Fathers Are the Key to Education

Everyone has ideas about how to improve education. Those on the political left say the public schools just need more money. Those on the right say we need more charter schools and vouchers. Libertarians and religious folk advocate private schools and homeschooling. 

But none of this matters if fathers are not around.

Fathers are the key to their children’s education. Regardless of where a child is schooled, his or her father plays a major role in education. This is because a father is the leader of his family. And the fact that this statement is even slightly controversial is a product of our culture’s indoctrination into feminism.

Fathers Are Educators

So let me restate it because it is just that important—a father is the leader of his family. And if this is the case, then a father leads his family when it comes to education. How so?

First, fathers choose where their children will be educated. Yes, parents do have a choice here. No parents are required to send their children to public school (at least not in the United States). Parents can send their children to a private school or choose to homeschool. And though both father and mother make this decision together, a father leads in making such a decision. And such a decision will impact where and how their children spend 35 hours per week for 13 years of their lives (and more if they go to college).

Second, fathers educate their children. Education is not limited to schooling. Even if a child goes off to a school for seven hours per day, he or she still has another seven or so waking hours. Children will be educated during this time one way or another—either by parents or another source. Parents have the opportunity to eat family meals with their children, have family devotions from the Bible, and take their children to church. Parents also teach their children with their conduct, setting an example for their children by how they treat others—and one another. While both parents educate their children, this responsibility is especially given to fathers. As Paul says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children, but bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

If parents do not spend time with their children and teach them, they will be educated by someone else. This someone else is often friends and television—not exactly the best substitutes for parental guidance and affection. The importance of fathers in education cannot be stressed enough. Doug Wilson has written an excellent book on fatherhood that I strongly recommend—Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families. In the chapter on education, he says,

Education, when it succeeds, is the result of a child wanting to be like someone else. If you take away the drive train, can you really be surprised that the car won’t go? Fathers are essential to any successful school system, and no system of education can successfully compensate for the abdication of fathers (p. 65).

Children need fathers for the simple reason that children are imitators. They need someone to look up to and follow after. But fathers also play a role in teaching their children the way of Christ and then guarding what they have passed on. As Wilson says, “Fathers are responsible to cultivate a biblical view of the world that comes with true education, and they are responsible to guard it against compromise and drift once it is established” (p. 67).

The Public Schools and Fatherlessness

If anyone has any doubt as to the importance of fathers in a child’s education, just look at those children who do not have fathers around at all. I think the public schools are a force for destruction in America, as they train children in atheism and socialism. But there is a noticeable difference between poor inner city public schools and wealthier suburban public schools. Everyone knows the wealthier schools perform better. Liberals often make the simplistic observation that the wealthier schools have more money, and they thus conclude that money is the big difference. Inner city schools just need more money!

Except this has not worked. Inner city schools receive plenty of money, mostly from federal and state grants. In fact, many of the large inner city public schools spend almost $20,000 per student per year! So no, money is not the problem.

The problem is that inner city families do not have fathers around. 73% of black children in the U.S. are raised by single mothers, and this number is probably even higher for blacks in poor inner city public schools. This creates an environment of fatherlessness. Kids do not have dads at home to imitate and learn from, and then they go to school with other kids in the same situation.

This explains why these schools are such a disaster. (Yes, poverty in the home is often still a problem for these families. But again, such poverty has a high causal relationship with fatherlessness. Single mothers do not usually fare well financially.) When the home life is not in order, no one should expect a child to thrive at school. Sadly, most inner city kids will not do their homework because no one at home makes them do it. There is no one at home who cares. And even if mom cares, she is probably too busy trying to work and take care of the kids.

This is not to say that everything is fine in poor white schools or even wealthier public schools. Fatherlessness plagues those schools as well, just at a lower rate. Further, fatherlessness does not require a father to be physically absent. There are many fathers who live with their children but are always gone or in the other room or emotionally distant.

This is also not to say that mothers play no role in a child’s education. Mothers play a very important role. But most children have a mother around. The same cannot be said about fathers. And until we recognize this problem, things will not get much better.

Rejecting Feminism

It is time we throw off feminism’s stranglehold on our culture, which has helped produce a society where only 46% of kids under 18 are living with two heterosexual parents in their first marriage. (Compare that with 73% in 1960.) Feminism has downplayed the importance of fathers, has encouraged promiscuity by both sexes, and has drastically weakened the family unit. Feminism has proved to be an utter disaster.

We must reject feminism and instead embrace Christianity’s teaching that God calls fathers to lead. We must call men to be men—to submit to the Lordship of Christ, to commit to their wives and children, and to lead their families in obedience to Christ.

Until we seek to solve the problem of fatherlessness in America, our children will suffer. Kids need a dad. They need him to love them. And they need him to teach them how to live.