Saturday is my day to homeschool the kids. It is one of the highlights of my week. In addition to their learning, I learn an appreciation for what my wife takes on during the week. Though there are a number of subjects included in our homeschool curriculum, my Saturday curriculum consists of only one. It is my weekly lesson in patience. Though the historic reasons for the institutionalization of education are much more elaborate and calculated, it is easy to understand the current-day temptation to merely follow the cow path of sending kids off to test someone else’s patience for the day. The state’s “volunteering” to take on this challenging assignment can seem like a magnificent charity, if we miss the biblical charge to us as parents.
Last week I wrote an article entitled Salvation Through Government Education. The intent of the article was to expose the root of our current public education system and bring to light some of the disastrous consequences that necessarily result from a misunderstanding of the role of the state in society. When we as parents give the state jurisdiction over the education of our children, we abdicate our own God-given responsibility.
For an increasing number of people these days, this is not an issue of concern. For some it is merely the failure of the current system that has them looking elsewhere. The more self-conscious Christian community is acting on the understanding that the education of our children is not the responsibility of the state to begin with. They understand that this is a task primarily given to parents, and also to the church where additional charity is helpful.
So, the question is, how did we arrive here? Prior to the current exodus from the public school system, why did the Christian community create such an unholy alliance with the state involving our own children? Certainly the answer to this question would require much more than a simple essay, but a few comments are in order.
As discussed in my last article, R.J. Rushdoony did a fine job in discussing the salvific nature of the current system in his book, The Messianic Character of American Education. He tracked the origin of public education in America and demonstrated that its philosophical premises were completely anti-Christian. As the title indicates, he exposed the system as messianic in character and one in which America in general put her hope for the salvation of her children. To fulfill this hope, children needed to enter the system early. Hence, the kindergarten.
Emma Marwedel was a pioneer in establishing the kindergarten in California. On her deathbed in 1893 she stated, “I believe in the power of the kindergarten to reform the world.”1 For her, the kindergarten was the means for “the regeneration of the human race”.2 If the state could garner control of the general populous at this young age, then it was sure to produce good citizens.
But why would Christian’s allow this and why do many still give up the privilege of instructing their young children? This question is especially curious given that initially the champions of the kindergarten were not altogether popular among their contemporaries. The following may be difficult for some to hear, but it does provide keen insight into the answer.
“Why then, did the kindergarten succeed? The answer was and is clear-cut; the desire of women to get rid of their children. Educators have had to set an age requirement for kindergarten children, else they would be deluged with mothers trying to push very young children into their hands. Thus, kindergarten has proven to be in part a polite and oblique form of infanticide, one which hypocritical women can indulge in while getting credit for solicitous motherhood. The kindergarten movement was born out of romantic and idealistic philosophy and its idealization of the child. It prospered because women, drinking the heady wine of feminism, had come to regard womanhood and motherhood as burdensome, and lacked the honesty to say so. The nursery school and the kindergarten were thus admirable as respectable escapes from responsibility.”3
This is the heart of the matter. Education is really just another aspect of parental responsibility. For some, an abdication of this responsibility may be altogether sub-conscious. After all, we as parents inherited the system. But we need to look around before we write off the quote above as too out of line. We live in a world where many would think twice about having children if they were called to bear complete responsibility. We like the three-hour a day job of parenting. Modern-day parental responsibility consists of weekends and a couple hours each evening and morning throughout the week. The real burden for most falls on the state. Add a sports coach or two and, if you think about it, the parent’s role is a minority one. This turns the scriptural directive to parents on its head (Deut. 6:4-7, Eph. 6:4)
Education is the prerogative of the family, not the state. The parents are to teach God’s words “diligently” unto their children. The state has no children. The father is the head of the family. Specifically, the father is commanded by God to bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. “Nurture” refers to instruction. Notice that both principles from the Old Testament are repeated by Paul in Ephesians. It is the parents who have the responsibility to educate their children. That education is to be “of the Lord”.4
It is not enough to decry the failures of the current education system. It is not even enough to wave a homeschool flag high up in the air and exit the system on the basis of its current failure to deliver. In a society addicted to two-income families, a little help is in order. In a society that glorifies the state as messiah, some practical and – more importantly – some Biblical help is necessary. Christians must understand why we are called to instruct our children. We can then move to the very practical matters of carrying out our responsibility and helping others to do the same.