"The key to our kids' success has been family worship time, consistency in expectations, a culture of making the right choices and learning from our mistakes, and an ingrained-often repetitious-maxim that attending college in the future is mandatory." 


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By: Fabian Carballo, M.A.

The discussion of politics and religion is very common at our home, especially during an election year.  A few weeks ago our six-year-old son Lucas declared that he is a democrat and will "vote" for President Obama because the other guy wants to cut Big Bird and PBS Kids.  Our eight-year-old daughter Amelie concurred because she was also infuriated with Mitt Romney's pledge to cut Sesame Street during the first presidential debate of the 2012 election.  However, a few days later she recanted her support for Obama and swung to Romney based on something she heard at school: "Obama wants to turn us into Muslims."

You see, our children attend a public school.  The idea that a president can "turn" us into something or that being a Muslim is undesirable is definitely not something our young daughter heard at home.  It is more than likely something her friends from school heard at home and decided to disseminate at school.  That teachable moment alone is the reason why our children attend a public school.  In today's diverse and multicultural society, many children who grow up in private Christian schools are ill-equipped to interpret the world from a variety of perspectives.

A co-worker affirms to me that sending his children to a Catholic school is very expensive but the best investment he could make.  The idea of his children being exposed to values he does not believe in is a horrific proposition.  Many of my Adventist friends assure me that sending their children to Adventist schools will ensure that they receive the same education and values that they did as children.  One friend phrased the idea as a zero-sum proposition.  "You either believe in the value of a Christian education or you don't," he quipped.  At that moment I thought, "What if you do believe in its value but cannot afford it?" Doesn't that factor alone make a private school invaluable?

In the Adventist tradition, it is estimated that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of Adventist children attend public school.  There is countless research and PhD dissertations that point out to the quality of Adventist education and the value-driven results that emerge from making such an investment-an investment that 70 to 80 percent of Adventist families are not willing or able to make.  It is said that 90% of students who attend Adventist schools baptize into the faith whereas only 30% of Adventist students who attend public schools get baptized (See Adventist Education v. Public Education: Weighed in the Balances, Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists accessed 10/24/12).   If the goal of a religious education is to save the soul of your children and baptism is considered to be a public display of said salvation, it would logically follow that Adventist members should be willing to pay whatever the cost is in order to save their children's souls.

It would be impossible to negate the value of something like an education when the person paying for it has made a personal decision.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and value is in the wallet of the financier.  I suppose that if a family had enough faith and purpose, any child would be able to attend a private Christian school and receive the traditional values that all children must have in order to maintain the growth and expansion of any given religious denomination.  And that is why I have so much respect and admiration for parents who entrust their children to the public school system.

Just like parents who pay for their kids' private school tuition, my wife and I pay for ours.  We do it through taxes.  It is a government's greatest responsibility to educate its citizens.  It is a parent's greatest responsibility to instruct their children in spiritual matters.  The bible tells us in Isaiah 54:13 that "all of thy children shall be taught of the Lord."  When we leave that responsibility to a teacher or an institution, we lose sight of God's plan for our families.

Our children in particular have been exposed to a secular world that, even in their formational years, has strengthened their spiritual lives.  They understand what it means to be "set apart," to not eat pork when the cafeteria serves it, to lead by example, to testify of their faith whenever they get a chance, to pray when in need, to be thankful, and to be role models that other children can look up to.  Our kids have been exposed to racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity.  As such, my daughter has repeated Jewish jokes, discussed the Muslim religion, gone to a birthday party of a Turkish friend, voiced admiration for a Hindu classmate, and developed an innocent crush on an African child who "is very sweet."  Our son has played baseball with immigrant kids, declared that his best friend is African-American, asked baffling questions about politics, discovered what a Priest is, and rejected pork in every shape and form that was presented to him.  If only we could get him to eat more veggies!

Academically, both of our kids have tested advanced in every discipline and are far ahead in reading and math for their grade levels.  They have been exposed to poverty and excessive wealth.  They have also been exposed to bullying and have worked through some strategies that have helped them cope.  A public school has to accept everyone, and the idea of acceptance is one of the most important lessons we want our children to experience.  A public school education can be as enlightening as any other purveyor of knowledge.  The key to our kids' success has been family worship time, consistency in expectations, a culture of making the right choices and learning from our mistakes, and an ingrained-often repetitious-maxim that attending college in the future is mandatory.  As a result, out of all of the colleges and universities we have visited, they both wish to attend La Sierra University because according to our son: "I want to find a wife that believes the same thing I do."

Certainly, similar experiences may be present in private Christian schools but in a microcosm of religious values.  It is difficult to see a different perspective from the inside and private schools cannot engage in self-criticism lest they devalue the product they are selling.  By contrast, a public school may be the setting of a real world scenario.  Not all Christian school students attend a Christian university or college.  An even smaller number will get to work in a religious setting that comprises one's own religious upbringing.  It is better, in my humble opinion, that children be challenged by secularism now-that their values and choices be sorted out as they are developing spiritually-than wait into young adulthood and feel that they were robbed by an upbringing that does not always represent reality.

Jesus' ministry was definitely focused on the public school kids.  The synagogue kids were too judgmental and immersed in tradition to get anything fruitful out of Christ's wisdom.  The Gentiles, Samaritans, and other outsiders seemed to be more receptive to a message of inclusion and acceptance that leads to salvation.  Jesus was clear when he made it his mission to save all and gave us the commission in Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."  If we want the end to come then we must branch out to other nations, to other tribes, to other religions, to other ethnicities and to other cultures.  Regardless of who is elected president and their agenda for public education, will we have the courage to equip our young children to be "a light unto the world?"  Matthew 5:14 (NIV)

 
 

1 Comment

  1. "In todays diverse and multicultural society, many children who grow up in private Christian schools are ill-equipped to interpret the world from a variety of perspectives." I think that your article is great in many respects but to say that children who attend religious private schools(which might include homeschooling?) aren't prepared to see the world realistically depends more heavily on the parents than on the institution Fabe. I say this with a bias since my children are homeschooled and have similar experiences to your children in discussing religion and even politics with other homeschooled students; Abigail once had a conversation with an Orthodox Jewish kid while taking her STAR State Exam and learned what "Kosher" means…she also scored above average!
    Kids need love…they need our time…they need us to play with them…and they definitely need us to show them what true religion is…Micah 6:8…this will prepare them to face the real world…whatever that is.

 
 
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