It is obvious that American public schools are declining in academic quality, safety, and morality—and even unbelievers are getting fed up with the situation. Some are leaving the government schools and opting for home schooling. Others are staying in the public schools with the hope of reforming the system. This is a noble but misguided notion. For the problem with government education is that it is corrupt at the root. The problems we are seeing are the fruit of the statist machine. Government schools will not see genuine reform because they are foundationless. They teach an evolutionary worldview with the state as the benefactor of society. Changes can therefore only bandage the situation. In order to attain true educational reform, the entire system must go.
Some Christians are simply ignorant of what is going on in our nation's public schools. But there are many Christians who are aware of the situation. So why do they continue to send their children to government schools? The two most common reasons given are: (1) money and (2) missions. But these are bad arguments, so let me address them both.
Bad Argument #1—Public School Is “Free”
Whether they admit it or not, most people default to public school because they are already paying for it through compulsory taxation. The government taxes all of us in order to support local public schools, and we can therefore send our children there for “free.” But we know these schools are not really "free." Every time someone receives money (or a service requiring money) from the government, it is being taken from someone else.
In other words, the government is subsidizing education. Regardless of whether you use it or not, you have to fund the system. To send your children to a private school is to therefore pay double for your child’s education, once through tuition and once through taxation. This, of course, is a terrible situation. No one should be forced to pay for someone else's education, especially one that indoctrinates students into secularism.
That public schools are funded forcibly by other people's money and "free" is not a good reason to send our kids there. Rather, this is another good reason why we should avoid public schools. If you don’t think it’s okay for the government to take your money without your permission and spend it on someone else, then you should opt out of government schools. By sending your kids to their schools, you are helping fuel the system.
Yes, the alternatives to public school are not easy. Private schools can be expensive, and home schooling takes work. But it’s a question of value and principle. Do you oppose the compulsory taxation of the government for their statist agenda? Then leave the public schools. Do you value education that honors God and truly educates your children? Then leave the public schools. If we believe that God requires us to provide our children with a Christian education, then we will make sacrifices to make it happen. And surely the Lord will provide to make such obedience possible.
Bad Argument # 2—Our Kids Are Missionaries
We must also deal with the argument for missions. Shouldn’t Christians send their children into public schools as salt and light to the world? This is a fundamentally flawed argument. First, it is important to note that Jesus does not say, “Go and be light.” Rather, he says, “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). Christians already are light to this dark world, and they are not called to join the world in their darkness.
The Christian school is a light to the dark world of secular education. Unbelievers ought to see the academic and moral excellence of Christian private schools and Christian home school groups and be attracted to such education. Education is a hot topic in the news, and everyone is looking for a solution to the educational chaos of our day. Let's show them by example what true education looks like. We may win them over not only to our schools, but also to the Christ who reigns over our schools.
Finally, it must be said that the goal of education is not to provide missionaries to unbelievers. The fundamental goal of education is to educate children through moral and intellectual instruction. Our concern should then be with what type of education our children are receiving. The fact is, Christian children are not ready to be missionaries. They need an education that trains and prepares them to live as God’s people in a secular culture. You don’t send soldiers into war before training, and you don’t send children to receive a secular education when they need to receive a Christian one. Give them a Christian education as their foundation, and when they mature, they will be able to thrive as Christians in our secular culture—rather than limp along like so many of our young people today.