Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, is right about a lot of things. But he is wrong about private Christian schools. This can be seen in his answer to a recent question posed for Dave in his newspaper advice column. This piece is titled “Private school is busting savings”:
Our three kids are enrolled in a private Christian school. It’s a great place, and we truly believe our kids are getting a wonderful, faith-based education, but the tuition is pretty expensive. We’ve already had to start digging into our savings to make this happen, and the kids are only in elementary school. Should we keep them enrolled, or should we transfer them to public school?
I understand wanting your kids to get the best education possible. Private schools can provide some advantages academically, while a good Christian school might offer spiritual advantages. But the bottom line is this: If you can’t cash flow it, you shouldn’t do it.
All of my kids went to public schools, and they are good, moral people and strong Christians. In the process, they learned how to interact with people of all faiths, no faith, and how to display their faith and beliefs adequately in their personal lives and in the marketplace.
The truth is, you’ll find great things and bad things in any school, private or public, Christian or not. And no matter where your kids go to school, as parents, you still have to teach them about the world — the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. Life can’t be lived inside a protective bubble.
"Great Things" in Public School?
Dave’s general advice is correct that if you can’t afford a private school, then you should not send your children there. But Dave is wrong in suggesting that public schools are a reasonable option. The woman wants her children to receive a Christian education but is having trouble paying for it. So she asks, "should we transfer them to public school?" Sadly, Dave responds by telling her that public schools aren’t all that bad.
His reasoning? His kids went to public school and they turned out just fine. Of course, there is no mention of the specific school they attended or how long ago this took place. (Has Dave not heard about the transgender bathroom directive???) Furthermore, just because some children turn out okay does not establish the principle that everyone should send their children to public school. Dave conveniently leaves out bad stories about public schools to which many can testify.
Dave is correct that “no matter where your kids go to school, as parents, you still have to teach them about the world.” But he leaves out the point that modern public schools are a dangerous place for children and that much of what they teach is contrary to what Christian parents teach them (or should be teaching them). Children are very impressionable, and it is foolish to assume that the local public school is on par with a good Christian school. (It's a cop-out to say, "You'll find great things and bad things in any school, private or public, Christian or not," as Dave did.) Not to mention, a good Christian school will also give children a grounding in many subjects not taught in public schools, such as Bible, theology, logic, and Western history and literature.
Two Things Dave Leaves Out
If finances are an issue in funding private schooling, Christian parents have two options besides sending their children to public school (both of which Dave leaves out):
- Making financial sacrifices
Homeschooling requires that one parent stay home with the children, but it is by far the cheapest option. (Notice Dave does not even mention homeschooling!) It is the easiest way to provide a Christian education for a low cost. Private schooling, on the other hand, is quite expensive. But if parents are set on this option, they can make some serious financial sacrifices to help pay for it. Yes, most American families have some serious financial fat to trim. I'm not saying it's easy, but it needs to be put on the table as an option. Education is far more important than cable TV, a big home, fancy cars, or even an early retirement. (Again, Dave did not mention this option either.)
Homeschooling and private schooling are far better options than public schools, and most families can make one of these options happen. It may take some sacrifices, but it is worth it. It's a question of how much we value Christian education. Unfortunately, Dave Ramsey seems to have little regard for it.
So I stand by the title—Dave Ramsey is wrong. Parents should consider every possible option except the public schools!