An Argument for Christians Sending Their Children to Public Schools June 12, 2010

An Argument for Christians Sending Their Children to Public Schools

Matt Stone is a Christian. He’s raising his children to be Christians. But he sometimes receives flak because he doesn’t send his children to a private Christian school.

Matt explains why he doesn’t want to “bubble” his boys:

I say again and again to those who ask: I’d rather our boys be exposed to [other religions], when we have maximum influence over them, than bubble them away from them till they reach university, when we have minimum influence over them. We say we’d rather they learn not to be xenophobic, not to be insular, that they’d learn to live with people from other traditions peacefully, that they’d learn to discern the real differences from real neighbours rather than the clichéd differences from dusty textbooks…

Say what you will about raising kids with one particular religion, I think this is a healthy way for these kids to grow up — surrounded by people of different faiths (or no faith), learning about what other people think and why they think it, regardless of what their parents will say back home.

The discussions about religion I had in high school with friends from different backgrounds were invaluable in helping me form my own views.

These kids will be better off because of their exposure to different kinds of people.

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  • Trace

    “These kids will be better off because of their exposure to different kinds of people.”

    Me too.

  • littlejohn

    Annoying copy editor alert! A “flack” is a press agent. “Flak” is a German acronym for shrapnel, which is what you apparently meant.
    I wouldn’t have know this either, but my father was part of a World War II bomber crew. He didn’t like flak.

  • I agree with him completely. I’m also a Christian and have similar intent for my children (if/when that happens). My girlfriend agrees with me and it is actually a very common way of thinking for our generation, at least in this part of Canada. I went through public school, and I think it was definitely the best thing for me even while also experiencing a Christian home. Ultimately I did embrace that Christian faith but I did it knowing I had a choice, and the schooling was a big part of that. Even from a Christian perspective, its impossible to make a biblical argument for sheltering yourself or your children to that extent, and a lot easier to make an argument to exactly what Matt is doing.

  • Phoena

    Eh, that’s what they say, but in reality, the public schools have more extra curricular activities (specifically sports programs) that the Christians want their kids involved in. (Also, they know most small religious schools are utter crap and don’t teach much other than religious dogma.)

    Regardless I’m not making a case that Christians should all be closeted away in Christian schools. I just would like them to be honest about their reasons for believing the public schools are superior for their children than Christian schools. That, and don’t try to force religion into the public schools.

  • David W

    I was educated in a private Christian school. As a result, I am strongly of the opinion that such schools promote poor socialisation and result in negative outcomes in terms of educational achievement and future prospects in wider society.

    However, they do result in indoctrinated, brainwashed kids who rarely stray from the fold and often go into ministry or train as teachers and then return to “educate” the next generation, and that’s all the baby Jesus wants so hallelujah amen.

  • @Phoena,

    I just would like them to be honest about their reasons for believing the public schools are superior for their children than Christian schools. That, and don’t try to force religion into the public schools.

    I agree. So many of them seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too.

  • Amy

    I went to an ultra-religious school for four years (in the middle of my schooling, ages 11-15). I remember meeting some of my peers from that school at university- the ones who had been there throughout their schooling, and other than that seemed to only do things with their church (or affiliated with it). They seemed terrified by all the differences that they encountered- people with tattoos, people with blue hair, teh ghey, different political ideologies, different religions- all the things that when I was exposed to them regularly (again, at university, I was relatively sheltered too) very much helped me to mature and develop as a person. More than one of them would only associate with people in the Evangelical Union (who probably 3/4 of the university would hide from, ugh) and people they knew from school. It struck- and strikes- me as profoundly sad that they were too scared to take the opportunity to find out about people who weren’t carbon copies of everyone they’d ever known.

  • These kids will be better off because of their exposure to different kinds of people.

    More importantly, they’ll be better off because they won’t have religious dogma as part of their curriculum.

    I went to a religious school for several years before switching to public schools, and the biggest difference wasn’t the change in classmates, it was not having to take religious classes anymore.

    (On the other hand, the utter uselessness of my elementary-school religion classes what was set me down the path to atheism, so maybe he should keep them in Christian school!)

  • The discussions about religion I had in high school with friends from different backgrounds were invaluable in helping me form my own views.

    Ahhh…and look how YOU turned out… 🙂

  • Eh, that’s what they say, but in reality, the public schools have more extra curricular activities (specifically sports programs) that the Christians want their kids involved in. (Also, they know most small religious schools are utter crap and don’t teach much other than religious dogma.)

    I’m not sure this is true in every case everywhere – but it’s particularly untrue in Australia, where private schools are generally better resourced in terms of extra curricular activities. This is especially particularly active Christian schools, as opposed to church owned private schools, where parents and teachers are roped into extra-curricular activities as “ministry”. I know because my wife spent the last four years teaching at one.

    We’ll be sending our kids (if we have kids) to public schools for much the same reason as Matt.

  • @littlejohn — Fixed! Thanks 🙂

  • Whomever you will not tolerate being in your kids’ world, you do not tolerate being in the world. What does that say about religious homeschoolers?

  • Jeff Dale

    What does that say about religious homeschoolers?

    Then again, I know a significant number of homeschoolers, both atheist and theist, whose kids thrive socially (including in acceptance of diversity). They do it because their kids have unusual academic needs that aren’t served by the local schools. The parents have to work at it, but they join networks of homeschoolers with plenty of field trips and social events.

    The problem is when parents homeschool to shelter their kids (for religious reasons; none of the atheist homeschoolers I know do it for this reason). But we shouldn’t lump all homeschoolers together in this sorry, sheltered basket.

  • Eh, that’s what they say, but in reality, the public schools have more extra curricular activities (specifically sports programs) that the Christians want their kids involved in. (Also, they know most small religious schools are utter crap and don’t teach much other than religious dogma.)

    I don’t know that this is necessarily true. Often in big cities (such as the one I grew up in) the private schools have much better funding, better resources, better sports, and much, much better art/music/theatre programs.

    I went to Catholic school for 4th-8th grade. I was looking at both public and private high schools. The private schools did seem to have higher academic standards and better extracurricular activities, but I eventually decided on public school because a) private school is expensive and b) I kept hearing things from the students at the private schools (and their parents) like “Wait…you are actually thinking about going to public school? But..but why?” That’s why.

  • This is, of course, just anecdotal, but I’ve always attended public schools and I do think that it helped me realize that there are all kind of people in the world.

    Even when I was religious, it provided me with evidence that people of other religions are good people, too, so I followed a very moderate and tolerant form of religion instead of believing the bad things that some religious leaders were trying to teach about people of other faiths.

  • Dan W

    There were a few people who I knew in high school who were homeschooled or had been homeschooled. Two guys were only involved in the band, and other than that they were homeschooled. They were fairly religious and conservative, and I’m guessing their parents wanted to keep them sheltered, with the exception of being in the high school band. Another guy was homeschooled up until then, and high school was his first time in public school. Like the other two guys, he was far more sheltered than those of us who’d been in public schools longer, and he was more conservative and religious too.

    It seems to me that those students who are taught outside of public schools (in religious private schools or homeschooled) often are less tolerant of differences, especially if they were sheltered in that way by religious parents. The guys I knew who were homeschooled certainly were less tolerant of people who were different from them. They’d have been better off getting an education among different people instead of being kept away from people who are not like them.

  • Jeff Dale

    It seems to me that those students who are taught outside of public schools (in religious private schools or homeschooled) often are less tolerant of differences, especially if they were sheltered in that way by religious parents. The guys I knew who were homeschooled certainly were less tolerant of people who were different from them. They’d have been better off getting an education among different people instead of being kept away from people who are not like them.

    Again, just keep in mind that your experience was with the sheltered religious types. Homeschooling doesn’t have to mean isolation and sheltering, and for many homeschoolers it doesn’t. Public school is obviously better than sheltered homeschooling at exposing people to different ideas and different cultures, which is a good thing. But homeschooling done with a conscious effort not to shelter is more than adequate at socializing the kids. When it’s done well, it’s not just kids sitting at the kitchen table doing lessons all day. They meet with lots of other kids (and adults) throughout their days; indeed, they have more time to do so because lessons can be done more quickly without all the classroom management issues of 20-30 other kids with different learning styles and speeds.