Schools Can’t Be Religiously Neutral Either

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.
-Attributed to Martin Luther

Whenever American Christians complain about the exclusion of the Bible or Jesus from our public schools, there are always a few cleverer Christians who raise a very good question in response: Do you really want public school teachers telling our kids about God?

It represents a genuinely compelling argument–and I’ll admit that it’s one I’ve made myself. First and foremost, there’s the public schools’ track records of teaching per se. It’s pretty hit or miss even when it comes to things like reading and math. It’s not like we could expect better results from teaching Christianity. But beyond that, there’s the matter of the beliefs or lack thereof of the teachers.  Do we really want teachers who hate or egregiously misunderstand the Bible to teach the Bible? Atheistic teachers? Theological liberal teachers? Muslim teachers? All in all, it does amount to a recipe for inevitable spiritual malfeasance.  Putting God back into contemporary public schools is a terrible idea.

But clever questions shouldn’t be conversation stoppers, but conversations starters. And so I’m going to ask another clever question in response:  If our only choice for the public schools is between teaching nothing about God and teaching errors about God–between teaching atheism and teaching heresy–are public schools really a good option for Christian parents in the first place?

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as religious neutrality–even in schools. At its theoretical best, you’ll be teaching the kids that God has absolutely nothing to do with anything. But in practice, it’s even worse because nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of true teaching about God, myth will inevitably take its place. And this is already well underway in our supposedly secular schools. In terms of morality, they have long been promoting gender deformity, sexual debauchery, and abortion. They teach the secular eschatology of dire prophesies that the world will end in fire in 12 years if we don’t repent. Sometimes, they’ll even have kids confess the creeds of other religions like Islam as part of required assignments. Atheistic schools could never last a long time–they will always become pagan schools in short order.

But the question doesn’t stop there either. Sure, pagan public schools are poor places for Christian children, and barring exceptional circumstances (e.g. severe disabilities that almost no private Christian schools will adapt themselves for), they’re bad choices for Christian parents. But surely that raises yet another question: are these good endeavors for Christian voters to support? Inasmuch as we have governmental influence, should we really be using it to support pagan schooling? If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then surely we wouldn’t want to maintain and support “gateways to hell” for our fellow citizens to blithely send their kids through.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christian nationalism lately–in which a Christian nation governs itself according to the wisdom provided by their faith. It seems to me that such a nation wouldn’t be choosing between atheistic public schools and heretical public schools in the first place. On the contrary, they would be choosing between Christian public schools and no public schools.  Could teaching the Bible  be less impossible than we think?  Maybe, maybe not–I remain highly skeptical about the proposition.  But if the clever question really is a show-stopper–if Christian public schools are really an impossibility–then we should be looking for ways to educate altogether apart from such schools.

American parents outsourced their roles as educators to schools.  Nothing says that role can’t be returned to us–especially in an age with the kind of educational options we have today.  Certainly, that goes for our own families first and foremost; but in the long run, we should be considering that for our nation as well.

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One Response to Schools Can’t Be Religiously Neutral Either

  1. Matthew Etzell says:

    I am glad to see someone else who understands the situation. Personally, I favor abolishing public schools altogether. Now, since simply closing the public schools without a ready alternative in place would cause chaos, here is my proposal for how to transition to a fully private system.

    1) Transfer ownership of each public school from the government of a particular jurisdiction to the taxpayers in that jurisdiction. Issue equal shares of stock in each school (not the school system as a whole) to the taxpayers, and subsequently allow these shares to be traded like any other stock. While one could attempt to devise a system that is more just by issuing shares based on each taxpayer’s tax burden relative to overall revenue over the past [X] number of years, I think that this would likely lead to endless litigation over what, precisely, each taxpayer is owed. Therefore, I am opting for the simplicity of issuing an equal number of shares to each taxpayer.

    2) Subsidize all schools (formerly government-owned or not) on a dollar-for-dollar basis, but gradually decrease the amount of the subsidy over time until it hits zero. Under this system, the child’s parents would pay the first half of the child’s tuition out of their own money, then the government would pay the second half of the child’s tuition out of tax revenues. However, the percentage of tuition paid by the parents would increase over time until it hit 100 percent, with a corresponding decrease in the percentage of tuition paid by the government. I would suggest +/- 5 percentage points per year. In year one, the parents would pay 50% and the government would pay 50%; in year two, the parents would pay 55% and the government would pay 45%; in year three…; in year 11 and thereafter, the parents would pay 100%. Alternatively, one could accelerate it to +/- 10 percentage points per year, and have the parents paying 100% starting in year six.

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