Volume 16, Issue 3: Childer
Parents or Social Engineers?
Americans love fads, and when it comes to ideological fads we are no different. Of course, fads involve changingfirst
this way, and then that. While it does not follow from this that all change is the necessary result of faddishness, we should
remember that fads do introduce change, often in the form of the sudden, impulsive lurch.
If a man wanted to plant a vegetable garden using the latest fad fertilizer, he is risking nothing more than next year's
supply of cabbages. But if he wants to try the latest thing in ecology-friendly house-building, and forgoes the concrete in building
his foundation, then his house will fall down in the storm, and great will be the fall of it (Matt. 7: 27). Moving upward, an
even greater risk with fad-dabbling occurs when a man's children are involved. And yet many parents will try any new thing with
their children, as though they were just so many cabbages.
But children are not at all like cabbages. If something does not work out, it is not possible to try something else next
spring, starting the whole thing over. Of course it is possible to change whatever it is you are doing with them, but what you
did is forever part of that child's story.
The first five years of a child's life are foundational. And if a child doesn't learn to read properly at the appropriate age,
he will likely struggle with that problem for the rest of his life. The elementary years of a child's education are cruciala host
of prerequisites are established, without which a child will spend a good deal of the rest of his education in a state of bewilderment.
This is often granted in principle. "Yes, of course, prerequisites are necessary. Yes, of course, the early years are
important." And so on. But then the means selected by many parents to impart what everyone acknowledges as necessary are
often nothing more than some bright ideas cooked up by some fad-monger the day before yesterday. Lord Falklands once
articulated the heart of conservatism when he said that when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change. This principle is
a wise one when it comes to bringing up children. If we are resolved to do something "different" with our kids, then we
should have well-grounded reasons for doing so. And that ground is the ground of Scripture.
When Christian parents en masse began pulling their children out of the secular, government schools, they were
certainly doing something "different." That was not how
they had been brought up. Many times the difference was so stark that
other members of the family thought they had lost their minds. The public schools were the American way, and so on. But given
what Scripture teaches about the necessity of Christian education, this was a necessary change. It was often the same with
home schooling as a choice. There were no godly schools available, or there were other pressing reasons that made home schooling
a necessary choice.
But fads intrude wherever we go. Home schooling is
not a necessary choice because schools as an institution are
somehow "a Prussian invention from the nineteenth century designed to lead children into atheism." Rather, institutional schools
have been used as an instrument of nurture by covenant parents since Ezra came back with the rest of the Jews from Babylon,
and they have been used this way down to the present. That is approximately two thousand five hundred years of covenant
history, and leave it to American Christians to not know anything about it. We drink grape juice in communion services too. Schools
are no fad; they are not some recent innovation. It is in the highest degree likely that Jesus, and all His apostles, went to
such covenant schools.
Nevertheless, in periods of decline and deformation in a culture, schools necessarily participate in this decline. And it is
in such situations that godly parents will educate their children at home rather than turn them over to someone else (who wants
the corruption to be accomplished with greater ease at some central location). But the problem in this scenario is the
corruption, not the fact that the corruption was being adminstered by a hired teacher at a school. If we found out that the
au pair was poisoning the children's breakfast porridge, we should remonstrate with her over the poison, not over the fact that she had been hired
to help with the kids.
Home schooling is often a godly choice, and in our day it is frequently the
only godly choice. But homeschooling when
pursued as an ideological fad is nevertheless extremely dangerous. Whenever there is a commitment to any ideological fad, the
scriptural, historical, and educational facts do not matter anymore. The modern experiment on the children must continue, and all in
the name of what seemed like a good idea at the time.
The tragedy is that the results of what happens whenever
unteachable people set themselves up as
teachers is entirely predictable, and can plainly be seen twenty years later as their former pupils struggle with the simplest of tasks. And few things
are more offensive than to see the old and proud rob the young and helpless.