(This post has now gone through a few iterations as I’ve found it necessary to moderate my words in order to try and communicate clearly and carefully. Hopefully I come close.)
In what follows, it’s important that you know I am not anti public school education. In fact, I am personally a long-standing beneficiary of public schools, having attended six of them ranging from elementary to graduate level. I am also a parent whose children – all but one – have spent time, most of their time in fact, in public schools. We’ve appreciated many fantastic teachers and administrators, and I’m thankful for what my children have learned in these schools. I have family who serve in public education and two of the best men I know are, or were, public school teachers. That said, while not dismally apocalyptic in outlook, I am increasingly less sanguine about the prospects of public schools. I am increasingly convinced of the need for parents to be closely attentive to, and careful of, what their children hear in school. Such attentiveness has always been needful, it’s just ever more so at the present time.
Why raise this point now? Well, perhaps because in recent days I’ve been faced again with the deeply concerning milieu (the common atmosphere, the air that exists) in public schools, specifically public schools in the area of California where I live. Let me give two examples of what I mean by a “concerning milieu,” starting with the use (or reference to) preferred gender pronouns in official school communication. This development suggests to me that the local school system has adopted a particular worldview, namely the present-day transgender worldview. The transgender worldview asserts that gender is not something fixed and God-given, but accidental and changeable according to personal desire. In other words, I cannot tell my three elementary-age girls that they are young ladies because God created them such and gave them the bodies to match. No, in fact, as the argument goes, they are free to choose whatever gender they desire, and to do so in rebellion against biology, reason, and all that is true; indeed, in rebellion against God himself. As a father, it’s become apparent to me that this new transgender orthodoxy will increasingly define the milieu of my children’s schools, beginning with the elementary grades. I have to ask myself, “Is this environment one in which I want my impressionable kindergartner to experience her first six years of education?” Is committing her to such an atmosphere faithfully discharging my duty and privilege to raise her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Second, and closely related to the transgender worldview, is the profound influence of “mindfulness” in my area’s public schools. “Mindfulness” is a topic that seems prevalent in my kids’ classrooms, including through teacher-led practices and material officially endorsed by administration. By way of example, I recently reviewed a school-provided link to a video entitled, “Mindfulness Movement: Qi Gong.” Here’s the problem: “Mindfulness” is not neutral. “Qi Gong” is not a neutral term. “Mindfulness” is the Western appropriation of religious thought that streams from the sources of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism. The term “mindfulness” may seem denuded of religious connotation, but it’s not. You cannot pursue “mindfulness” (of the sort I’m referring to here) without entering into religious philosophy that, at its root, is demonic and fundamentally opposed to the living God.
Can you see where, for a Jesus-follower, I have cause for concern? I’m concerned that two disturbing factors mark the milieu of schools in my area: 1) An explicit denial of the most basic reality in God’s created order – male and female; 2) A subtle, but not so subtle, endorsement and teaching of religious thought that is directly contrary to Scripture. I’m not surprised by this. I’m not surprised since both of these elements mark the societal milieu of the greater Bay Area in which I live. While not surprised, I am concerned, and I’m increasingly unsettled by the atmosphere of my community’s public schools.
As a parent I, together with my wife, am challenged to think deeply and pray faithfully over questions like: “Lord, how should we educate our children? What do my children need in order to be equipped as faithful followers of Jesus Christ? What education do they need to live well according to God’s plan for them in all the endeavors he calls them to pursue – in work, in perhaps raising their own family, in contributing to society and culture, etc?” The specific answer(s) to these questions may vary greatly, even year-by-year, according to the circumstances God providentially brings to us; according to the needs and gifts of each of our children; according to the particular realities of schools, and administrators, and teachers in our area, etc. For our family the answer is not yet a wholesale abandonment of public schools, and I hope it won’t come to that in the future. It may even be that God will call us to lean further in; further in as partners and participants with the public school system. There are many good people working in public education, and I want to encourage their efforts when those efforts warrant encouragement and celebration. That said, the cause for concern is present and growing.
Christian-parent, know your school…