history.
- Applied subjects. Homemaking, computer skills, and secretarial skills belong to this group.
- Extracurricular activities. These easily usurp the place of more important things. A common fault of both public and Christian schools is an exaggerated emphasis on sports. But the Bible says,
. . . Bodily exercise profiteth little: . . . .
1 Timothy 4:8
3. A good Christian school offers good academics.
My wife was a public school teacher for ten years. Toward the end of this period, before she left to become a teacher in a Christian school, she was assigned to teach a course in which students could get credit for reading comic books. In some public schools, no student receives any grade lower than a B. It is doubtful that public schools will ever reverse their downward slide enough to compete academically with good Christian schools. The reason for the superiority of good Christian schools is that they use time-tested traditional methods modified and enhanced by Christian values.
- A good Christian school particularly excels in its methods of language education.
- To teach reading, it uses phonics rather than the "look-say" method favored by public schools. The latter method, which has the child memorize each new word rather than sound it out, is the brainchild of behavioristic psychology. The psychological idea underlying the look-say method is that the learning of higher mental processes is fundamentally the same as the conditioning of simple reflexes.
- A good Christian school teaches grammar. Mastery of grammar is essential to clear thinking and writing. It is essential also as preparation for learning languages other than English.
- In math education at the lower elementary level, a good Christian school emphasizes drill of the number facts, and in the upper elementary level, it builds more advanced skills, often by requiring their exercise to solve word problems that develop critical thinking. In my algebra class, more than one newcomer from a public school background has pondered "7 x 5." No wonder such students could not handle algebra. Recently, when questioned about the math incompetence of American students relative to students in many other countries, one prominent educator opined that we need to introduce advanced concepts sooner. How foolish! What today's children lack is a good grounding in the basics. In the name of "new math," the elementary math curriculum was long ago reworked to minimize the basics and to spotlight set theory (an abstract system of marginal importance). But new math has been a failure. It so confuses and bores children that they learn to hate math. A good Christian school rejects new math and presents advanced concepts only when students are ready for them.
- Another ingredient of a Christian education is homework. Studies have shown that the single most important determinant of how far a student progresses in a given subject in a given year is not his teacher, his curriculum, or his motivation. It is the amount of work he does. Obviously, instructive work is more profitable than busywork.
- Whereas music education is neglected in modern public schools, a good Christian school gives music an honored place in the curriculum, and it uses proper methods to teach music. It builds musical skills on a foundation of traditional and classical music.
- The last ingredient is discipline. The classroom must be a place where the moment-by-moment focus is upon learning. Obviously, learning is hindered by unruliness among students. The most effective teachers maintain good, but not stultifying, discipline. That is, they require students to listen attentively, but not to sit at attention.
The result of all this? A good Christian school may not offer a course in basket-weaving, but it does offer an average achievement level at least a grade above that in public schools.
The spiritual benefit of a good academic education is that it yields an appreciation for excellence in all areas of life (Phil. 4:8). It instills a capacity for hard work and discipline—someone lazy in school will probably never work hard for Christ (2 Tim. 2:15; 2:3-6). And it produces an ability to think critically, which is essential if a person is to read and understand the Bible and if he is to detect all the subtle forms of doctrinal error (Heb. 5:12-14).
4. In a good Christian school a child enjoys the teacher's personal attention.
This attention not only helps him learn subject matter, but also sets him an example of Christian love. One of the teacher's overriding objectives is to show the children how to treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Comparison of Church Schools and Home Schools
Let me make one last comment about Christian schools. In His message to the church at Laodicea, the Lord expressed annoyance at their complacency. He wished that they were hot or cold rather than lukewarm, but since they were lukewarm, He threatened to spew them out of His mouth (Rev. 3:14-22). We can imagine what the Lord must think of a bad Christian school. Since it is worse to be lukewarm than to be cold, a bad Christian school must be worse than a bad public school. A bad Christian school can be a spiritual death trap. It can be the devil's tool to weaken the resistance of godly young people to negative peer pressure, and to harden worldly young people against the truth. My advice to you is not to send your children to a Christian school unless it is uncompromising in its commitment to academic and spiritual excellence.
Unfortunately, a good Christian school is hard to find. Most Christian schools are controlled by the pastor of a church. Desirous of steady growth in all ministries of the church, he may admit almost any student who applies. A school with an open-door policy is, however, soon overrun by students with bad attitudes and worldly habits. Many among them may not even be saved. The effect on students from good homes may be ruinous, for, as Scripture says,
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
1 Corinthians 15:33
In recent years, many Christian parents have decided to educate their children at home. Homeschooling permits their children to receive a Christian education, while sparing them from the negative peer pressure found in many traditional church schools. To make a home school succeed, however, parents must exert good discipline over themselves and their children, or else little will be accomplished. Also, when the subject matter stretches them beyond their limits, parents must seek outside help, whether from books, videos, or qualified teachers. A traditional church school can help home schools in its vicinity by serving as a diploma-granting agency for students who meet certain reasonable requirements.
Yet there are serious disadvantages in homeschooling when compared with a good Christian school.
- The chief is that children are deprived of a heterogeneous social environment. Especially during the teen years, it is important that young people develop their social skills by dealing with different kinds of people in positions of authority and by interacting with a broad range of peers. A life largely confined to staying home with mommy is especially stifling for teenage boys.
- There are significant correlations between the IQ, years of education, and years of experience of teachers on the one hand and the academic achievement of students on the other hand. A homeschooling parent must realistically assess his own competence before depriving his children of formal schooling under highly qualified teachers.
- The tendency of home schools is to become very lax in their demands. In many, students spend far too little time in class, are allowed to sit through instructional videos without paying close attention, and are not held accountable by means of appropriate tests and grades.
- The best teaching method has always been the so-called Socratic method, which refers to dialogue between teacher and student. This vitally important tool will be hard for a homeschool parent to employ effectively if he is not, by professional standards, a good teacher. It will be missing altogether if instruction is limited to videos.