What Sovereign Grace Ministries Teaches About Educational Choices – part ii

January 1, 2010 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

What follows is the second part of a transcript of a teaching given by GS at Covenant Life Church on February 21, 2009.  You can view Part I by clicking here.  You can access the audio version of this talk here.


[GS speaking:]

So, there are differences in our children, if you have different learning styles, different gifts, different temptations.  There are differences in families.  A family with one child and a family with eight children are probably gonna need to think about different options.  Different incomes among families, different values.  Different priorities.  Some families are very musical, some are very athletic, some are very intellectual, some are very service-oriented.  These family values can shape some of our educational choices or influence those.  There are differences in circumstances in seasons.  If the mom’s health declines rapidly, homeschooling may not be an option.  If, ah, the finances dry up, the job disappears, private school may not be an option suddenly.  Ah, in a child’s development a third grader and a seventh grader and an eleventh grader are in very different seasons of development, and a parent may decide that different kinds of education are best suited for those different seasons.  Your family may live in Woodbine, versus Gaithersburg.  That may make a real difference in what options are available to you.  You may be in one school district versus another.  That may make the decision different for you.  There are all these differences. 

I, I – ah – got feedback from one mom.  I’d sent out some of these materials to parents who were educating in these different models, public school, private school, homeschool.  I just wanted to get their feedback and make sure that it was balanced and clear.  And this mom wrote back and said, “I wish it was as simple as picking a form of education, but all the other factors of where each child is at and what fits for each child makes it an interesting process, doesn’t it.”  I think this mom has 7 children.  She speaks from experience.  “Interesting” may not always be the word we would use.  Uh, “downright difficult” might be the more appropriate.  But – it’s a tough decision.  OK?  Some principles for wise parents, I hope those are helpful.

Now, now we get into something that – that – I hope is helpful to you, I’ve given this a lot of thought, would welcome your feedback on this if there are pros or cons or questions that you don’t think this adequately covers.  But let’s take a few minutes to explore these five options.  If you’ll look at your handout, the five models template.

We’re gonna look at public school, secular private school, Christian private school, homeschool, and hybrid school.  And – what we’re trying to figure out here is, of these, which one is best for our child?  Another way to think of that is, which one would be wisest for this season in my child’s life.  That way be a more accurate way to ask the question.  Because what’s – what’s good this year may not be good next year or the year after that.  Ah, this is a moving target that we’re shooting at. 

Before we launch into this, I wanted to tell you about one family’s experience over time.  I, I won’t name the family, you may recognize them as I describe them, they know that I’m gonna share this, they’re comfortable with that, but I thought, let me just give you the details, and um, use that as a way of, hopefully, introducing some of the complexity and some of the different variables.

This family has been in our church a long time.  They lived in an area where there was a very good elementary school.  Um, nearby, with some outstanding teachers.  They chose to send their children to the public school for elementary school and really had a great experience with these teachers, except for one year.  There was a teacher who was not so good, they probably picked this up from talking with other parents, and they decided to homeschool one child rather than have the child in school for that year, just because that teacher was not as good.  The following year they put the child back in elementary school and really appreciated the teacher they had the following year.  When their children reached the middle school years, their conviction was that developmentally, this was such a difficult age, they didn’t want to complicate matters by putting the children in school at all.  They felt that homeschool would provide a sheltered environment for their children to kind of work through those issues, not be subjected to const – some of the, the cruelty, the nonsense, that can happen during the middle school years.  So they chose to homeschool during that season.  The kids were enthusiastic about it, they both agreed that that was a good choice, and they were pleased with that decision.  It worked well…for them. 

But when their oldest reached high school, Mom no longer felt adequate to teach at the high school level.  Ah, I know this mom, she is very competent, but she knew about the academic rigor, and, uh, wanted her children to be involved in some of the other extracurricular things and just felt, “I can’t do that at the high school level myself.”  She did not have faith for that herself.  Some do.  So they chose to send that child to the public high school, which had a strong reputation in academics, had a good background for safety, ah, but still had all the kind of social challenges that any public school’s gonna have at that level.  However, with this particular child, they had already assessed his character enough to know that he didn’t seem unduly influenced by peer pressure.  He was not that sociable.  [Kris says:  Is this supposed to be a GOOD thing, to be “not that sociable”?  I hope not.]  So they took a risk.  [Kris says:  Why is this phrased in terms of “taking a risk”?  Kind of negative, prejudicial language for someone who is supposedly so open-minded about the “legitimacy” of choosing a public school in some situations.]  They thought, “We think he’s the kind who might benefit from that environment without being unduly influenced.”  Well he graduated from this public school, did very well there.  Maintained his faith, and they were pleased with that outcome.

Their second child WAS very sociable.  And when he reached high school age, they made a different decision.  They thought, given his tendencies, if he’s in the public school setting, with all that goes on socially, it could shipwreck him.  It could really derail his growing faith.  [Kris says:  Hmm.  Again, this doesn’t sound like it’s coming from someone who has a very high view of God’s sovereignty.  Couldn’t God be trusted to put the right friends in this child’s path?  At least till the parents saw evidence to the contrary?] They chose to send him to Covenant Life School, to benefit from the Christian environment, the social atmosphere there.  They were very pleased with the outcome.  Very pleased with the teachers.  Now, what they couldn’t control was his response to that.  They were really excited about the administration, the faculty, but over time, he – he became less and less excited about school and he saw his older brother going to a public school, and – and eventually wanted to do that as well.  They’re at a place now where they’re having to decide, “Should we send him to public school like his brother, or kinda override his preferences and send him back to Covenant Life?”  That’s another thread in decision-making we have to consider as parents – what is the preference of the child?

Third child is a freshman this year in public school, spiritually strong, choosing good friends, and as far as they can tell, this is a good fit for her.  But what I hope you see is that with each child, in different seasons, they’ve assessed the child’s character, strengths and weaknesses, they’ve looked at the resources that are available to them and have made a range of decisions, all three different models of education over a period of time, based on different circumstances and variables. 

[Kris says:  I don’t know about anyone else, but it seems to me that this sort of advice – of assessing a child’s character and then choosing different paths for different siblings – could in some families make for a tremendous amount of strain later in life between siblings and also between parents and their kids.  What of the child who always looks back on “what might have been” and resents his parents for restricting him to a high school that might have limited his options when applying to colleges?  What of promoting jealousy and additional rivalry among siblings? 

Also, ARE parents always in the position to OBJECTIVELY assess their child’s “character, strengths, and weaknesses”?]    

And I commend that.  Commend that.  Now, I’m – if I were them, I might have chosen differently in some of their situations, I don’t know – I’m not meaning to endorse or condemn any decisions they actually made, but what I do want to commend is their thoughtfulness…about the process…and their attempt…to discern the needs of each child…to evaluate the options that were available and then to make the wisest choice they could.  That’s a good example to all of us, K?  I commend them for that.

[Kris says:  Wow.  Talk about “d**ning with faint praise.”  Why “commend” them for being thoughtful about the process…but then feel compelled to throw in the disclaimer about not meaning to endorse or condemn any decisions they actually made?  Why?  Mr. Somerville has stated that there are times when public school is a legitimate option for some families in some situations.  Certainly, if these parents were following the process Mr. Somerville is teaching – a thoughtful consideration of each child’s needs and circumstances, along with prayerful consideration – then shouldn’t Mr. Somerville be perfectly comfortable “endorsing” these parents’ decisions?  Does it even MATTER if he himself would have chosen the same things?

This is the sort of double-speak that drives me crazy.  Which is it?  If these parents’ choices are not worthy of Mr. Somerville’s “endorsement” (whatever that might mean), to the point where he feels compelled to throw that disclaimer into his presentation, then why use them as an example at all?

And why “commend” their use of the process, if the process only led them to a non-endorsement-worthy decision?]

Ah, the father I spoke to did say, you know, there’s a down side from the public school experience, which I was especially asking about.  [Kris says:  I’ll bet.  But why focus on the down side?  Doesn’t Mr. Somerville’s audience already have a basic inclination to think the worst of public education?  Why wouldn’t Mr. Somerville instead focus on the positives of the experience, since this would be an area where he – and most of his audience, I’m guessing – would have less firsthand experience?]  He said it does make it harder for the children to participate in the fellowship of the church.  Those who are in public high school feel left out.  [Kris says:  But is this the fault of the public school system, or the church?  There are LOTS and LOTS of wonderful biblical churches out there that don’t appear to cause these sorts of problems for their public-educated kids.]  Even when they come to care group, they can’t participate in sports, it’s harder for them to participate in the drama, there’s some ways they’re cut off from fellowship.  Parents would have to work extra hard to keep that influence.  And he did end by saying, “These days, I’m not sure how many kids can survive public school unless they have a great relationship with their parents and a strong walk with God.”  It’s rough out there.  And he knows that.  [Kris says:  Again, is this caution necessary for this audience?  What a really negative note to end on.]  Um…relationship with parents, strong walk with God.  We’ll talk about that later as key elements in that particular decision.  OK?

Let’s look at the five models.

I’ve tried to think through this in a way that would, would be, um, unprejudiced.  Each family is making decisions, my family has made certain decisions, I’ll tell you about those when we have our question and answer panel later, um, I’m not saying that that would be right for your family, but I’ll just let you know what those are when we get to that point.  But there are pros and cons with each model. 

With public school, there are some wonderful advantages.  Public schools use your tax dollars to provide a wide variety of programs, classes, and learning opportunities for kids of all types.  Special needs kids, gifted and talented kids, um, Honors and AP classes for students at the high end.  Vocational training for those who are not well-suited to the academics.  They provide trained faculty with expertise in the subject matter that they’re teaching.  They have guidance counselors, ah, to deal with all kinds of issues, college counseling being one of those.  It doesn’t cost you anything to send your child there.  That’s a wonderful benefit.  They send those big yellow buses through your neighborhoods to pick up your children and save you gas money.  That’s a real benefit.  They have many athletic and extracurricular opportunities.  Your child may have gifts that, that other models of education just don’t have resources for.  And you may find that in a public school setting.  They have a large, diverse community, which I think is reflective of God’s world.  Um, sometimes, [Kris says:  “Sometimes”?  Only “sometimes”?]  whether it’s in a Christian school or a homeschool, you have a very narrow, not-so-diverse community, and that’s – that’s not as good.  Uh, diversity is great, it’s more reflective of reality.  It comes with its own challenges, as you know, but that – that can be perceived as a benefit.    [Kris says:  Wait, it can be “perceived” as a benefit?  Or it IS a benefit?  Which is it?  Is it more desirable to be in a culturally diverse learning situation, or not?]  As you would guess, there are tons of evangelistic opportunities if your child has a strong faith and an eagerness to share the Gospel. 

There’s some real disadvantages to public school.  Public schools are founded on a humanistic educational philosophy.  Biblical truth is absent from the curriculum and instruction.  They – they’re not allowed to put it in there.  They’re not allowed to talk about it in the classroom.  Now, Christian teachers sometimes find creative ways to compensate for that, but in the curriculum in itself, the way it’s been designed, there is no God.  Not that they speak against God, but by omitting God from the curriculum, the subtle idea is, God doesn’t exist.  There is no God.  That – that’s what ya have to work against if you’re the parent trying to compensate for that weakness.

It’s not just the curriculum, though, it’s also the way that they view the student.  A biblical view of the student is absent in discipline and in guidance.  Ah, the counselor probably will not be talking to your child about his sinful heart and his need for the Gospel.  And – praise God, the availability of a savior.  It’s probably going to talk to him more about his need for self-esteem, which really appeals to our pride and does not help a child.  OK, so it’s not just the curriculum, it’s the whole orientation toward the person veers away from biblical truth.

[Kris says:  So, given Mr. Somerville’s earlier point, about how as Christians, we are responsible before God (and will give an account to Him) for making sure our children are educated in a manner that is biblically based, doesn’t this particular disadvantage of public school actually translate into a complete condemnation (and necessitate the complete rejection) of public education?  How can the choice to put one’s kids in public school possibly be redeemed now?  No wonder he had to throw in that disclaimer about “not endorsing” his example family’s decision to send two of their children to public schools.] 

In a public school setting there’s gonna be major exposure to worldly values, major exposure to peer influences, and widely varying parental standards.  K?  Those are gonna be disadvantages.  Some questions to ask specifically for this model, and at the end, I’ll give you questions to ask about any model, but some that I think you should consider if you’re exploring public school would be these.

How well does my child discern truth from error?  Would he be able to sit in a tenth grade biology classroom and recognize when the teacher was assuming evolution?  Would he be able to pick up on that, would he see that, would he spot that?  How will I overlay a biblical worldview on my child’s humanistic education?  K, just assume that you’re gonna need that.  How will you?  What would that look like?  [Kris says:  Perhaps this could be a place for the church to step up?]  Are my child’s Christian convictions strong enough to resist strong worldly influences?  Ah, there’s always going to be risks.  You’ll never be able to say, “Yes, my child is perfectly equipped to resist that,” but you know your children by that point, at least, and to know, you know, I think this one might do better than that one.  Just like the family I was describing.

[Kris says:  But how many of Mr. Somerville’s listeners – I’m assuming that most of the people in the room that day were there BECAUSE they were seeking direction and weren’t feeling so confident about their own ability to make educational decisions – are ever going to reach a point where they’ll feel even remotely secure in their children’s ability to resist worldly influences?  Especially with their SGM church reminding them week after week of the horrors of their sin, their deceitful hearts (SGM teaches its members that even after becoming believers, Jeremiah 17:9 will always apply to them) , and the fact that they must seek counsel and seek more counsel?  Wouldn’t the idea that a child is secure enough in his walk with God to resist peer pressure be viewed by many as a kind of arrogance, too?]

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this particular public school?  Do your research.  How many students are there?  What are the demographics, what is the safety like?  Academically, is it strong, is it weak?  What kinds of classes does it offer?  Are there real academic advantages?  Do your research.  Because, schools differ, and, uh, not all of them are created the same.  OK?  That’s public school, and you may have additional things to bring up during the Q&A time, that would be great.

So get private school.  Secular private school.  There are a number of families in our church who send their children to some of the private schools in our area for different reasons.  For some it’s because there are unique educational opportunities.  Um, I – I only know some of them by name – St. Alban’s School is one that I’m aware of, ah, one of the members of our church is a teacher there.  I’ve visited his school.  It’s an impressive school academically speaking.  They provide rigorous academics.  Their students are getting in to the best colleges for good reason.  They’re being well-prepared.  Some wonderful opportunities.  They’re may be unique athletic or extracurricular opportunities.  Ah, nationally ranked sports teams, or coaches who are specially good at developing potential.  Those can factor into a family’s thinking.  Again, college and guidance counseling, and excellent preparation for college would be some of the advantages of secular private schools.

Disadvantages.  They can be costly.  They can be very costly.  Um, I was hearing somebody throw out a figure recently of like, $27,000 for one year of a private high school.  Ah, some people are paying that to get some of these advantages.  OK.  Transportation, they don’t send the yellow buses around, so you have to drive or find carpools.  They have many of the same disadvantages as public schools, in some cases.  They – they may well be founded on a humanistic philosophy, there’s gonna be significant exposure to worldly values and peer influences.  Need to look at some of those same variables. 

Questions to ask here that I think are important would be, first, what makes this model more attractive than the other alternatives?  If you’re thinking about St. Alban’s, just ask yourself that question, why would this be more attractive?  Is it the academics?  Is it proximity?  Um, for this gentleman who’s in our church, something that makes him consider it is the fact that his children receive free tuition because he’s on the faculty.  He’s not paying $27,000 a year for them, he’s paying zero.  And he’s already going to school himself.  That’s a valid reason for him to consider having his children going to St. Alban’s School.  OK?  It’s not the only thing to consider, but that’s a compelling one in his case.

Second, do the benefits of attending this school – academic, athletic, etcetera – justify the expense, and the potential spiritual risks?  One of the things we’re trying to avoid is regret of making a decision and four years later or eight years later, realizing, you know, my child has really suffered spiritual harm as a result of that.  I – I thought it was a good idea, my wife and I were both committed to it, but looking back, we wish we’d done that differently.  Now, going back to the providential guardrail.  K, our job is to do our best to make a wise decision.  Then we have to trust God.  We’re never gonna get a guarantee that it was the right one.  We have to trust God, and looking back, we can say, “God, I did my best, thank you for the guardrail in my life, it – it – it  didn’t turn out quite like I’d hoped, I have to trust you for the future, but I – I did my best and I have to trust you, that you were in control.”  Ah.  [Kris says:  Here we have the absolute HEIGHT of double-speak.  We can take comfort in the “guardrail of God’s providence.”  But in the very next breath, we are reminded that we have to go through this process full of questions and doubts so that we can avoid having regrets over the “spiritual harm” that a child has suffered as a result of the decisions that his parents made about his schooling!

Which is it?

Honestly, I am in full agreement that it’s important to think about our children’s education.  But there is so much fear and so many hidden implications behind this little advice session here.  Let’s consider the question that Mr. Somerville suggested parents ask about secular private school:  “What makes this model more attractive than the other alternatives?”

If parents are going to be brutally honest, their reasons for choosing an expensive private secular school for their kids are going to be mostly about practical worldly ambition.  Seriously.  Most parents who choose expensive private secular schools are intent on having their kids have “the best,” so they can have a better shot at getting into a “good” college, which will then lead – theoretically – to a “good” job, which will lead to more money and a successful life.

I personally don’t think there’s anything automatically wrong about taking practical “worldly ambitions” into consideration…IF this kind of worldly ambition is not the driving force behind the family as individuals…IF it’s tempered with a true understanding of how we are NOT to “love the world”…IF it’s not the driving force in the parents’ (and kids’) lives.

But telling people to ask, as one part of decision-making, what makes one model more attractive than the other alternatives carries with it – especially in a church setting, when a church leader is giving the advice – some automatic implications.  There is a strong underlying idea that a “good Christian” (or, in SGM speak, a “Gospel-centered” person) will not be at all motivated by such “worldly ambitions” and would instead be more concerned, first of all, about participation in the “local” church and other spiritual concerns. 

Which would then make secular private school seem like an obviously “less spiritual” choice than other educational models.]

What we can avoid, though, is looking back and saying, “You know, I didn’t ask anybody else about that.  I really didn’t think about what this might do to my child’s soul.  I was so excited about the sports program and about my child’s possibility about playing in the NBA, that I think I was blinded by that desire.  I wish I could take that back.”  That we can avoid, with God’s help.  That’s why it’s important to ask questions like this, IF we’re considering that model.

[Kris says:  Why only if we’re considering the model of secular private school?

Also, aside from a couple of Proverbs, does the Bible really indicate the level of “counsel-seeking” that SGM advocates?  Do we see such admonitions in the New Testament?  Was Paul always telling the Corinthians or the Ephesians to ask other Christians for advice?  Did he remind the church at Philippi to send all their questions his way…or make sure to hit up their elders for direction about what to do?

It sure seems like SGM leaders are intent on creating a bunch of members who are very unsure of their own ability to receive direction from the Holy Spirit for themselves.  I have NOTHING against seeking advice from wise people when faced with a truly perplexing issue or a dire situation.  But it seems like all this talk of “seeking counsel” goes beyond really tense situations and instead is more about creating a bunch of namby-pamby people who dither and cannot make bold and confident decisions for themselves.


Third, Christian private school.  Christian private school.  Ah, the advantages here are that all subjects are taught from a biblical worldview.  Now I’m – I – I – wanna remain unbiased.  [Kris says:   Such a thing is a total myth, buddy.  We all bring our biases to the table, and yours have already become quite evident.]  At the same time, having served as head of school at Covenant Life School, I wanna, I wanna let you know a couple of things that I know about it just from personal experience, just to flesh this out a little.  Ah, the faculty and administration take real pains every year to evaluate the curriculum and say, “How is this consistent with Scripture?”  Each subject area has a philosophy statement that the faculty review every year to make sure that history, and Spanish, and science have a distinctly Christian orientation.  It’s a wonderful process as a teacher.  It excites you to get in the classroom and teach those things to young people.  Um, it’s a wonderful benefit to parents, to know that teachers are doing that.  [Kris says:  No doubt.  You know, I really do love Christian schools.  Truly.  They are wonderful places.  I agree with everything that Mr. Somerville has to say here.  He’s now preaching to the choir.

But, come to think of it, given the context – a presentation at Covenant Life Church – isn’t that sort of what he’s already doing?  Preaching to the choir?]

There’s spiritual instruction and character training in partnership with the parents.  These teachers are on your side, trying to accomplish the same goals that you have for your children.  They’re responsive to you, listening to you.  There are trained faculty who have expertise in the subject matter.  [Kris says:  Most of the time.  But I will say this.  I have spent a lot of years in Christian schools, both as a student (K-12) and as a teacher, and I believe I saw just as many substandard teachers in the Christian school setting as I ever saw in public schools.  Don’t get me wrong.  I was tremendously blessed by MOST of the teachers during my years as a Christian school student, and when I was a teacher, I had the highest respect for MOST of my colleagues.  But wow, because Christian schools are smaller places and kids tend to have the same teachers for several years (particularly at the middle and high school levels), when you DO get a clunker teacher, someone lazy or inadequately educated or otherwise flaky, it typically has MANY more far-reaching ramifications for the poor unfortunate students who have to endure (and be ill-prepared by) him or her. 

And yes, of course, we know that the public school also has its share of incompetent bozos who should have been fired 30 years ago.  But really, the percentage of bozos is probably not a whole lot lower in a Christian school.  Sadly, though, as I said, the effects of such a bozo teacher will often be felt for far longer by the Christian school student.  At a large public high school, a kid may have a really bad English teacher during his freshman year, but she is long forgotten by his junior year.  At a Christian school, if his incompetent English teacher is political enough to perform well for the administration (or if the administration is comprised of more bozos – which has also been known to happen), that teacher could be with a kid till he graduates from high school, leaving him in a place where he’s never had a decent teacher.]  There is real similarity in the parental standards.  Not perfectly.  Parents will always do things differently.  But in a Christian school, parents who send their children there do have many of the same goals and expectations, and that makes it a lot easier to interact with and communicate with other parents. 

Your child has an opportunity to build convictions in a protected Christian environment.  Not that every child is carrying one of those halos around and perfectly conforming to God’s pattern.  There’s sin in a Christian school as well.  But, you’ve got teachers there helping your child address those situations and be conformed to Christ’s image.  And – and the classroom environment is protected from a lot of the influences you’d find in other places.

There’s the benefit of the classroom community, the classroom structure.  And a number of extracurricular activities, with sports teams, the arts, music, student government, journalism, different things, depending on the school that your student attends. 

Disadvantages – first, it costs a lot more than public school, and costs more than most homeschool settings.  Um, compared to St. Alban’s School, it’s a drop in the bucket.  I think it, at, Covenant Life School this year, at the high school, tuition was about $6,500 dollars, Jamie Leech can tell you more about that at the break if you have specific questions, but depending on who you are and how much you make, that could be seen as a lot.  I would argue that it’s a great value for what you get, but it’s still – that’s a lot of money.  Transportation.  You have to provide your own transportation to these Christian schools.  They – they don’t have buses.  In a Christian school, I call this moderate exposure to worldly values.  Probably not as much as you’re gonna get in a public high school hallway, but there’s still gonna be some exposure to worldly values.  You need to be prepared for that.  There’s gonna be a measure exposure to peer influences.  It is a peer culture.  They’re surrounded by their peers all the time.  That’s gonna influence them, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, but you need to be prepared for that influence.

But there is the potential in a Christian school of growing spiritually passive…and lukewarm.  Because you’re surrounded by other Christians, everybody believes the same thing, you don’t have to defend your faith, you’re not being challenged for your beliefs, everybody kinda goes along with that.  And that can lead to passivity.  Doesn’t have to, but it can.  [Kris says:  I am really glad that Mr. Somerville was honest enough to mention this point.  This is a really important thing to consider.]

In this model, some important questions asked would be first, would I be tempted to neglect the spiritual training of my child because of the spiritual training he – he or she would receive in the Christian school?  In other words, would I delegate that to the teacher and stop taking that seriously myself.  If so, that might be a bad decision for you.  Second, how will my child respond to the influence of peers who may confess Christ but may not model Godly attitudes and behavior?  OK, now, in a public school, you know what you’re getting.  Uh, you’re bl – it’s black and white, it’s hot or cold, you’re either Christian or not, and it’s pretty clear.  In a Christian school, from my experience, everybody is at least professing to believe in God and to read their Bibles and to go to church, and so, for a young person, it can be hard to discern what’s real and what’s not.  “He says he’s a Christian, but he’s doing this.  She’s says she’s a Christian, she said that.  OK, I guess it’s fine for Christians to do that.”  Some kids are very influenced by that.  OK, that’s part of the thing you’re gonna need to parent through if your child is in a Christian private school.  The influence of those peers who at least in name are following Christ but may not always be following Christ sincerely.  OK?

[Kris says:  And those are the only disadvantages Mr. Somerville could come up with?  Hmm.  I don’t think he tried very hard.  I’ve already alluded to the academic harm that can be done by just one incompetent teacher, if the school is relatively small (and most Christian schools are). 

Here’s just one additional disadvantage that Mr. Somerville failed to mention, one that I could think of right off the top of my head:  in the smaller Christian school setting, peer pressure takes on a whole different dimension than it does in a much larger public school.  With its typically stunning lack of diversity, there tends to be a much narrower definition of “cool” in a Christian school.  Who’s cool, what’s cool – there’s typically a very tiny group of power-broker students who control that.  Likewise, who’s accepted, and who’s rejected.

If you’re unlucky enough to not fit the very narrow definition of cool, and you ARE one of the outcasts, it’s going to be a whole lot more painful for you, as the pool of other outcasts is much smaller than it’d be in a public setting. 

You may feel like a total nerd reject at your Christian high school, if you don’t fit in among the small group of “elite” kids.  But if you were to go to a public high school, you’d probably find at least a few dozen other nerd rejects who would hang with you at lunch and go to football games with you and maybe even text you or just come by your house to hang out.  You wouldn’t feel like a total loser in that context.

The worst part about this, though, is what it’s like to watch the “elite” as they often very subtly reject the “losers”…and then turn around and get lauded by their teachers and the principals for their “Godly” leadership.  (If I could put a vomit face here, I would!)  There’s almost nothing more toxic to a young person’s faith than having to watch supposedly discerning Christian teachers who have been snookered by one of these kids, blinded by their easy-going ways, their confidence, or – even – their influential family.

Yes, this kind of dynamic goes on in public schools, too.  And it can happen even in parent-directed youth ministry (the SGM model).  But it’s especially painful in the hyper-magnified world of a small Christian school.]

part iii coming soon…

© 2010, Kris. All rights reserved.