The second issue to examine in content consideration is that of the content taught in schools. Western governments today regard equality and tolerance as critical issues, and certainly no one should advocate the value of human beings more than those who believe man is made in the image of God. However, God is the source of righteousness and determines values we should live by, and this will often conflict with the governments or society’s view of right and wrong.
For example, western society sees homosexuality as an amoral issue, quite in contrast to the Word of God. Society regards this sin as “normal” human behavior and seeks to extend the rights and privileges afforded to heterosexual married couples to homosexuals. To accomplish this, the education system plays an important role in educating the public that homosexuality is normative. Public schooling, and to a lesser extent Christian schooling are both subject to the various lobby groups in Washington who campaign for their issue to be taught in schools. Homosexuality is just one of the issues these groups lobby for and seek to move into the public education system.
God has given the responsibility of training children to us parents; if we choose to put our children into an environment with these issues, we are to address these content issues as they arise in school. To do this we need to know about them. For this we are largely dependent on our children to tell us what they learned each day. But our children lack the ability to distinguish between good and evil (Deut. 1:39; Isa 7:16), not to mention their inherent forgetfulness that extends to crucial things like forgetting to bring clothing (including socks) home. How can we expect an accurate report of what was taught at school to come home with our children for us to discuss, when they don’t even realize what the issues are?
When considering a public education, parents need to have a firm handle on the curriculum that will be taught to their children, understanding when certain items will be taught, who will teach them and what the focus will be. Parents must also understand what the underlying current of the teaching will be (not just the main message but the “background noise”) and what God tells us in His Word about these themes and issues. That is to say, it isn’t just the actual content, but the way it is presented and the opinions aired and the example set.
Of course, it is not possible to know everything that is going on at school, nor is it possible to address every possible concern, however, public school parents will frequently need to correct the messages their children hear or supplement it with God’s perspective in order to provide the full picture as it is presented in scripture. We personally found ourselves spending so much time working through content issues while in a public school that we decided to remove our children and put them into a school that we didn’t need to do so much of this. For us, this meant a private Christian school.
But even Christian education frequently comes short of the Biblical standard that we should desire for our children. Some have described much of what passes for Christianity today as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism[i]”. That is to say from an educational perspective, it is moralistic, giving children a solid understanding of the moral code of the Bible, but merely therapeutic, focusing firmly on the love of God with little or no reference to the other aspects of God’s character; and it is deistic, focusing on “God” but not on Christ and not firmly gospel centered. If we want our children to know Christ, we need to be concerned that our children do not grasp just part of the gospel message thinking it is the entire gospel message and giving a false assurance of salvation. We also need to ensure our standards for children a so high that they see their need for Christ clearly.
Concern about moralistic therapeutic deism also applies to certain “Christian” Home Schooling curriculum. Just because it is called Christian, doesn’t mean it is.
Educational content needs to be carefully considered in any choice of educational style. The question the parent needs to be asking is “Will the content taught by the education we’re considering for our children help me as we seek to build a sound biblical way of thinking?” If not, what will you do to overcome this? If you ignore this, how great is your commitment to a Biblical education and the mandate of scripture to train your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?
[i] This term has become popular with some Christian commentators and is beginning to turn up in book publications such as Michael Horton’s “Christless Christianity” and Christian Smith’s “Soul Searching“.