One of the challenges that parents face today, perhaps more than at any time in history, is the challenge of how to educate their children. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that 1.7 million children are homeschooled in the United States. Why homeschooling?
There are many problems with homeschooling. Many times parents do not have enough education to do an adequate job of educating their child. Homeschooled children tend to have social issues because they have not interacted with a wide range of children with other abilities and beliefs. Perhaps the most compelling reason for homeschooling is to provide religious instruction for the child. That has become more necessary in recent years as churches have veered away from moral instruction and Bible teaching while using entertainment to attract students.
In the 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Education, the main reason given for homeschooling is safety, with bullying and school shootings being a significant concern. The government report said that for 34% of all homeschoolers, safety was the most important motivation. Religious instruction as a reason, has dropped 13% in four years.
Where you live has a major impact on whether you feel motivated to homeschool your child. Shootings can occur anywhere, and church buildings have been a primary target of shooters in recent years. Unfortunately, bullying is likely to occur at any age and in any situation. As an adult, I have faced bullying by people who claimed to be Christians attempting to stop my ministry. Having been bullied as a child has allowed my ministry to survive. I learned anti-bullying skills early. Parents maintaining good communication with their children and being proactive at stopping bullying is a better solution than trying to avoid it.
Why homeschooling? There is a place for homeschooling, but “training a child in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6) doesn’t always mean withdrawing them from the challenges of life.
We continue to read and hear of abuse heaped upon various conservative and Christian groups by radical clubs and groups on university campuses. In our May 4 post, we mentioned control over commencement speeches in which valedictorians were told that they could not mention God or Christianity or their own faith. As universities give in to the radicals, they are losing control of higher education in America.
The Week magazine (May 24, 2019, page 12) published a report of Harvard University having to knuckle under to a student mob on a different issue. Ronald Sullivan is an African-American lawyer who teaches at Harvard. Sullivan is well known for representing poor clients with his most famous case being the lawsuit of Michael Brown’s family against the city of Ferguson, Missouri.
Harvey Weinstein, the man accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, requested that Sullivan work on his defense team. Sullivan accepted saying that in our system of justice, even a defendant accused of heinous crimes is entitled to a robust defense. Harvard students claimed that they were “traumatized” by Sullivan’s decision, and they staged demonstrations attacking Sullivan and the university. Harvard decided that Sullivan’s leadership had become “toxic” and he and his wife, who is also a professor at Harvard, have been banished by the university.
Turkish education minister Ismet Yilmaz has announced changes to the textbooks in that country. Starting next fall, the Turkish government will remove evolution and all references to Charles Darwin from the textbooks along with 170 other topics that do not coincide with the Islamic government views. The new curriculum to replace these topics is said to be “value-based” and in harmony with student development.
The current biology course for twelveth grade biology has a section titled “The Beginning of Life and Evolution.” It is being replaced with a unit titled “Living Beings and the Environment.” This new course will include discussions of adaptation, mutation, and natural and artificial selection without mentioning evolution or Darwin. An earlier section for an eleventh-grade philosophy class will be titled “Evolution and other Ontological Opinions.”
The situation is complicated in Turkey not only because of the influence of Islam but also because of the failed coup in 2016. The government is using the schools as a way to control the population. Included in the new curriculum are units about the groups that the government is fighting such as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.
American creationist groups that want to include their particular view of biology in education may want to look at what is happening in Turkey. The new curriculum, which is religiously based, is turning the classroom into a political football. It will be interesting to see if the Turkish government will remove evolution from the educational system without causing major civil unrest.
Sometimes I have the opportunity to speak to groups of teachers or community groups interested in public education. One of my comments in those presentations is that I know what the basic problem is in American public education. I can give it to you in a very simple personal statistic. In 1959 when I began teaching at James Whitcomb Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I had a freshman homeroom with 32 kids. Four of those kids did not have the same last name as the person who was listed as their parent or guardian. When I retired from Riley 41 years later, I had a freshman homeroom with 32 kids in it. Only four of those kids did have the same last name as their parent or guardian. Kids who grow up in a stable nuclear family have a distinct advantage over kids who grow up in a climate of change and insecurity.
I was reminded of that fact when our local paper came out on Mother’s Day with a list of the 12 valedictorians of Mishawaka High School—a large public high school in our area. All 12 of them had the same last name as their parent or guardian. Please do not misunderstand these comments. We are not saying that kids who come from homes where there has been divorce or death are doomed to failure. Many of our children turn out well in spite of us, not because of us.
The US Constitution guarantees religious freedom. At the same time, there have been constant attempts from a variety of sources to muzzle Christians and persecute those who openly profess their faith. Over and over we see Christians prevented from doing things that other religious groups or anti-religious groups are free to do. This can create a tendency for us to over-react when a problem arises.
The school board in Bartlett, Tennessee, shut down a Bible Club because of threats by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Bible Club was for first and second graders, and the stated purpose was to read the Bible and pray. When I was teaching at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, we had a Gospel Chorus made up of students that met in the school outside of class time. I was part of a before-school program where I presented my lectures to students who wished to hear them and discuss the content. When I taught at Jackson High School in South Bend, we had mini-courses where for a week during homeroom, students could choose from a variety of activities. They could listen to my presentations in Christian apologetics, go swimming in the school pool, attend a class on ballroom dancing, play basketball, or attend a variety of other classes including a class on Islam taught by a Muslim cleric.
So what is the difference between all of these cases and what was going on in Bartlett? The chorus, the mini-courses, and the before school classes were all initiated by the students. Attendance was their choice, and their parents could come and sit in on what was taking place. In the Bartlett situation, the classes were set up and taught by adults. Students did not elect to participate in the Bible reading. The teacher decided that. Adults also would lead the prayer and decide its content. At Jackson High, the students could choose whether to participate. In Bartlett, pressure on children to participate was an inevitable consequence of the program. One wonders as to who was reading the Bible, what translation they were using, and who chose what part of the Bible to study.
One of the delicate areas in our culture today is the issue of the separation of church and state. It might appear on the surface that this is a no-brainer, but like most things, it isn’t that simple. Romans 13:6-7 instructs Christians to pay taxes and obey civil authority, and in Luke 20:25 Jesus tells us “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The Constitution of the United States is clear about the government not sponsoring a religion but also guarantees religious freedom. Every nation with a state religion has had enormous problems with what evolved from that endorsement. It is biblical and logical to keep the state and religion separate.
The current crisis which appears to be headed for the Supreme Court is the situation where a church is handling an issue too big for the state and needs money that the state has available to meet the need. In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, needed to replace the gravel that was under their playground with safer and cleaner material made from recycled tires. This material was available from the state by simply applying for a grant to get the material. The state denied the grant to the church saying that public funds cannot be given to religious organizations according to the Missouri state constitution. The case went to an appeals court which had a tie vote.