Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Heroes, Hitlers, & Homeschoolers

I know some good people are in hard times, but getting upset by bad books in gov't schools is like getting upset by nudity at a strip club. ~RC Sproul, Jr. 

Glad someone said it. And speaking out of turn to the point of disorderly conduct is not heroism. ~Joel McDurmon 

The two brethren above offered these remarks in response to the national sensation of a man being arrested at a school board meeting. 

William Baer, the father of a teen who attends Gilford High School, was arrested during a school board meeting Monday night after he continuously talked out of turn in protest of the Jodi Picoult book Nineteen Minutes. Baer was upset the school had assigned the book –- which contains a graphic sex scene between two teenagers -- to his ninth-grade daughter without first notifying parents . . .

For the record, the book is absolute filth and it contains more than a graphic sex scene. It contains several. I know this because I’ve read it from cover-to-cover. 

You see, six years ago I too protested this pornographic book being in the local school library. (Yes, I’m that far ahead of the curve, and no I wasn’t arrested!) The librarian who opposed me (and the superintendent who stood with me) received a professional award.  

(Apparently in some circles nothing garners accolade more than peddling porn to pupils…but I digress.) 

The school board knew the book was garbage. I know they knew this because after reading 2 or 3 extracts aloud to them, they—shocked and red-faced—requested that I stop reading. Even so, they caved to outside pressures, brought to bear upon them by ominous letters from the ACLU and the ALA, and allowed the book to remain.  

However, according to Sproul, Jr. and McDurmon, I shouldn’t have been “upset” by this and there was nothing heroic in my stand. Nevertheless, I was rather “upset” and I do specifically remember being called “hero” by a few folks—and “Hitler” by others.   

(While McDurmon is likely correct that I am no hero, I recall that at the time I very much preferred “hero” to “Hitler.” But again…I digress.) 

I’m sharing my story in the interest of full disclosure: I fought against this book and my children attended public schools, as did I. Though I don’t regret these things, I realize such facts produce nothing but disdain in many homeschooling Christians.  

The reaction of certain homeschooling Christians to this story (and mine) is incredibly predictable. For many—but certainly not all—the conversation begins thus: “Do your children attend government schools or are you a Christian?”  

Yes, this is an exaggeration, but just barely. It seems for some, homeschooling is essential to their Christian identity. (I’m not suggesting this is the case with Sproul, Jr. or McDurmon.) 

But while I am no fan of compulsory education or of government schools, neither am I an advocate for homeschools. I’ve seen homeschooling done well and I’ve seen it done poorly. Furthermore, I’ve known Christian children in public schools and I’ve known non-Christian children in homeschools. The same could be said of teachers (this is disputed by some).  

In other words, students or teachers in any school may or may not have a Christian worldview. I and my children had several Christian teachers and never once did we leave our own Christian worldview at home. 

But the issue isn’t necessarily individual students or teachers per se. Perhaps we should think of the underlying philosophies of the schools. Is any given school’s philosophy godly or godless? What is the goal or aim of the institution? What type of student, what kind of mind, does it want to help shape or produce?  

It seems to me that public schools in general operate within godless parameters. Does this mean Christians are sinning against God when they work and/or send their children there? Some will offer a hearty “yes” to that question. Others are less dogmatic.  

The reality is I didn’t send my children to public school in a vacuum. We discussed the things they were being taught. Not all things were to be eschewed and not all things were to be endorsed. We applied scriptures to their subjects—even their sports. They had, and still have, a Christian worldview. 

In the end I fully support homeschooling (if done well or adequately) without denigrating those who do otherwise (if done attentively).


  1. Brother, do you really think it is denigrating to suggest that one should expect godlessness from a government school system which by law excludes God's Word? I would hope that "upset" in my tweet would be understood in context. I think nudity in strip clubs is awful. But if I act surprised by it I am at best showing my naiveté, at worst posturing to cover for my bad decision to go there in the first place. In like manner, quite apart from any discussion about whether it is wise to send ones children to the gov'ts schools, surely we can agree that we ought not to be surprised/shocked by godless schools peddling godless books, yes?

    1. No, I don't believe you or Joel were denigrating folks. I didn't intend to suggest otherwise. My closing sentence pertains to me and only me.

      Thanks for reading and thinking.

    2. Thank you brother. God bless.

  2. The problem, RC, is your assumption that nothing good can exist in a public school. Is this how you think of the public square more generally? Your other problem is that your outlook implies that believers don’t have any stake in the common life of living and learning with unbelievers. Well, I’m a (Reformed) believer and I happen to think we do, in which case there are times for admiration when things go well in the public arena and times for criticism when they don’t go so well (as in requiring porn as literature).

    Yours is a defeatist point of view and one that unfortunately allows believers to give up on the common life under the guise of piety. But how would you like it if I said that nobody should be surprised when a home schooler was just indicted for child abuse since everybody knows home schooling is for anti-social fringers?

    And when you sought membership in the PCA your views on education sure sounded legalist: “At this point the presbytery went into executive session, calling Mr.Sproul back in on two different occasions to discuss further his views on education. Mr. Sproul was asked if he believed it was a sin to send covenant Christian children into government schools. He answered in the affirmative.” Yeow, really? If your current denom doesn’t work out for you, might I suggest the PRCs where educational legalism has been institutionalized by requiring officers to send their covenant kids to denominational schools on pain of discipline—and that includes no home schooling, by the way, which precipitated the whole decision.


    1. Steve, you are entitled to your opinion about RC Sproul Jr's views on education. It does seem unfair, however, to bring into this discussion something which he was not quoted as saying and which ignores the point he was trying to make. It is true that we should not be surprised if a Government school (which is, by law, required to exclude a Christian world and life view from the classroom) does what it is required to do. I am not sure how this is a defeatist view. It is surely recognizing that what was set as the character of the school by law is what has come to be its character.

      I would hope that the surprise would be reserved for those teachers and times when (despite the law) a Christian world and life view is supported in the classroom. And, even more, when the school board encourages such teaching. This, however, is likely to be the exception in law-abiding schools. That is not defeatist nor pessimistic it is being realistic.

      Given that situation it would not be legalistic to claim that it is sinful for Christian parents (speaking generally) to send their children to such schools. Again, speaking generally, this is because parents are often too busy or tired to expend the time and energy required to undertake the kind of vetting and explanation (not to say research) which is necessary to offset the false teaching their children receive daily in the classroom.

      Even sending the children to a Christian school without vetting what is taught and taking steps to correct any errors there is sinful. As sinful, in fact, as would be the case if in homeschooling the content of what was taught was not truly biblical. The sin does not necessarily lie in the action but in the steps not taken to correct the bias of a government school. I think that is the import of Steve Griffin's post

    2. "The sin does not necessarily lie in the action but in the steps not taken to correct the bias of a government school. I think that is the import of Steve Griffin's post."

      This is a fair reading of my article in both its content and tenor. As always, thanks for reading and thinking.

  3. If you are in a community where you don't like the school wouldn't it be a better idea rather than to homeschool to get into church and work out a decent Christian education program and work on your bible instruction at church? I mean, all the effort that goes into homeschooling, if it were combined to produce a better Sunday School or whatever.....now that would be something.


    1. Thank you for reading and thinking, Jeff.

  4. Steve, I have no quarrel with you having a quarrel on my perspective on government education. I did not respond to this piece to debate the issue of whether or not it is a sin to send your children to the government's schools. My comments were asking a more specific question, is it wrong of me to be surprised when Christians are surprised when the govt.'s schools act in accordance to their official "neutralist" ideology? As for your question on homeschoolers being indicted for child abuse, yes, that should surprise us, since it is an act that flows against the broader ideology. Now if a member of the Society of Kid Haters is busted for child abuse, no, I wouldn't act shocked and surprised.

  5. "In the end I fully support homeschooling (if done well or adequately) ... "

    but WHO will bell the cat? WHO will decide if a home school is "adequate?" WHO will set the standards? WHO is ultimately responsible? My God, the Blessed Trinity? or the god of today's America, the various organs of civil government?

    1. When I think of a school's adequacy (home or public), I'm not thinking of increased civil government, standardized tests (see my link in the article "government schools") or God or gods.

      I'm thinking of the kind of mind(s) and skills being developed. The school (home or public) which produces undisciplined "Good Little Parrots" (again, see link above) who can neither think critically nor work productively is in my estimation subpar. (I believe the Blessed Trinity agrees.)

  6. RC, your question assumes something of public education that is debatable, namely that it has a "neutralist ideology," which I take to be also something of a scare phrase. How much actual experience do you actually have with public education? For those of us who have experience as students, teachers, and parents in public education, your description suggests you have very little. It sounds like the sort of rhetoric that comes from the religious sidelines which does more to whip up anti-secular sentiment among the already convinced faithful. Do Xian culture warriors ever realize how they convey more antagonism toward their neighbors than the winsomeness they so often lip serve?

    But here's the problem with worldviewers--they don't understand that ideology and human nature don't always square. And so you are nonplussed when homeschoolers foul up. Really? Doesn't your Calvinism help you to make sense of apparent conundrums of actual human behavior not lining up with pious theory? Or is your Calvinism really so superficial and two-dimensional that you need an absurd and non-existent group called the Society of Kid Haters to make sense of abuse? But a better Calvinism isn't so surprised at the conundrum, nor the mystery of how the son of a prominent Calvinist can have such a weak grasp of it.