Debbie Speik, Manager of Communications and Marketing at Saddleback Valley Christian Schools, San Juan Capistrano
As a Baby Boomer who grew up in a middle-class Southern California home, I have many “white picket fence” memories of my childhood: playing for hours with neighbors in our cul-de-sac, riding bikes to the local 7-Eleven for a Slurpee, gathering around the television with my family to watch The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. Of course, the reality of the Boomer world was not nearly that ideal. Our childhood years were marked by war, riots, the drug counterculture, and the social revolution which included the propagation of things like free sex and the gay rights movement. It was a turbulent time when much of our society was rebelling against longstanding cultural norms and traditional Christian values.
Looking back, I know there were many things my parents must have been concerned about as they raised my brother and myself. Fortunately, they had a wonderful tool at their disposal – parental discretion – which helped them navigate sensitive issues with us, such as premarital sex and homosexuality. They controlled when and how to address such topics. And when they sent us off to school each day, they didn’t have to worry about their message being contradicted by the institution to which they entrusted our formal education: the public school system.
No more white picket fences around our public schools
Fast forward to today. As my own child gets ready to graduate from college and enter the next season of life, I cannot help but think about what it will be like for him when he starts a family of his own. The hard, cold fact is this: today’s children are being raised in a culture which is tremendously hostile toward traditional Christian values – far more so than when I was growing up. And, sadly, one of the places where this animosity runs rampant is within our public school system.
Make no mistake about it: godly people – teachers, administrators, parents and students – are an integral part of the California public school landscape. And thank God for that! I believe the Lord calls many Christians to this arena so He can use them in mighty ways. God still has a plan for our public schools, even if those schools no longer have a plan for Him.
Still, there’s no disputing the fact that the voice of believers in public education is a mere whisper compared to that of the legislators, judges, bureaucrats and unions whose goal is to insert their anti-Christian agenda into our schools. The net effect for the Church is that our children are being “taught” an ever-increasing list of ideologies which are in direct opposition to what God’s Word says.
One glaring illustration of this is the very well-funded legislative effort to attack the Christian worldview with regard to homosexuality. From SB 48, which became law in 2012 and “requires all K -12 public schools, including charter schools, to include teachings that positively portray homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered individuals in the history-social sciences,”1 to AB 1266, a law that, when fully implemented, “will allow public school students to choose the bathroom, locker room, and sports team of their choice – regardless of their gender,”2 our children are being barraged with messages and mandates which contradict the Bible.
Another example of public education’s unwelcomed reach into our children’s lives is its growing ability to circumvent and subvert the rights of parents. In their publication, Hijacked K – 12, Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Riverside non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty, writes, “The legal principle that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children is substantially ignored in California law, which often gives public schools priority over parents in educating children, in administering medical treatment, and in providing mental health counseling – all of which may be done by school officials without the consent or knowledge of a student’s parents or guardians. Significantly, once a minor student reaches 7th grade, he or she has the authority to independently seek ‘confidential medical services’ during school hours and without parental notification. Students may be released by school authorities in order to obtain contraceptives, abortions, vaccines, counseling, and other medical or psychological treatment.”3 Consider the absurdity of this: a California school employee may not give a cough drop to your child without your written consent, but that same employee could legally counsel her about an unplanned pregnancy without your knowledge, let alone your permission!
Where to go from here?
Regardless of where our own children attend school – public, private or at home – this state of affairs should be very concerning to every Christian. So what are we, as believers, to do? First and foremost, keep praying: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (NIV, James 5:16b).
Beyond that, if your child is one of the more than an estimated 6.2 million children attending K – 12 public schools in California4, here are some thoughts to consider:
Be as engaged in your child’s education as possible – ask questions, get familiar with the curriculum, meet with teachers to learn what, if any, issues will be covered that are potentially at odds with your position, keep up to date on legislation which may have an impact on school matters.
Consider Private Christian Education
I know what many of you are thinking. It’s the same thing my husband and I thought before we took a huge step of faith by enrolling our two boys at a Christian school: Sure! I’d love to do that, but there’s no way we can afford it! My response to you is … if a Christian education is God’s will for your child’s life, He WILL provide a way. Looking back on our experience, we marvel at how creative the Lord was in making provision for our family. It wasn’t always easy and it was never without sacrifice. But the “investment” we made in Christian education was far more than a financial one; it was an eternal one!
Associated Christian Schools International (ACSI) has published a compelling article about this. 5 It summarized the results from a two-year study conducted by Cardus, a Christian think tank, which examined the intended and actual outcomes of Christian education. Here are some excerpts from that summary. (The page numbers within these experts are from the Cardus Education Survey – CES.6)
Students graduate from Protestant Christian school feeling well prepared for a spiritual life; consequently, they are more committed to their churches. They practice spiritual disciplines and follow church teachings more often than graduates from any other type of school.et al. (16)
The CES data suggest that Protestant Christian school graduates’ religious beliefs also have an impact on how they interact with the culture. These graduates use Scripture to make moral decisions more often, and they believe more strongly that moral standards are absolute – including prohibitions against premarital sex, divorce, and cohabitation (16-17, 20).
These students also strongly believe religion should be included in public discourse on the pressing issues of our time (20).7
I miss the days when the proverbial “white picket fence” surrounded our public schools. But the reality is that no matter how appealing that fence may have seemed, it had absolutely no inherent power to protect what it surrounded. Thankfully though, we know the One who does have that power – the Lord Jesus Christ. May He continue to place a hedge of protection around our public schools and our children.
1Tyler, Robert, and Jennifer Bursch. Hijacked K-12. Murrieta,CA: Advocates for Faith & Freedom, 2012. PDF.
3Tyler, Robert, and Jennifer Bursch. Hijacked K-12. Murrieta,CA: Advocates for Faith & Freedom, 2012. PDF.
5Egeler, Dan. “The Christian School Difference.” Christian School Comment 44 (2012/2013). ACSI. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
6Pennings, Ray et al.2011. Cardus education survey. Hamilton, ON: Cardus.
7Scott, Philip. 2012. Upon a solid foundation: The ACSI response to and expansion on the “Cardus Education Survey.” Colorado Springs, CO: ACSI.