Book Review: Excused Absence (Wilson)

Where to educate children is a topic of debate among Christians today. But there is good reason people argue over this topic—where and how a child is educated has a significant impact on his or her life. Excused Absence: Should Christian Kids Leave Public Schools? by Douglas Wilson deals specifically with the subject of public schools. Wilson makes the case that Christian parents have the responsibility to provide their children with a Christian education, and he argues that this cannot be done by modern government (public) schools. Wilson appeals to the following passages from Scripture:

“You shall teach [these words] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:4-9)

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”  (Matt 22:37).

Wilson argues that education is not neutral. Government schools may claim to be neutral, but they are actually secular and anti-Christian. Government schools prohibit a Christian education, for even if teachers are Christians, they cannot talk about God or pray in the classroom. They are required to leave God out of education. But as Wilson says, “When God is excluded from the classroom, we are not merely remaining silent about God. We are teaching children that they may safely disregard Him” (p. 62).

Some Christians want to “reform” the government education system, but that does not solve the fundamental problem of government schools: “they are based on institutional agnosticism” (p. 13). Government schools are indoctrinating children into a non-Christian worldview, and they are teaching children that God is irrelevant. This is not to mention the anti-Christian teachings found in public schools—naturalistic evolution, pluralism, same-sex marriage, feminism, immoral sexual ethics, ad nauseum.

Some may respond that parents should help their children filter through what they are taught at school. But children are not able to do this—that’s what education is for. You don’t send a soldier into battle before training him. Children first need to receive a Christian education so that they may be trained and equipped for a world that is hostile toward their faith.

Government schools cannot provide children with such a Christian education. As Wilson says, “Christian parents who send Christian children to government schools when those children are uneducated and unprepared are rendering to Caesar what is God’s” (p. 60). Wilson’s answer to the subtitle of the book, Should Christian Kids Leave Public Schools?, is thus a resounding “yes.” This is surely a hard word for some parents to swallow. If that is the case, this is a book you should take up and wrestle with.