Why It Is Important To Be Aware And Deliberate About Your Child’s Education

The Immediate Danger

There is much to bemoan about Twitter as a social media platform. There is much to bewail about social media, which task your dutiful servant has performed in this space. Nevertheless, there are some benefits. One of them is that one can discover information there that one might not see elsewhere. One thing I have learned in recent years is how dangerous your local public school is. I am not thinking about school shooters (although that danger remains), or about bullies roaming the halls (although that is a real problem), but about staff, teachers, and administrators who prey upon students. I am not alleging that every staff member, teacher, and administrator is a sexual predator but I am saying that the evidence is clear that there are a shocking number of sexual predators in the ranks of the public schools and little is being done about it. I learned this because I stumbled across a Twitter feed called, Leave Public School. It is a remarkably useful feed. The administrator harvests and publishes news reports about public school staff, teachers, and administrators who have been arrested, charged, and/or convicted of assaulting school children. Here is just a sample:

  1. Hempfield teacher charged and resigned after alleged inappropriate messages with student
  2. Former Indiana teacher, basketball coach charged with child seduction, possession of child pornography
  3. Highland Teacher Arrested for Sexual Exploitation
  4. CNY school bus driver charged with DWI while driving bus carrying students, troopers say
  5. Wabash MSD teacher charged with child seduction, possession of child pornography
  6. Desert Oasis coach arrested on attempted sexual misconduct charge, CCSD police say
  7. Whitfield County high school teacher charged with child molestation

This list would be disturbing had it been compiled over the last two years but it was not. This list is from the last two days: January 20 and 21, 2022. This is an urban phenomenon and a suburban phenomenon. It happens in big city schools and in “safe” small towns. It is widespread.

Were seven stockbrokers charged in the same time period with these crimes, the headlines would be in 44 points. There is local media coverage of these stories but relatively little national coverage. Why is that? The teacher’s unions are very powerful politically and the national media is ideologically committed to the public school regime. They do not report these trends because it would damage a favored cause.

These stories may not interest the national media but they should interest you. It could be your child, your grandchild, or your nephew or niece being harmed and it is not going to stop any time soon. The system is thoroughly broken at every level and in every county in the USA.

Why do I highlight these stories? I do so, in part, because article 14 of the church order in my denomination, the United Reformed Churches in North America, says, in part, that one of the duties of an elder is to “promote God-centered schooling.” By calling attention to what is happening in public schools across the USA I am hoping to alert Christian parents to the necessity of being prayerful, thoughtful, and deliberate about the educational choices they make for their children.

Everyone Has A Grid

A second reason I highlight these issues is to help Christians see that the way one (e.g., an educator) looks at the world matters. The rise in child sexual assault and other crimes against children in public schools is not random. It is the product of a way of looking at the world. Everyone has a way of viewing the world. That way of looking at the world is a matrix, a grid, a lens that is composed of beliefs about the nature of things, about humanity, God, truth, reality, and morality. The public schools might once have been a largely a conserving institution in society but it is that no longer. Those who run the teachers colleges, which train future teachers and administrators, and those who run the school systems mostly see the school system as an engine of social and even spiritual change. That change does not include helping children to see the world and themselves as God would have them see it.

The state of education was predicted decades ago by thoughtful observers (e.g., Jacques Barzun, 1907–2012 and Mortimer Adler, 1902–2001). Now that parents have had an opportunity, via Zoom, to see what teachers are telling their children for seven hours every day, they are rightly alarmed. Instead of critical thought, schools teach critical theory. Instead of math, students get madness. Could it be that the schools did not get rid of religion in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale) but instead simply changed religions? In this regard, there is an important distinction to be made between secular and secularism. The latter is a pagan religion. In America we certainly want our public institutions to be secular. We do not want an established church or religion. I do not want to pay taxes to see children catechized into Islam, Judaism, Romanism, or into neo-Paganism. One of the several bold experiments that make up this country is that we can carve out a secular space where people of different religions can live together peacefully.

Whether education can be truly secular is in question. I do not think that one need be a Christian to teach children to read or write or to do math. After all, much of classical education was (and is) composed of the use of grammar, logic, and rhetoric texts written by pagans. Whatever anyone says, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and Euclid were neither Jews nor Christians. They were pagans and yet their contribution to education is indubitable. On the other the other hand, as I have argued here many times, in response to the rising tide of secularism, advocates of Christian education have weakened their case by making exaggerated, unsupportable claims about what Christian education is and what it can do.

Nevertheless, what we are seeing in American public education is an anti-liberal (in the true sense of the word liberal, i.e., tolerant), fanatical regime. That sexual predators are apparently routinely hired by public school administrators tells us something very important about how they see children and the world. If nothing else, it tells us that they do not share a Christian view of the world. They do not see children as made in God’s image. They do not see themselves as holding a kind office, a sacred trust even, to act as guardians in place of parents (in loco parentis). Too often they seem to see themselves as competitors.

Some Objections Answered

Yes there are Christians working in the public school system and even noble pagans, classical liberals, who still believe in education as it used to be understood. Those Christians working in the system are working behind enemy lines, however. We should pray for them but the existence of Christians and noble pagans in the system is hardly warrant for sending one’s children into the system. Your children are not missionaries. Parents who send their children into the system for that purpose fundamentally misunderstand what education is and who is influencing whom. Even more fundamentally, they are confused about the distinction between nature and grace. On this see the resources below.

This is not to say that the system may not be used strategically and temporarily. Christians pay taxes and there may be special services that are unavailable at the local charter school, Christian school, or homeschool co-op. We do not ask our grocer his profession of faith before we buy his lettuce or beef. The audiologist or speech therapist and the like are public servants and there is no reason why Christian parents should not avail themselves of such services. It might even be that there are, in a given area, no good alternatives to the local public school and that, in the providence of God, home schooling simply is not an option but parents who send their children into the system should realize that they have not relieved themselves of work. Rather, they have undertaken a very challenging job of discovering daily what their child is being taught, by whom, and how. Who are your child’s friends? Who are their parents? A school is a cooperative enterprise by a community of parents and sending one’s child to school is an act of trust in one’s neighbors. Would you let your children visit your neighbor’s house for 8 hours a day, five days a week, 9 months a year? That is what you are doing when you send your children to public school. It is unavoidably so. What do suppose your children are going to hear from their peers before school, between classes, at lunch, at recess, and after school? They will hear what your neighbors teach their children.

Your local Christian school is not faultless but it is probably not actively seeking to undermine the way you are educating and catechizing your child. Your local public school almost certainly is seeking to undermine what you teach your children. Are there sexual assaults by staff, teachers, and administrators against children in Christian schools? Tragically, yes but children are much safer in a Christian school than in a public school. See the resources below for more on this. Are there theological problems with the local Christian school? Probably. Even the established Reformed Christian schools founded after World War II seem usually to become broadly evangelical over time. It seems very difficult to establish and maintain consistently confessionally Reformed schools in the USA. We are living in Sister Aimee’s country and it shows in the Christian schools. Nevertheless, there is no comparison between the dangers posed to children by a broadly evangelical Christian school and the public school system. There are other alternatives. Some Reformed parents send their children to the local Lutheran parochial school.

Christian parents have a great responsibility and a hard job in this world. It is glorious thing to be given the privilege of nurturing and educating covenant children but it is a challenge. Make no mistake about it: the education of your children is your responsibility. If the staff, teachers, and administrators of your child’s school fail your child, that is your responsibility.

The good news is that the Lord is gracious. He uses crooked sticks to strike straight blows. That is no apology, however, for crooked sticks. Seek wisdom. Become informed. Talk to other concerned Christian parents. Look into homeschooling. Pray for courage and resources. The Lord will help you. The need is great but the Lord is greater.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Professor, how do you view the sounding-the-alarm aspect of reaching parents in the last year? Is the monitoring level just enough, coupled with corrections from home, to keep our testimony excellent among the Gentiles? or besides to ourselves, should we not also go another mile with this culture to show them where they’re going?

  2. I agree that parents must actively oversee their child’s education. The method of schooling is a tool for parents to employ, but ultimate responsibility rests on the parents. I don’t think the post adequately takes into account the sorry state of many Christian schools. I’m sure that counter examples of well-run evangelical Christian schools could be cited. But in my experience as a pastor, what I’ve seen is that many Christian schools are poorly funded with low-grade facilities. Many teachers at Christian school are not certified or trained properly. Teachers are also overworked and often teaching in fields outside of their training too. They can also be filled with kids who had such bad behavioral problems that the Christian school was the last place that would take them in, leading to many classroom environments not conducive for learning. They also can be bastions of legalism and weird teaching. As much as I’ve had to counter the secularism my public school students are enmeshed in, I’ve also had to counter the toxic culture, practices, and teachings of Christian schools. Some schools even try to pursue “education through discipleship” which seems to be a spiritual cover for providing sub-par education. In my mind, discipleship is the job of the church, not a school.

    • Chris,

      I recognize that it can be a challenge to find good Christian schools but I think it’s easy to underestimate the poor quality of education occurring in public schools across the country.

      In my experience, both as college professor (briefly) and as a seminary professor (since 1997) I can tell fairly quickly where my students have been educated. In order of performance:

      1. Homeschool
      2. Classical school (with caveats)
      3. Christian school
      4. Charter school
      5. Traditional public school

      The quality of Christian schools can vary widely for a variety of reasons, e.g., funding, commitment to high standards, reason for founding of the school but there are very few public schools now producing graduates that are equal to an average Christian school and I know of Classical and Christian schools that have very high standards. Virtually any of the alternatives listed above would be superior to most any public school, certainly in most metro areas. There are some good magnet schools and specialized schools in some districts that are de facto charter schools (which are publicly funded but not union-controlled) but union-controlled, district-controlled schools are, it seems to me, are not the best option.

      Certification of teachers doesn’t impress me much. I know a very good math teacher. She was certified but that certification added nothing to her skill set or her ability to teach. The professionalization of K-12 education has mainly empowered bureaucrats not students and not actual learning.

      I haven’t been impressed with Teachers College since I was (briefly) in one c. 1981. I lasted a semester. It was ridiculous. It was common knowledge that the TC students were the worst on campus and my experience did not challenge that maxim. My TC college prof shouldn’t have been allowed near a chalkboard at the undergraduate level. I couldn’t get out soon enough.

      Bastions of legalism? Have you tried standing up against CRT in a public school? Do that and get back to me about legalism. LOL.

      I agree that many evangelical Christian schools mirror the evangelical culture from which they arise. They don’t distinguish nature and grace and they don’t value learning as they should but still I would recommend that school over the typical public school.

    • Dr. Clark — I learned decades ago that trying to defend public schooling to virtually anyone in a conservative Dutch Reformed denomination, particularly a URC pastor, is a way to get accused of liberalism, ignorance of how bad public schools today are, or worse.

      However, I hope that more than twenty years of reporting on a dozen school boards in a number of states, including some REALLY serious “culture war” fights, has given me some credibility when it comes to evaluating what is and is not happening in public schools. I can’t be fairly accused of ignorance, and anyone who calls me a liberal doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

      I am clear-eyed about how bad public schools can be. My parents pulled me out of the “regular” Grand Rapids schools after fifth grade because of truly horrific experiences up to and including drug dealing on the elementary school property. Beginning in junior high, I attended what would today be called a charter school, though that word didn’t yet exist. (The school was a selective admission-only program designed to compete with the private schools in Grand Rapids.) While the education I received was academically excellent — we had a few students entering the Ivy League and it was routine for graduates to end up in the best public and private universities in the Midwest — the school was explicitly focused on a “humanistic” education which, even then, as a non-Christian, I recognized was very much left of center and not at all what one would expect from a school in Grand Rapids at that time.

      With that having been said, the academic standards at my later classes in Calvin College, to which I transferred after my conversion from a much more rigorous school, were far lower than what I had in equivalent classes in high school. Very often I was taking college classes that taught me nothing I hadn’t seen in high school. Calvin professors told me they understood my objections, but they had to teach to the students in their classrooms, not the students they would have liked to have in the classroom. They said that in a typical Calvin class, probably a third of the students didn’t belong in a four-year college at all and many in that lower third would never graduate from Calvin, but were holding the entire class back because of their poor education at Christian schools, which in that era almost always meant CSI-affiliated schools from a Dutch Reformed tradition, not broadly evangelical schools that may have had considerably lower academic standards and expectations. Some of the comments by professors about the poor quality of the Christian schools were so severe that I doubt they would have dared make such comments to me if they had known I would later become a reporter for Christian Renewal. But facts are facts, and even though those professors were usually liberal, they were right.

      The lower academic standards at Calvin probably ended up being a good thing for me, since I was working well over full-time hours to pay my tuition to Calvin. Back then it was still possible to get through college, even private college, with little or no debt, by making the decision to work full time while in school; today that’s just not possible and I realize my choices in the 1980s could not be done by students today. I was probably at the very end of the era when working full time and going to school full time was still possible. I made the decision that I could get through Calvin College by working evenings and nights and Saturdays, spending far less time on my schoolwork than I had spent in high school, as long as I was willing to accept Bs and Cs for putting in minimal effort. It worked, and I paid my bills and got my degree, but I definitely could **NOT** have gotten through high school or the secular college where I attended before Calvin with that low level of academic commitment.

      Now that I am seeing education from the perspective of school boards and public pressure campaigns against liberal agendas, I think we need to make a clear distinction between urban and rural schools. I personally chose to send my niece to an independent fundamentalist school in our county, the only Christian school option, because it was very obvious she could not handle a secular education in our county’s largest school district, which is where we live.

      I might have made a different decision if we lived in the outlying rural districts, which were **FAR** more conservative and where most if not all of the teachers and administrators are themselves members of evangelical or fundamentalist churches, and in a number of cases, even serving as part-time tentmaking pastors.

      I believe we need to recognize that every school is different, and every student is different. Top-performing students who are clearly capable of defending their faith may be seriously harming their future by going to a Christian school with poor academic standards. Our local independent fundamentalist school has good academics, and teachers know me personally and understand I am Reformed, and happen to be big fans of Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy, but that isn’t the case at every Christian school. I know of situations at other Christian schools where Reformed students have been expelled for their Calvinism, and quite a few schools where parents are required to be members of churches practicing baptism by full immersion following profession. (That requirement was waived for us at our local school, but might not have been if the pastor of the sponsoring church didn’t know me well.)

      Bottom line: Many people simply do not have the option of a soundly Reformed Christian school. The closest such school to where we live would be in St. Louis, over two and a half hours away.

      When there are no good Reformed options, parents have to make decisions that may not be ideal, and sometimes, if the public school is not hostile to Christian faith, it may be the best available option. Some families simply cannot homeschool, and have to make hard choices of what level of difficulties they can tolerate.

Comments are closed.