Schools Of Thought: Albert Mohler & Escaping The Public School System
Over at one of my favourite blogger’s sites, Erika Haub, posted a provocative quote by Dr. Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary form his latest book, “Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth”. She found the quote at the Out of Ur blog. Some interesting discussion ensued. Inspire, another stellar blogger, Scot McKnight picked up the topic, with comment discussions sky rocketing. Here was the quote that Erika posted (but I suggest you read the larger article for context):
“I am convinced that the time has come for Christians to develop an exit strategy from the public schools. Some parents made this decision long ago. The Christian school and home school movements are among the most significant cultural developments of the last thirty years. Other parents are not there yet. In any event, an exit strategy should be in place.” ~ A. Mohler
This topic hits home for me. First of all, my Dad is a retired public school teacher, with several teachers in the family tree. I attended an excellent Christian school for 12 years. My brother spent his last few high school years attending the local public school. Several church friends were home schooled. Each of us experience wonderful strengths and inevitable weaknesses in each context.
Though the quotes from Mohler’s new book were without full context, they seemed that they fairly summed up his position with little qualification. I admit that they left me frustrated and concerned that this stance would still be put forward by respected Christian leaders. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that any suggestion of facing these issues is unimportant. Rather, I am saying that there is a deeply alarmist and escapist reaction that speaks to the issue with sweeping judgment.
I believe that every parent must consider what is best for their children. This is no small task, with many complex dynamics involved. Not only must the specific school, curriculum and teachers be evaluated, but also the age, maturity and personality of each individual child. Even the parents must ask the hard questions about their own ability to participate in the educational process. Some are able to be involved enough to make public schools a good option while other may not have the time, experience or resources to do so. Socio-economics are also a big factor. While some families make huge sacrafices to allow their children to attend private school, this is not always an option. And these are just a few of the many issue involved.
While I believe that Christian families involved in public schools are important missional presences, I hesitate to require too much of children to see school as their “mission field”. This is especially true of young children. Too often kids that are pushed in this way end up undermining the result, be it through shallow mimickery of their parents faith to please them or rejecting their faith internally as a socially crippling burden. Yes, youth should be salt and light, but only as is appropriate for their age and maturity.
And what of the church communities responsibility in this? First, rather than recommending a generalized “rule” or ideal, the church should help educate and equip parents to make the best choices, then support them through that process. Involving educators with different perspectives- by they in the public school, private school or home schooling context- is critical in this. Dialogue with public school systems, while not always effective, tends to bring better results than aggresive protests and accusations.
It is so very important for us as Christians to recognize the historical pattern of ghettoization that can result from sweeping, generalized responses that call for an escape from the corrupting influence of the “world”. Not only does the world suffer for the disappearing presence of people of faith, but the church suffers from the isolation from the world the Christ so dearly loves. It is not the options that define this danger so much as the fueling motivations and intentions behind them. Whatever happens, we need to approach this issue with grace, humility and a great deal of creativity.
What do you think?