The Question No Parent Wants to Ask

Sharon Current Events 61 Comments

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Every now and then I’m reminded that following Jesus is hard. It’s hard. Much harder than I like to believe–mostly because I don’t let myself live the hard stuff. Not often, anyway. Most of the time, Jesus helps me to have a better life. Jesus is the reason I have a good marriage and a wholesome family. He protects my kids, and gives us joy. As much as I hate to say it, He really does give me my best life now.

To be sure, there are a lot of gifts that come from following Christ. But that’s not all there is to it. Following Jesus also means we take up his cross, make sacrifices, and take risks. It requires a lot of us, and it’s scary. I prefer my comfortable life, which is why I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this post. This is a hard topic, but we need to talk about it.

Last week I listened to an episode of This American Life about the state of education in our country. There is a significant gap in the quality of our schools, particularly those in poor areas where the students are predominantly black and Latino. The worst schools, the ones with the fewest resources, largest class sizes, least qualified teachers, and lowest test scores, are attended by the lowest income students, many of which are minorities.

A lot has been done to try and improve these failing schools, but nothing worked, with one exception. Historically, the only thing that has consistently helped black children fare better, is integration.

Ira Glass, host of This American Life, explained what integration has done for black children in America:

“On standardized reading tests in 1971, black 13-year-olds tested 39 points worse than white kids. That dropped to just 18 points by 1988 at the height of desegregation. The improvement in math scores was close to that, though not quite as good.

And these scores are not just the scores of the specific kids who got bussed into white schools. That is the overall score for the entire country. That’s all black children in America– halved in just 17 years.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a journalist who has covered education for years, summarized why integration works:

“It is not that something magical happens when black kids sit in a classroom next to white kids. It’s not that suddenly a switch turns on and they get intelligence, or wanting the desire to learn when they’re with white kids. What integration does is it gets black kids in the same facilities as white kids. And therefore, it gets them access to the same things that those kids get– quality teachers and quality instruction.”

In other words, predominantly white schools are better because they have advocates. When you’re not a single mom working 3 jobs to provide for your kids, you have more time to advocate for your child’s school. You go to the meetings. You contact your representatives. You might even belong to some boards.

Fewer parents are doing this for the predominantly black and Latino schools. Even the parents who do advocate for their kids are still paid less attention than their white counterparts. So their schools are generally much worse. That’s why integration helps.

The problem is, around the same time integration was mandated by the government, white families began finding loopholes. They took their kids out of public schools and created separate private schools. In 2000, judges also began releasing districts from court enforced integration, which led to a natural re-segregation. Schools in poor areas became increasingly less white, and increasingly less resourced. In Southern towns like Tuscaloosa, 1 in 3 black students attend a school that looks like integration never happened. In Florida, a cluster of schools in black neighborhoods became the worst schools in the state soon after their county abandoned integration.

But it gets worse. Some regions have acknowledged the value of integration, but it’s been met with resistance by white parents. In one portion of the TAL episode that literally made me weep, white parents voiced their disdain for the black students coming to their school. Here are some quotes from a meeting in which parents discuss the forced integration. As you read these words, imagine the black students who attended the meeting, eager to join this new school with new opportunities, new resources, and new friends. This is what they heard:

“I want to know where the metal detectors are going to be. And I want to know where your drug-sniffing dogs are going to be.”

“I shopped for a school district. I deserve to not have to worry about my children getting stabbed, or taking a drug, or getting robbed because that’s the issue.”

“I’m hoping that [the new students’] discipline records come with them, like their health records come with them.”

“I don’t care about everything else that falls by the wayside, because it will two to three years when we all move out of the district.”

Each one of these comments was met with loud applause. This was in 2013.

The racism of these parents is devastating. I hope Christians would respond with less fear and more love for those in need. I would hope.

But at the end of the TAL story I was left with a lot of questions. What DOES this mean for Christians? How do we respond to these inequalities in our midst?

I spoke with a good friend of mine who is a principal in a large urban city. She also has her Masters from Harvard–so she’s studied this extensively–and she’s a Christian. First, I asked if TAL had overstated the importance of integration. She said no. The data is indisputable. Minority children do better in integrated schools.

She also confirmed that “white flight” is the reason our schools have slowly re-segregated. Then she said something I couldn’t believe. Read this. Then read it again:

“The irony is that the sudden proliferation of small Christian schools across the South in the 70s and 80s was a direct response to desegregation orders.”

In other words, many of our private Christian schools were created to protect Christian children from the influx of poor, black students into the public schools.

This is a very hard truth.

***

Until the last hundred years, education was about moral formation. Students didn’t receive education simply to get a job, but to be shaped into good citizens. Education was about forming people of character.

Today, that moral component is all but absent from our schools. Our culture is too politically correct for that. A teacher could literally get fired for claiming that one life choice is better or healthier than another.

It’s because of this moral absence in public education that Christian schools or homeschooling seem appealing. In Christian schools and even some secular private schools, students do receive moral guidance. They are taught about wisdom, truth, and honor.

However, the story of segregation in our country presents us with a difficult question. I don’t have an answer for it, so I’m simply going to let it hang:

As Christians, what kind of lesson are we teaching our kids, when we leave the worst schools to the poorest children? 

To put it another way, if education is about moral formation, isn’t the decision to evacuate the worst schools and leave them to the poor kids–isn’t that a kind of formation too?

I’ll say it again–this is hard. When it comes to your kids, your instinct is to provide and protect. You want to give them the best. You want them to be safe. You want them to have all the opportunities in the world.

But I wonder–at what point do these godly concerns stray from gospel parenting, and wander into something more like the American dream?

For most parents, it’s the fear that gets us. Will they be safe? Will they get a good education? And if we’re being totally honest, Why should I sacrifice my kids’ education to help someone else?

So I asked my friend: As a Christian, how do you think Christian parents should think about choosing a school for their child? This is what she said:

“I think it goes back to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and our neighbors include those in our community who are a different race then us.  If I as a white Christian am concerned about sending my child to public schools because of the schools’ reputation, then why is it ok for my black/brown neighbors to have to send their child to that school or district?”

She then added,

“For Christians making decisions about schools for their kids, if they have heard rumors or have concerns about the city’s schools, or the particular school they are assigned to, I would encourage them to investigate for themselves and not just rely on word of mouth, particularly from realtors and/or non-Christians.  Go to the schools.  Even in a district that has some really tough schools, there are always bright spots.

I think this is not necessarily about asking parents to pick out the worst school in their city and send their children there (to your question about “why sacrifice my own child”), it’s about active engagement with the public school district to improve outcomes for all students.  Fair or not, as it is now when white parents raise a stink about something in a district, there is more likely to be change.  I would challenge Christian parents to think–what am I really afraid of?  Why am I afraid of this school, or the public schools in general?”

Those are great questions for searching our hearts and motives in this decision-making process. Here are a few more:

– Rather than ask, “Is this best for my child?” what if we asked, “What is best for the children in my community?”

– If I am pro-life, how do my pro-life beliefs extend to the education of the poor and underprivileged?

– Jesus spent the majority of his time with the poor, the sick, and the broken–how might we rethink Christian education so that it reflects Jesus’ own priorities?

– Can I trust God to protect my child as I seek to follow His heart?

***

As a final thought, one of the biggest mantras of parents today is “Is this right for my child?” Everyone tells you to “do what’s right for your child,” regardless of what anyone thinks, and I agree to some extent. No one knows your kids better than you do. Your instincts are usually right.

Unfortunately, a lot of parents know what is right for their child but can’t do anything about it. They can’t give their kids the advantages and opportunities they want, because they don’t have the access. That is why, as Christians, we have to make sure “Is this right for my child?” does not come at the expense of other children. Too often, it does.

I hope you will think and pray over these hard questions, and what they might mean for your family. The problem of education in our country sometimes seems insurmountable, but I dream, I DREAM, that the church can lead a change. What if this became the next frontier of the pro-life movement? What if this became the next cause of the church? What if we linked arms and stood up for our schools–ALL schools–rather than run in fear? If we did this together, things could change for these children, who are crying out for the church to take a stand.

By God, things could change.

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 9.59.09 PMSharon

Sharon

Sharon

Comments 61

  1. Angela

    Thought provoking and completely on point. Thank you for being willing to challenge Christian parents and our social responsibility vs living “safe.”

  2. Gilllian Marchenko

    Thanks for this post, Sharon. We just recently moved to a town next door to Ferguson and our four girls are going to four different public schools. Our 8th grader is having a rough time at her school and we have been praying that God would show us what to do. I’m going to show this post to my husband. Appreciate the challenge.

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  3. Carla

    This is a fascinating conversation Sharon. I have very strong feelings about this subject having three kids in an urban public school district that has a very mixed reputation. One of the assumptions I think needs to be unpacked in this whole topic is the idea of what’s “best” for our kids. Here’s what I mean: My daughter just graduated from the most racially and ethnically diverse school in the state. White students are the minority. There are gang members. There are refugees. There was a huge riot that made national news. Twice last year the school was under a code red because of the threat of gun violence in the neighborhood around the school. There are fights in the halls and plenty of apathetic and troubled kids. On paper, it’s not what’s “best” for my child. But it has proven to be the very best experience we could have hoped for. She has learned more about the world that I know even now. And I don’t mean in the street smart way. I mean that she has a deep understanding that other people’s lives are different from hers. She has incredible compassion and a strong sense of justice because she sees every day the way systems hurt families, the way war and violence disrupt communities, the way a group of committed people–even young people–can work together to make real change and solve real problems. She is far more prepared to go out and make a difference in the world than she would have been without this experience. And she has LOVED it. It’s not a mission field or a sacrifice for her. She has thrived at this school and she is leaving for college with confidence and vision and so much drive to make the world better. I couldn’t have crafted a better experience for her if I’d tried. Integration isn’t an either/or proposition. It benefits everyone.

    1. Alexandra Kuykendall

      Reading through the comments here, I agree with Carla. There are many of us that are working to integrate our public schools by sending our children to non-white, lower performing schools. Because we think IT IS WHAT’S BEST FOR OUR CHILDREN. Education is about more than reading and writing. These same statistics will indicate that my children, barring any learning disabilities, will do fine academically because they live in a home with two college educated parents who sometimes read to them. Education is about preparing people to be independent adults and nothing does that better than exposing them now to the diversity of the world in a positive way. I agree with you Sharon that we as Christian parents have a responsibility to take this on, even often by sending our own children to these schools as we have chosen to do (though I will say I think every family must make the decision that is right for them) but to say it’s the question no parent wants to ask is false. There are plenty of us that are. But for some of us we see integration not as a sacrifice for our own children but a true blessing to see God’s world right in our own diverse neighborhood.

  4. Lesley Miller

    We live in a pricey little beach town where the schools are usually all white, or all Hispanic. The white schools are rated 9-10, and the Hispanic schools are rated 4-6. Recently our landlord forced us to move, and with a 1% vacancy rate in our city, we didn’t really have a choice as to what area of town we’d go next. Anyway, the few rentals available were all near low to average schools, and I found myself in a panic…”This isn’t what I imagined for our kids! I want them in a great, highly rated public school!” And then, as we processed all these feelings, I came to a lot of the same conclusions you have in this essay. What does it say about our church that we are willing to drive to Mexico to serve the poor, but won’t send our children to school with Latino immigrants? And at the same time, I want my kids to thrive. I want “the best” for them. I want them to have as many opportunities as I did. I want them to be comfortable. At this point, we’re planning to send our daughter to the public school near our house next year, which is an average school with children from many racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. I’m really excited about it… and continuing to place my kids’ education in the hands of Jesus, trusting he’ll show us where each child should go. I’m open to our kids’ schooling options even looking different, depending on their personalities, gifts and struggles.

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      Sharon

      “What does it say about our church that we are willing to drive to Mexico to serve the poor, but won’t send our children to school with Latino immigrants?” YES!!

  5. Scott W

    should our kids carry the burden of mission and helping underprivileged schools by their presence, or should residents take up to advocate by attending school meetings? What responsibility do Christian schools have in this? I attended a great Chrisitian school years ago which was located in a poor, urban environment and was wonderfully integrated. I would love to see more like it.

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      Sharon

      I would love to see that too! Unfortunately, it is the exception to the rule. In the mean time, I wouldn’t say putting our kids in public schools is necessarily a “burden” on them. Most public schools are not unsafe, and some are actually great! If you read some of the other comments above, you can also see how kids can benefit from being in integrated public schools. We need to be careful not to let fears–especially those which are not based in truth–direct our choices.

  6. Laura Goetsch

    GREAT post, Sharon. Thank you so much for tackling this very important question. I have been a public school parent for 4 years in an economically and ethnically diverse district. Here are several essays I wrote about our experience in the public schools as christians and intellectuals:
    https://goetschblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/why-i-love-public-school/ and
    https://goetschblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/economic-privilege-and-elementary-school/ and
    https://goetschblog.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/book-review-give-away-the-smartest-kids-in-the-world-and-how-they-got-that-way/

  7. Neil Shenvi

    I think you correctly identified the main concern that Christian parents have with public schools: “Today, that moral component is all but absent from our schools…It’s because of this moral absence in public education that Christian schools or homeschooling seem appealing.” But is there any evidence that the presence of one (or even a few) additional Christian families in a public school will have any impact on this central issue? And if not sending kids to a poor public school sends them a moral message, doesn’t sending them to a public school where moral and spiritual instruction is absent also send a message?

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      Sharon

      Neil, I have a couple thoughts:

      1. My hope is that it would be more than a few Christian families. If Christian families did this together–lots and lots of families–we could easily initiate change.

      2. Your latter concern assumes it is the responsibility of teachers to provide spiritual guidance. I would place that responsibility on the shoulders of parents, and their church. It would be easy to explain to your kids that their school is “the world,” and it’s also an appropriate environment to prepare them to live as disciples in it. I think it would be harder to explain why the poor children in the community have the worst schools, when the poor are placed directly under our care.

      1. Neil Shenvi

        Sharon,
        Re 1, can you think of any examples of schools which reintroduced moral instruction (to say nothing of religious instruction) as a result of pressure from parents? This seems to be a systemic problem which cannot be solved simply by enrolling more Christian students in public schools.

        Re 2), wouldn’t it also be easy to explain that private or homeschools are sought not to because we want to avoid our obligations to the poor, but to ensure that our children receive both education and spiritual development? Indeed, many poor families send their children to religious schools for precisely this reason.

        I understand your concerns in this article and these are questions to ask. But I don’t think the answers are straightforward.

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          Sharon

          As Christians, I wouldn’t say it’s biblical to expect our schools to provide moral formation. In an ideal world that would be great, but Scripture talks about that kind of instruction coming from parents and the church. I think a lot of parents expect teachers to do all the heavy lifting in their kids education, but the best education happens when parents are an integral part of it. This can happen at any school, as demonstrated by the many fine Christian young people who come out of public schools. (My husband being one!)

          The real goal of Christians going into public schools is to help disadvantaged children get the best education they can, and lessen the gap between the resources going to whites and blacks.

          Also, it is an overstatement to say that “many poor families” send their kids to private schools. Very few families do, because scholarships are limited.

          I would encourage you to listen to the episode of This American Life that I mention, because it actually answers a lot of your questions and gives a better idea of the big picture. It IS complicated, and I don’t mean to make it seem clear cut, but I also think there are a lot of misconceptions out there.

          1. Neil Shenvi

            “I think a lot of parents expect teachers to do all the heavy lifting in their kids education”

            Perhaps. But I think many parents also realize that moral education is important and is ideally imparted along with education in ‘secular topics’ – as it had been done for thousands of years (see Proverbs) until a few decades ago. I graduated from an excellent public school but still recognize that an education which integrates science, math and history into a explicitly Christian worldview is ideal. If this concern really is the predominant one in the minds of Christian parents and if it is unlikely to be alleviated no matter how many Christian students attend public schools, then I think it does need to be weighed against the perceived benefits if sending our kids to public schools.

            “The real goal of Christians going into public schools is to help disadvantaged children get the best education they can”

            Right. But it’s not clear whether 1) sending your children to public schools is the best way to achieve this goal or 2) whether doing so is our moral duty. For example, if we had elderly parents with Alzheimer’s I don’t think we’d argue that it’s our moral duty as Christians to send them to a substandard nursing home and then advocate for improved conditions. Nor would we send our toddlers to a substandard daycare. These analogies aren’t perfect, but I think they show that 1) and 2) are legitimate questions.

          2. Melissa

            I love the conversation about helping the most needy in our community. I love the heart behind this. My heart is listening and tugged when I hear the statistics that you mentioned.

            But along the lines of what Neil was saying, I am extremely cautious about sending my child to public school b/c once they go to school, their teacher and friend’s will spend more daily time with them than I will as a parent. School years are the most formative for children. I’m not sure that sending our children (being Christians as the minority, with a possible secular authority figure above them they they may love and trust, and peers that have totally different moral standards) is the best option to better the schools and lives of the underprivileged. They are so vulnerable and easily influenced at that age. I think a better alternative, is if Christian parents and children and the church as a whole serve by going into the schools to see how they can better them. Tutoring, mentoring, supplying much needed resources.

            I’m not saying that a Christian family that feels led by the Lord after a lot of prayer should not do what you are saying… that is a personal choice for each family, but I don’t think that it is the only way (or better way) to provide help schools. And I don’t think it is an easy to raise God-following/loving kids. And definitely not the only way to teach compassion for the poor. Every child is so individual. Some children are going to excel no and rise above the bad influences no matter what. Many will not.

            I also don’t see a biblical basis for sending our children into an environment where their core influences and formation will be against what the Bible teaches.

            Again, I love this conversation and I think if all of us were talking and thinking and acting, there would be less poverty. This has definitely given me more to think on.

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            Sharon

            Melissa, I also appreciate your heart, and I appreciate your willingness to engage this conversation. I guess I would counter with this: I don’t see a biblical basis for raising up our kids in isolation from the very people Jesus spent the most time with–at the expense of those same people, no less. Because that is what’s happening. It’s not just doing what’s best for our kids. We’re doing it at the expense of children who have very little options in life. That is just plain unfair.That’s why I would really encourage you and Neil to remember–it’s not just about our kids. We are so lucky to be able to choose to take our kids out of schools we don’t like. The poor don’t have that choice. And as Christians, we have an obligation to them.

            As a final thought, I would challenge the idea that sending your kids to a public school is that big of a risk or sacrifice. Children with good strong families (and God!) do just fine in public schools, ALL the time. It’s the children who don’t have a strong family, or any sort of advantage, they’re the ones who won’t be fine if nothing changes. Who will look out for them? I hope it will be us!

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  9. Janean

    While I admire your heart, I think that you are too assumptive as to why people choose homeschooling or private schools. Nor do I think that a parent is being less compassionate for choosing an alternative form of education. I homeschool and I work in a public school. I give my students all I’ve got including my son. My choice to homeschool was never out of fear, but out of a desire to direct his education instead of leaving to the power of politicians and a government institution. I am not staying safe. I know that I’m doing right by my son. It seems that your post is a bit judgmental from the other direction. I don’t think homeschooling is the right choice for everyone, but as parents, we have the right as well as the responsibility to make the best choices for our children’s education. I will not leave it to someone else. There are great caring teachers out there and if it weren’t for them, so many children would never receive the structure, the learning, nor the cheerleading that they get from public school. I’m actually used to criticisms from public school teachers about the quality of education that alternative forms bring, but this is the first I’ve read that maybe parents aren’t being Christ like and socially compassionate enough by choosing to stay away from public education.

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      Sharon

      Hi Janean, I appreciate your perspective, but I would respectfully disagree–nowhere did I accuse parents who homeschool of doing so out of fear. There are a lot of different reasons that people homeschool, or put their children in private school–far too many to name–and some of the reasons are good ones. Instead, the point of this post was to direct our attention to children who are disadvantaged and need our help. The question here is not why do you homeschool, but what can we do to help the poor, and minorities. Integration has been shown, empirically, to be the best way to improve their opportunities. I don’t want that priority to get lost–it’s not just about our kids. It’s about ALL kids.

      1. Zach

        Interestingly enough, I read this and remembered having a “driveway moment” listening to NPR last year…

        The air force academy decided to try and help the most under performing students by implementing an “integration” of sorts. They decided to do an experiment where they split the under achievers up and put them in squadrons with high achievers. They took the middling students out and put them in s squad by them self.

        The net effect was that the high achievers continued to excel, the middling students actually got better but the low achieving students actually got worse.

        It created quite a conundrum for them. They stopped it because they felt it was unfair to the low achieving students but they also felt it was unfair to the middling students who would now suffer by being mixed in again.

        http://www.npr.org/2014/03/26/294639911/air-force-academy-squadrons-test-peer-effect-assumptions

  10. Janean

    I’m sorry for another comment, but I wanted to make one clear point. You don’t have to approve the comment. I just wanted to say that I was homeschooled. I graduated homeschooled. I was only around my siblings most days. I was not around too much diversity and although I get what you’re saying, I will tell you that I have always loved, befriended and served drug addicts, people of different race or color, people of different sexual orientation. I’m not uncomfortable nor have I ever been around people who are different from me or even of the same faith and beliefs. That kind of love and compassion is bestowed upon us from God. It doesn’t take the socialization of a public school. It doesn’t matter what route parents take with their children’s education as long as they commit their way to the Lord. That’s what HE requires of us. If His will is for a certain family to best serve him in a public school, He will direct them there. If He desires for a certain family to grow into servants via homeschooling or private schooling, He will make a way for it.

  11. emily

    A few years ago, I watched a campaign take place in my city to annex the local community college into a tax bracket. This campus of this community college is the only one that doesn’t receive tax based funding and it also happens to be located near a wealthy part of our community, and a very poor and promametly Hispanic area. The tax was opposed strongly by the wealthy because their kids wouldn’t be the ones to benefit, and why should they support other people’s kids.
    It was shocking to see the comments made by prominent Christian leaders, and to watch it be rejected. It’s time we all see that supporting education is a benefit for all. If you don’t want to send your child to a public school, what are other ways you can help bridge the gap. The mentality of “those people” vs “us” isn’t Christ like. You can come to your own conclusions, but we all have a responsibility, whether we have kids or dont, send kids to a private school, etc. supporting quality education for all of the children in your community is an investment in their generation and therefore is in the best interest of your child.

  12. XeraRose

    I can see your underlying concern being that what looks like fear-based selfish decisions on the part of certain socioeconomic and ethnic classes result in worsening circumstances for others. But i have to object to your conclusion: that public school is the solution for everyone. Given the history and foundation and the *purpose* of the institution in its inception, the current results are entirely natural and expected. If you truly want to see our neighbors loved and provided for, I challenge you to find an alternative to this institution, with those aims and goals in mind.

  13. amy

    The overall theme of this seems to be social justice- how do our roles as parents and Christians lead us to pursue justice in education for students in schools that are over crowded, under funded, and forgotten? How do we ensure that children’s of all populations receive access to equal resources and opportunities?

    Both of my children qualified for and receive free early intervention services. Federal law mandates that every state has a cost-free program to provide early intervention services in either a qualifiying child’s home or preschool. So the questions become, how does a child qualify and how is this funded?

    Sadly, these programs (at least at the time I researched it a few years ago) are funded on both state and federal levels, in a very similar way that our schools are funded: tax dollars. Wealthier communities produce wealthier schools; poorer communities are embarrassingly ill equipped to provide much needed services. Our school funding system is one of the most racist and oppressive parts of our society.
    In our county in Maryland, a child had to demonstrate a 20% delay in an area. That’s not too difficult to do. In the District of Columbia, a child had to demonstrate a 50% delay- that’s massive. Most children with a 50% developmental delay are significantly impaired for their lifetime. There is a substantial gap between what my child will receive based on where I live. Thousands of children fall through the gaps in systems like this. My son would qualify in Maryland but not DC, however my daughter would have qualified in DC. But the difference is that we had resources to supplement her free early intervention: we took her to private therapy not covered by our insurance, we drove her to Boston Children’s on several occasions for advanced imaging and medical care. I do not feel guilty about providing these things for my child, even though I know it is not a reality for many children in her position. And while I am thankful for the resources, I am heart broken that our system to provide services and education to our country’s children is so systemically oppressive.

    As Christians we should always be thinking of how to bring about peace and equality and justice in the name of Christ. And it’s also important to realize that being a game changer and advocate for integration/equality in education does not equate to sending your child to a school with a particular racial/socio-economic/religious make up. Can it be an important part for some families? Absolutely! Can it be an important step of faith that positively impacts your child’s faith? Yes! But we need to be reminded that one’s faithfulness to the Lord cannot be measured in which school our children attend. There is plenty we can do to truly advocate for, know, and love underserved populations. We need to be aware and follow the Lord’s calling in our individual lives to change our greater communities.

  14. Rick

    “The moral component is missing in public schools.” We should pull that comment apart. Can you sign up for a class on Christian doctrine in the typical public school? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean a student is introduced to a moral code that greatly conflicts with the Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Islamic values he holds at home. The school emphasizes values such as cooperation, diligence, honesty, diversity, compassion, etc. And a public school also teaches the religious child how to interact with people outside of his faith, something that the Christian school and homeschool cannot recreate. My kids go to a public school system where half the teachers are openly Christian (Catholic or Protestant) and where they get the typical rah-rah patriotism as well. I find it funny when public school critics continue to paint all public schools as leftist training zones, because it shows me they haven’t stepped foot in a normal high school in a very long time.

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      Sharon

      Rick, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, and my perspective isn’t one of paranoia about liberals. But gosh, wouldn’t it be great for a class in ethics to be a part of the curriculum? Or even at the college level? I mean, there are a lot of bank execs out there that could have used a chastening class in business ethics! I appreciate public schools that incorporate it organically, but I would love to see open ethical formation too.

      1. Rick

        A class in ethics, either in a high school or as part of a business major, only goes so far if the entire culture is systemically unethical. If I push for ethics classes in the local school but do nothing to insist my local police act ethically, or to oppose the fraud of the Big Banks, I’m pointing at the wrong target. Maybe society’s adults should start acting ethically before they start teaching ethics to children.

  15. Dave

    Thank you for tackling a tough subject. In some situations there certainly is racism, and that is disturbing and heartbreaking. But I think your equation is wrong. We are not leaving the worst schools to the poorest kids. The data shows poor kids produce the worst schools. Before anyone freaks out and labels me look at the logic. Kids from lower income homes often have fewer resources available (computers, glasses, tutoring, books, internet, parental help, etc) for education. If the poverty is severe, they may be coming to school hungry, or needing medical care, etc. So educators know poor kids come to school on average “less” ready to learn than affluent kids. So as poverty increases in a school district, educators know scores go down. As scores go down, affluent families depart for “better” options, poverty ratios climb again. Top teachers don’t want to teach in “failing” schools, and top administrators want great scores, so they go to the “better” schools. We can help by insisting we not allow any school to be overcome by poverty and providing resources that help *all* kids succeed.

    1. Post
      Author
      Sharon

      Dave, I would love for you to listen to the TAL podcast if you haven’t already, because you’re right. No one is contesting that schools take a hit when more poor children attend. They often do. Unfortunately, what moves a school from less than ideal to destitute, is when the white families pick up and leave. That is the problem.

      I’ve said this to a couple people and I’ll say it again here–our schools would probably be “great” if there were no poor people in them, no one with problems or brokenness. They would be nice and squeaky clean. But that’s not the kind of “good” Jesus sought to bring. As Christians, we need to fight for a good that is the Jesus kind.

  16. Brian

    Great dialogue here. I am 100 percent in favor in integration. I have a black son and am white myself. And integration seems to be the driving point of your blog, as you say, “Historically, the only thing that has consistently helped black children fare better, is integration.” This statement is simply misleading. More than integration and more than education, these kids and all kids need Jesus. If education is the ultimate healer, then maybe integration is THAT important. But for that matter, you could also argue that fatherless homes may be a bigger root problem than partially segregated schools.
    BUT, education is not the ultimate healer. They need the Gospel. The only thing that will truly and forever help them fare better is God – not integration or education. While God is for integration I’m sure, we can’t elevate integration above the Gospel itself.
    If parents’ primary reason for homeschooling is fear, then I’d agree that’s a bad reason to do it (even though that may not be a totally unfounded fear – it seems every week there’s a teacher in the news that’s been charged with a sex offense against a student, but I digress).
    In a comment, you said you didn’t accuse homeschoolers of doing so out of fear. In reading your blog however, I did get that vibe, and apparently other readers have taken it that way as well. Perhaps it was the closing paragraph where you said, “What if we linked arms and stood up for our schools–ALL schools–rather than run in fear?” That seems to imply that if your kids aren’t in public school then you are running in fear. If that’s not the implication then perhaps that should be re-worded significantly.
    We are certainly commanded to love our neighbors and serve them well, which can of course be done in many, many ways and in many places. Christians should be striving to find areas of impact in public schools. But they don’t necessarily need a student in that school to make a difference there, though that may well open doors, I know.
    Parents are also charged with the discipleship of their children, which, to me, should be a primary deciding factor. For a young child especially, who isn’t even a Believer yet, a parent needs to carefully evaluate the impact a public school, that is teaching an explicitly non-Christian worldview, will have on their child. Students have over 1,000 instructional hours in a given school year. This is a tremendous amount of influence over a young mind. If the child then goes to any after-school care, or participates in after-school activities or sports, the parent may well spend less “awake time” with their son or daughter than their teachers. As Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Most teachers (many of course are not Christians) are strangers to parents so this scripture should make us pause. Do we want our kids becoming like someone we don’t even really know? The thought that it’s “easy” to explain to a young child that their school is the “the world” and they therefore need to separate what they learn there from what their parents teach just isn’t realistic. I don’t know a young child who can draw such distinctions and compartmentalize what they are taught. I couldn’t at that age. My 6 year certainly cannot now either.
    I disagree that someone who opts to homeschool or private school is necessarily raising their children in isolation (some definitely do, though). There are many ways to serve the community with your children, be involved, and not wall off yourselves from the world. You can carry the Gospel to children who need it in many other ways.
    As for the thought of children going into a school to be missional, if the child isn’t even a Believer yet, this reasoning is of course premature. They can’t be a missionary if they aren’t a Christian. This may be unrealistic for even a very young Believer as well. Yes, as Christians, we need to be helping underprivileged children in our schools and not just focusing on our own kids, but I can’t expect my 6 year old to do that for me if my 6 year old doesn’t even know Jesus himself.
    I do believe different families can come to different conclusions for their children on this issue. Assuming that parents who send their children to public school are making an unwise decision is just as wrong as assuming that parents who choose homeschooling or Christian school don’t care about the other kids or aren’t serving them in other ways. I know many families who homeschool, for example, while simultaneously serving the most destitute in the community well.
    I probably got a little off topic but my main point is that integration is not the “only thing” that has helped black children (or a child of any color) fare better. And education is important, I agree, it’s just not what will save any of us.

    1. Post
      Author
      Sharon

      Brian, thanks for your thoughts! At the end of your comment you said integration isn’t the “only thing” that has helped black children fare better. You didn’t mention alternatives in your comment so I was curious–what other solutions have you observed that help minorities and the poor get better educations on a wide scale?

      Also, this keeps coming up and it honestly mystifies me: It’s weird to me how many parents seem to think their kids will just get lost in public schools. I have so many friends–solid, Christian friends…my husband, who’s a pastor, included–who had great experiences in public schools. Even in not-so-great schools, they didn’t lose their faith. In fact, the experienced enriched them. I, on the other hand, went to a private school and spent YEARS unlearning some of the false realities I picked up there, because private school isn’t the real world. It’s a cleaned up, sheltered version that didn’t prepare me for living in the complexities of our world. So I don’t know where this myth about public schools is coming from, but Satan is having a hey-day with it!

      1. Melissa

        Sharon,
        Brian said the same thing I was (trying) to say. Just because you know believers who did well in the public school environment doesn’t mean that all do. I know many that have not, even in my own immediate family. I’ve seen it happen with children (now college kids) that I’ve been involved in. I don’t think there is a problem with what you are suggesting. I think the problem it seems you are saying it is THE WAY. It’s not. Every child is different. Every family is different. And Every parent needs to find what is going to be the very best spiritually and academically for their children. Teaching our children to love God is our greatest responsibility. Our choices directly affect them.

        You said that Brian had not mentioned other ways that poor children could be helped.. Other ways (I think I mentioned it in my comment) is that the church and believers can go into the schools to tutor, mentor, be involved in after school care. Going to the impoverished neighborhoods and spending time with the children and teens. Gathering resources to give to teachers for their poorest children. Volunteering to do after school activities. There are many other ways to be involved without having your children in public schools. Again, I’m NOT saying that a Christian should not be in public schools. I’m just saying that it’s not the only way to serve the poor community.

  17. Jenny Rae Armstrong

    I thought the program was wonderful as well. I was particularly astonished that integration peaked in 1988. What is wrong with that picture?! However, I am still a little conflicted about where the schooling debate has pointed people. I always attended (good) public schools while I was in the United States, and for the most part, my kids have as well. But because my family also spent many years on the mission field, I have seen many children deeply damaged by their parents’ attempts to be “missional.” I like what the program said about the benefits or bussing or ordinances to stop poverty from pooling in certain places (as hard as that may be in the US). I have a hard time imagining, however, intentionally sending my child to an underperforming school in an attempt to improve it. That should not be on the kids; that should be on the adults. Adults could volunteer, or run for school board, or intentionally pursue jobs in struggling schools. I just really struggle with the idea that we are going to fix anything by sending our kids someplace 8 hours per day. Let’s send ourselves someplace 8 hours a day, and do whatever we think is best for the children God has particularly put in our care. But again, I am a bit jaded. Many, many parents have done what they believed to be best for the communities they felt called too at the expense of the children they bore (whole denominations used to require missionaries to send their kids to boarding school, so both parents could devote themselves to “ministry”), so I’ve heard a more extreme variation of this theme before. It makes me very, very dubious.

  18. Celia

    Thankyou for this . I went to excellent public schools in a country with less than 1% of Evangelical Christians. I was fine . I never expected the school or the teachers to believe the same things as me. That idea, viewed from France , seems entitled and bizarre. to be fair at the time there was very little moral instruction . My schools werent dens of iniquity . I don’t think Christian kids fall away because of the school . The issue is what gets taught at home and Church. One of my parents values was not blindly following the crowd. At times, it was tough socially . as I tried to evangelise friends and teachers . But I think I acquired something invaluable. When you spend everyday, all day, with people and you following Jesus you Lear to love them . And I do feel homeschooling interferes with that. Because it is intended to keep others at Arm’s length , of choosing on which terms to meet them. It is also fed by à distrust of government that I find problematic and , dare I say it, un bibli cal. Its also naive . as if you could avoid sin by avoiding certain environments . As if we did not carry the main source of our sins at all times with us. To me its a bizarre White Middleton class American option. Look, most Christian parents world wide don’t have much choice in their children ‘s schooling . And yet God gets their children through it. Are public schools really a substandard formation of education?

  19. craho

    Thank you for your thoughtful post.
    I have listened to the first TAL episode and too was appalled by some of what I heard. It was all quite troubling.
    But, as a pastor in your area who is struggling with how to help Oxford NC and Granville County Schools, I wonder what your plans are for your boys? Cary, Apex and Southwest Raleigh are not exactly diverse and integrated?

    I can see that your boys are young but as a Christian leader, how do you see the rubber meeting the road for you and your family?

    1. Post
      Author
      Sharon

      Craho, that’s a great question! We live in Holly Springs and our schools are fairly well integrated. They are also pretty good schools–not amazing, but not bad either. We have no reason not to put our kids in the local public schools, and I assume that’s what we’ll do in a few years.

      Really, that’s what I’m hoping everyone will consider. To reiterate the friend I quoted in the post, this doesn’t mean putting your kids in the worst schools. It means advocating for the schools in your community. I think a lot of well-meaning people try to help their schools by giving them school supplies and what-not, but that’s not enough if you’re pulling your own kids out of them.

  20. Kristen Wright

    Thank you, thank you Sharon! You spoke my heart. If only there were more Christians speaking out and acting on this, the whole country would change! Six years ago God made it clear to my family that our kids would go to our neighborhood school. It is a low income school and 11% white. We have had an amazing experience watching what God can do with one willing family. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s worth it. I agree 100% with everything you said. It’s not about our kids…God can handle the consequences of our obedience. Thanks for speaking truth!

  21. Zach

    So I was reading through the comments and letting this set in a bit. I have a few observations/comments…

    1) “The irony is that the sudden proliferation of small Christian schools across the South in the 70s and 80s was a direct response to desegregation orders.”

    This is a completely unjustifiable claim. It also implicitly, if not explicitly, paints all Christians who home school or go to Christian schools as racist. It also is probably wrong. During this time period America also experienced a very politically conservative shift against the intrusion of the liberal worldview. Think the founding of the “moral majority”. The founding of a bunch of Christian school is more likely a reaction against more legislation which is antithetical to the Christian life.

    2) A point not mentioned anywhere is that education is fundamentally religious. You cannot escape that. Either the facts our children learn are rooted in God’s created order and Word or they are not. There is no such thing as objective neutrality when dealing with how the world works. We don’t send our kids to public school because the command to educate them falls on us. We wouldn’t have a clean conscious sending them to even the very best public school that teaches with anti-theistic, evolutionary, or relativistic worldviews. We don’t feel completely equipped to do this on our own either so we partner with a private classical Christian school.

    Plenty of Christian kids “turn out fine” in public school but that doesn’t mean their parents obeyed God in raising that child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It means they got lucky. I went to public school and was basically a heathen until college when someone finally painted a consistent worldview for me. I survived a plane crash, that doesn’t make plane crashes advisable.

    3) “Involved parents” are doing under privileged kids no favor by sending their kids to a public school just to advocate for that kids school. What is the effect? They get a confusing and inconsistent secular education in a classroom with the latest technology?

    Sure the kids may share the gospel with their peers a demonstrate what a godly life looks like but the person in authority is legally obligated to not reinforce the goodness, beauty and truth of your child’d Christian living.

    Until we abandon our assumption that education is a government obligation we are doing nothing more than job training. I long for the day when as churches we stand up and say this. If more Christians started good schools, the world would see the benefits of bringing all things under the dominion of Christ and they too would abandon the failed government system.

    4) Anticipating an objection to paying for private schools, I can’t speak for all but I know that if a family wanted to come to our school and could not afford it they wouldn’t hesitate to do everything possible to accommodate that family.

    Its also worth noting that if more Christians went to private, hopefully classical, schools then that tuition would become incredibly affordable simply through economies of scale.

    If more people abandoned government run schools, they would all shut down and everyone would have more money in their bank to pay for schools because their property taxes wouldn’t be supporting dead end boondoggles.

    5) Children are arrows for sure but the arrows aren’t actually children. You have to raise a child with a biblical worldview and a passion for God before you can send them out. We don’t send out children to Mormon VBS because children aren’t actually arrows. They grow up to become arrows. They are malleable and impressionable. We should protect them in some areas. We solidify their foundation, train them up then send them out once they are ready. We go to a public pool, we play on public sports team, we serve the community with out church but can’t expose them to public schools.

    Loving other kids is no justification for hating your own kids. Matthew 7:9 comes to mind. There has to be another way to provide real change for this problem without subjecting your children to 7 hours of teaching legislatively mandated to go against what you believe.

    1. Post
      Author
      Sharon

      Zach, I appreciate your thoughts and the study above, but to reiterate, integration has actually been proven to work in a longitudinal study across the country. The one study you posted above doesn’t somehow debunk that.

      My concern with all these objections is this: I hear a lot of Christian parents saying “We should do this instead, or this” but I see almost no one actually doing anything to help improve the education of the poor. Nothing that has worked, anyway. Your ideas are great, but right now that’s all they are–ideas. And that is helpful to no one.

      That is how systemic racism persists. People say they’re not racist but they aren’t willing to do anything to change it. I am quite certain most of us would like to see racial inequality eradicated, but very few of us are willing to stand up when it actually requires something of us. I mean, Jesus sacrificed. We belong to a faith founded on sacrifice. This isn’t even really much a sacrifice, and yet parents are balking even at that. God forbid He calls us to actually give up something major!

      This isn’t gospel faithfulness. This is individualism run amok.

      1. Zach

        Thanks for the reply Sharon. This is turning into a marathon comment thread. You’re holding up well.

        That study wasn’t meant to debunk anything. I agree that integrated schools are a good thing. I don’t think doing anything will fix the problems we are talking about here.

        Which is what exactly though? Education gaps or racism?

        I disagree that we only have an idea. I’m part of a group of like minded people who recognized this problem and did do something about it. They started a new school open to all people and that teaches a biblical worldview. This is the only thing that will fix racism not financial and political boondoggles.

        I also disagree that people in private schools aren’t sacrificing. For most of us single income homes its a real sacrifice to make this work. Yes the sacrifice is for our kids, which it should be, but families like mine that do pay also make it possible for families that can’t to get financial aid.

        It would be great for us to put a Christian school in every neighborhood but that isn’t possible unless more Christians get on board. These types of post obfuscate that issue.

        My concern with this general approach is that it smacks of the soft bigotry of low expectations. It’s like the white mans burden all over again.

        There are good options available for anyone who wants a better education for their kids. If you know someone that fits that bill, let me know and we’ll get them into a school that actually cares about their children’s well being enough to instruct them in grace and truth.

        I would summarize my previous post by asking two questions:

        1) Do you disagree that education is fundamentally religious?

        2) What exactly are you proposing we do? How many Christians does it take to fix these schools? How many of those Christians have to be white to fix the problem? Does it still work of the white Christian kids are poor?

        Our church, and others like Redeemer in NYC have taken the approach to multi-culturalism that says you congregation should be as diverse as your neighborhood. Maybe the best approach to fixing inequality would be to move into those poor neighborhoods but I still don’t think that fixes the education problem. Their problems are certainly institutional. The institution just happens to be the federal and state government and the problem is the standards and methods they employ.

        I think a better post would be how can we get more under resourced and poor minorities into Christian schools.

        1. Post
          Author
          Sharon

          The question of whether education is “fundamentally religious” is really a whole other philosophical discussion that depends on how you define religion. And really, it feels like a bit of a rabbit trail because science and math and literature don’t have to be openly directed to Christ in order for them to be incorporated into a Christian worldview. In fact, it is a good spiritual exercise to teach our kids to think through what they’re hearing, both the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. And by that I don’t mean simply telling your kids, “That’s wrong,” but helping them learn how to get to that conclusion on their own so that whenever they leave the home they’re be able to think Christianly on their own. To shelter them from that is not preparing them to live as Christians in the actual world. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s why so many Christians have trouble relating to their non-Christian neighbors.

          But again, that’s a rabbit trail.

          What I am proposing is what I said in the post: think through these questions. Pray about them. Consider what they mean for your family. Be open. Be humble. Ask for the Spirit’s leading. Do not fear. Very small steps. That’s what is most discouraging about this comments section. I don’t think all people should be in public schools. I don’t think homeschooling is bad, or that Christians schools are wrong. But I would hope that, in view of this well-researched information, Christians would be open to thinking carefully about it. Instead there has been a lot of defensiveness and an unwillingness to even hear. Sadly, that’s what Christians are often known for doing.

          What is also disappointing, however, is that this is not an insider discussion. Non-Christians are reading this blog and these comments. Minorities are reading it. They read that sending your kids to public school is “hating them,” and even though that probably doesn’t represent your true heart, I am ashamed for what it might communicate to strangers.

          I tried to write this post in a posture of humility, not offering many answers because it is complicated. It is my desire that all who enter the discussion here, no matter where they stand, would attempt to do the same. The goal here isn’t just to figure out what is true and what is loving, but to be the aroma of Christ as we do it.

        2. Melissa

          Sharon,
          I’m writing trying to get this all in on a cloudy, sleep deprived brain during naptime.

          I’ve been thinking on this over the past day and a half. I listened to This American Life, and it gave some great things to think about and find ways to act.

          I guess I’m a little confused at what you are suggesting in this blog post.

          You mentioned living in Holly Springs. Holly Springs is an excellent rated, 80% White, SAFE, Wealthy (median income is $88,495) area. Holly Springs schools are not a problem. Most of them rate 8, 9, and 10 out of 10) I find it hard to understand how sending children to THOSE public schools is living what you are suggesting here. How is that helping the poor schools? How is that helping the children in poverty? Even if there is a little racial diversity (wealthy African Amercian kids)… that’s not the problem. The problem is economic diversity. The problem is the under preforming, poor schools.

          Are you suggesting that white families that are not as privileged (like where we lived in Durham last year… the schools were rated 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s) should carry the responsibility to integrate “fix” the schools (since that is their district) at the risk of their children’s safety and education? What if both parents have to work to stay afloat and can’t be as involved in the school and in their children’s education? Is it wise to send our children to into low-performing, unsafe, drug infested, secular environments on their own because that is what they are assigned to? Or is it better to make the best choice for our children, and as a family be involved in serving the under resourced, caring for the poor and homeless. Giving the resources that we can to help. Giving time that we can to help.
          I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” clear answers.

          I just think it’s easy to say these things from a distance where everything is safe.

          With all my heart I want every child, no matter what the income level, to get the best education that want. I don’t think people should be boxed in because of where they live, the color of their skin, etc. I want my children to have friends of all races and income levels. These are all things I think about when considering schools.

          I have loved reading different posts on your blog and appreciate your heart to help the poor. I hope this comes across as a kind challenge. I’m just trying to throw out another perspective. The answers aren’t “One Size Fits All”.

          1. Post
            Author
            Sharon

            Melissa, thanks for thinking about this so deeply and carefully. That is EXACTLY what I hoped people would do. As you said, we live in Holly Springs, a town we picked because it was the only place we could afford that was close to the church in Cary where my husband is a pastor. We didn’t pick it because of the schools, although they are fine here. Regardless, I JUST got this information weeks ago. It wasn’t a part of our process when we moved here. I don’t know if it would have affected our decision to live here or not. Our kids aren’t school aged, so we’ve still got some time to decide where to put them. But you’re right, sending our kids to these schools is not the same as sending them to schools in an urban, inner city.

            In the mean time, I am not suggesting a one size fits all model. As I said in another comment, my main desire was for people to simply listen and pray, be open to the Spirit, and see what He says. I never meant to suggest that ALL people should do this, but I do hope that whatever decision Christians make, we are taking ALL the children in our community into consideration. I didn’t hear enough of that in the comments, which was disappointing. I understand concerns for your own children (I have children, after all) but gosh, we are Christians–caring for poor children should at least be a part of the thought process.

            Part of what makes this conversation hard is that there is a lot of fear and misinformation. Even you mentioning Durham schools–my roommate at Duke went to a Durham public school and had a really positive experience there. Some Durham schools are better than others, but I think there is a lot of misinformation out there that if I send my kid to such-and-such school it WILL be a terrible experience and they WON’T get a good education and they might even lose their faith. Those are not foregone conclusions, but they are often treated as if they are, and I’m not sure why.

            As for my own kids, no matter where we live, I keep asking myself what am I afraid of, and what have they got to lose? Most schools aren’t dangerous. Even in schools where the tests scores are lower, we as parents can come alongside our kids and stand in those gaps. Maybe they won’t get into an Ivy League, and I’m totally fine with that. Mostly, I want them to be men who know how to live their faith in this world in thoughtful and compelling ways, who know how to love their neighbors well, are good husbands and fathers, and live a long life of faithfulness to Christ. That’s my long-game, and public schools–even bad ones–do not stand in the way of that goal.

            I hope that gives you a better picture of where I’m at. It’s hard not to get defensive when I feel like people aren’t listening, but really that’s all I want. Just for people to listen, to think, and to be willing to be challenged. I hope that makes sense!

  22. Alastair Roberts

    I recently participated in a very long discussion with a group of Christian scholars and leaders about sending children to public schools. Those of us with first hand experience of attending a public school had a wealth of horror stories to tell. I went to a public school that only admitted half of applications, based on an entrance exam—it was the good school in town. One of my best friends from childhood—a gentle and kind boy—was destroyed by that school, ending up attempting suicide and then out on the streets on drugs. I still bear psychological scars from my experiences there to this day. I remember spending whole years of classes in some subjects learning nothing whatsoever because students from broken homes were so disruptive. A few years later, I was given an assisted place in an independent school with kids from wealthy backgrounds. For a brief window in time, I felt that I could thrive academically, around peers who actually took learning seriously and were collectively intent upon getting somewhere in life, rather than sabotaging and ostracizing anyone else who was.

    If you do decide to send your kids to a public school, please do so with your eyes open. Please don’t let a biblical concern for one’s neighbour be an idealistic blindness to the real costs that your children may have to pay for your commitment. The decision to send your kids to a public school may be a right one, but you need to be aware of the great risks that you are assuming too and the fact that the burden of these falls largely on others’ shoulders.

    1. Post
      Author
      Sharon

      Alastair, thank you for sharing your story, and I am so sorry for your experience. Some public schools are better and worse than others (as you can see from some of the other comments, many people have had wonderful experiences), but for the poor and minorities who are in those difficult situations–like yours–and can’t get out, I hope the church will help them.

      This also reminds me of a friend of mine who had a terrible experience at her private school. She was bullied so badly that she had to leave. There are bad kids everywhere. Some of them are just more cleaned up looking.

  23. A

    Thank you for your post. You might also enjoy this.. Similar sentiments, but on the topics of vaccination and missionary work.

    To some commenters here: I don’t think the issue is about whether God will create godly persons from whatever kind of education He chooses. That is true – of anything. God will have His way, regardless of circumstances. And it is not about a prescription to send kids to public school – it is that our actions have wider social implications, that often affect Christian witness. So these white churches may have formed private schools to protect their children – which is not wrong – but in the aggregate, they further a system of entrenched inequality and power relations.

  24. Christy

    I really appreciate your post on this. I know that this is a controversial issue, and I very much appreciate your willingness to wade into it. However, I think there are a lot of assumptions, even within your post, that I would question.

    A few things to remember:
    1. A whole lot of those Black and Latino families are Christians themselves. Insufficient Jesus isn’t really the problem. And not all Black and Latino students are poor.

    2. You will only be sending your kids to a predominantly low-income school if you live in a predominantly low-income neighborhood. Most white middle-class people live in white, middle class areas, so sending your kids to public school means sending your kid to a public school full of people who mostly look like you.

    3. You said: Until the last hundred years, education was about moral formation. Students didn’t receive education simply to get a job, but to be shaped into good citizens. Education was about forming people of character.

    Today, that moral component is all but absent from our schools. Our culture is too politically correct for that. A teacher could literally get fired for claiming that one life choice is better or healthier than another.

    This statement is patently untrue.I live in Los Angeles and am in the LA Unified School District – one of the biggest and most liberal school district in the country, with all the problems of most large urban school districts. There are MANY valid criticisms of LAUSD you could make, but I don’t think you could find a single teacher who was fired for not being politically correct. (Maybe there is one, but a big criticism right now is that it’s incredibly hard to fire teachers for even really egregious offenses.)

    Also in 1900, only 51% of children ages 5 to 19 were enrolled in school, so half the children in the country did not receive ANY formal education. Only about 1/3 of black children were enrolled in schools because the prevailing “morality” would not let them attend – the same “morality” that thought public lynchings were a fun family outing. Here is my source: https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp

    If all goes well, my two year old daughter will attend our neighborhood school in a couple years- a Title 1 school that is 58% Latino where about half the students qualify for free or reduced lunches, and there is also a significant population of pretty affluent white families. The school is doing a great job, and I’m thrilled that my daughter will have the opportunity to experience a more diverse environment than I did at a school that is also doing a great job academically. It’s not a sacrifice – it’s an opportunity.

  25. KM

    You had me nodding in agreement until the bit where you said to avoid asking non-Christians about a school district. Why? I am non-Christian and whole heartily agree with the overall premise of your post. Not being a Christian doesn’t mean one is bankrupt of empathy for others in our community or the ability to objectively analyze a school beyond socioeconomics and race.

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  26. Melissa

    Sharon,
    Thanks so much for your response. It WAS very helpful in understanding where you are coming from. I read your original post in light of that, and say, YES to a lot of what you are saying. Thank for taking the time to explain. I appreciate your passion and perspective.

  27. Rick

    This not only is incorrect but lacks a true understanding of the issue. The concept of white flight began when I was in Palo Alto CA and our schools were integrated in 1965 via bussing My family lived 1/2 mile from our local predominately white, Hispanic and Asian school that reflected the community which it served. The predominately Black schools had the same ISD both had the same PTA and the kids bussed into the white school did no better in the integrated school than the kids left in the predominately black school. My wife is a teacher in a minority dominated school heavy Hispanic and lower income kids. The children from homes where the parents are engaged do well, no matter what their race. The kids white, black,Asian or Hispanic whose parents are not engaged suffer. You want to change the school, recognize the problem. The second reason is the constant curriculum changes School systems impose on their faculties, this disruption cause millions of dollars of waste, lost teacher time and confusion which hurts the children..the last issue is teachers standards.Go to Dallas ISD and you will find teachers who can not speak English correctly, rather they speak Eubonics and you wonder why the schools have problems.
    My wife and I went to Barbados for a vacation and visited a poor classroom located in the city.. The class was 100% black the school room had no air conditioning no library, no video or computer equipment and desks that looked 50 years old. The children all wore uniforms and were well behaved. The literacy rate in this third world Black Country was 98%. How is that possible? We love all of our Children stop doing foolish things, stop with immoral sideshow education experiments. Teach respect, for each other and love of country . Instill pride, moral standards and accountability and you children will prosper. Keep making excuses focus on political agendas, blame the race or economic conditions and you will enslave another generation in ignorance.

    1. Dee

      I’ve enjoyed reading all the posts and remember my angst about where to send my sons to school. I am an experienced (old) Bilingual (Spanish) elementary Public School teacher. I studied in Mexico to prepare for the students I would be teaching in Southern California.
      I am a proponent of integration. I remember the riots in my High School when we were desegregated. I remember great friendships across color lines that never would have happened in our isolated community. I remember great teachers and respectful students. The world changes especially in Public Education. I dislike their politics and love their teachers striving how to best reach their students. i am in favor of private school, homeschool and public school. I’ve had my sons enrolled in all three in that order. I got on my knees and asked God to open the doors he’d have us go through and close the ones He didn’t want us to go through. I did my research for what is was worth. I fretted. I found that there is no perfect school of any style. We chose what worked until it didn’t anymore. Eventuaaly my sons needed to be with their peers out in the “real” world. None of it was ideal. We weighed the pros and cons and got on our knees. Public school almost instantly exposed our sons to everything we had ever imagined and more. They saw the sinful world as it is and we talked with them about it alot. They experienced bullying, discrimation by wealthier students and poor teaching. It was a real eye opener for all of us. They made poor choices. We pulled together. Thank God it was not any worse. This is a sinful world. I could not hide them from it. The condition of education in Southern California is terrible in all scenarios. My sons education did not suffer because of what they were exposed to. That was a real world education. In my opinion their education suffered because of the Curriculum, poorly trained teachers, and poorly funded schools. We had to help them all along the way. The schools can not do the job on their own. It is hard work being a parent. God bless you in your decisions.

  28. Bill Brewer

    Yes, private schooling increased in response to desegregation; but prior to that, public schooling has expanded due to anti-Catholic sentiment. Neither historical fact has anything to do with fixing present-day schools. THE major problem with present-day schools is government ownership and control of education. There is no economical solution except separation of school and state.

  29. Amanda

    Hi Sharon! Thanks for posting this. I really admire your courage to share your thoughts on this. We have a four-year-old and are currently praying about her schooling next year as she starts kinder. I always assumed we would send her to public school, but we have been praying about it and have such a huge peace (the kind that surpasses understanding) about private, Christian school. The main reason my husband and I were even interested in private was the teachers — it is so appealing to me to have committed believers pouring into my kids the hours I am not there. I am not relying on them to do the spiritual work, but the world throws so many lies and “self-help” toward our kids– during their formative years, I want Godly people encouraging them (my nieces had bad experiences with this in public school — since they started private, they are whole different – and more joyful – little girls). That is the reason we even looked at private school to being with. But I have been hesitant, because our public school is mostly a mixture of white and Indian families. It is not like what you are talking about, whereas our presence would raise up the other ethnic groups academically, but I always thought our family would be a light to unbelievers in that school…that our children and our family would minister to those Hindu families. But I am trusting God. If He wants us in private school, I will trust Him with our children and with those families at our public school of other religions. I guess where it comes down for me — I agree that we need to check our motives and prayerfully seek how we can help other children and families around us — but I am realizing that I need to also make a priority of praying “what is best for my child and for our family.” When I say “best” – I mean God’s will. The Lord’s way is best and if He is leading us to private school, there is some reason, even though I may not know it right now (or may ever know why). I believe that His will is perfect and that He will guide me in helping raise God-fearing and strong children — whether that be through witnessing to others in public school, or in a private school environment (where, I still think it is important to witness! Just because a school is “Christian” doesn’t mean all the kids there are Christian! There are still ministry opportunities there.) This is just such a hard issue – with good arguments on both sides. It just is where God wants our kids and our families. Thanks again for sharing. Always appreciate your thoughts and viewpoints!!

  30. Thinking on both sides

    This is a great article. You do make very good points. There are always exceptions, however. I’m choosing to homeschool my 4 year old because, as of now, she has met EVERY qualification for PASSING kindergarten except for two or three. She’s not eligible for kindergarten until next year. In our small community, most children entering kindergarten do not know their numbers, letters, or even how to write their own name. Consequently, by the time they reach first grade by the calendar, they are still not at kindergarten standards. This leaves the first grade teacher to play catch-up, and so it goes all the way up until around third grade here. I have friends who teach at the school, and they’ve recommended that for my child to thrive, I should homeschool so that SHE doesn’t lose three to four years of prime learning time, and can continue to excel and learn at her own pace, not having to stop and wait, or worse, become bored and dislike school all together for lack of a challenging learning environment. I realize it varies from school district to school district, and in larger towns, they have advanced classes, etc. Here, however, the town has less than 300 people, and you are stuck where you “fit” by age alone. As you can imagine, it has nothing to do with race, as it’s a caucasian area in general. Again, thank you for the post, as it’s wonderful to see all points of view.

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