Christian education

Do what the guru says? Public schools are spiritual too.

If I’ve ever wondered why we spend so much effort on our Christian education, it’s become clearer recently, since I’ve been doing some substitute teaching in several of Michigan’s public schools.

Hop, stop…and don’t ask any questions

Some of the reasons are obvious. While the Bible can’t be read in these schools, I’ve observed a fifth-grade teacher reading to her class from a horoscope book every morning.

Others are harder to spot, but important too. Recently, one of the early elementary schools here performed Cows in the Kitchen, a musical folktale about a family that is very noisy. So the parents go to the wise man on the mountain – the Guru – who tells them to bring various animals into their home. When it becomes intolerable, he tells them to remove the animals and thus they learn to appreciate having only their family’s noise within. At one point the Kindergarten kids sing:

Do what the Guru says
Do what the Guru says
Do what the Guru says
What he says to do.
Hop – we hop.
Stop – we stop.
We will do what he says to do.

All in fun? Certainly, to the 5-year-olds it was. But consider this: these children haven’t been told where true wisdom can be found, and they haven’t been told about the only One to whom such unquestioning obedience is actually due. What we have here are children deliberately starved of any spiritual direction, told to sing a little ditty about blindly following the directions of a mere man.

Public school spirituality

I’ve also run across numerous public school districts that have adopted Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People / Kids as their core value system for their students. While many aspects of the 7 Habits could be combined with Scripture as a list of “how to act” (plan ahead, be diligent, consider others first, work together), the poster for Habit #7 “Sharpen the Saw” features an Asian woman in the well-recognized yoga lotus position, and the text under the “Soul” section reads:

The Spiritual Dimension

  • Meditate
  • keep a journal
  • take in quality media

These are all good ideas but this spiritual dimension doesn’t even mention a “higher being” let alone God. While the entire 7 Habits system may seem beneficial for giving non-Christians something to use to manage the kids’ behavior, it emphasizes the great abilities of the individual person, and it ends up being a value system that has “a form of godliness, but denies its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).

The contrast

Other Michigan schools are considering adding yoga to their elementary curriculum as well, according to a National Public Radio newscast, in an effort to help students de-stress. I saw this in one Detroit-area school. A class of 25 4thgraders was escorted to the gymnasium for their yoga lesson. When the CD player wouldn’t work the teacher repeatedly yelled loudly at the students to sit still and be quiet. (It seemed a bit ironic.) One girl sat off to the side on a chair. “My parents don’t allow me to take yoga,” she said sadly. The question that remained unanswered was whether her parents realized that she was required to sit in the gym for 30 minutes while the others participated.

Contrast this with a recent Christian school’s spring concert that included the entire school – including Kindergartners – singing:

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ our Lord
And now, let the poor say, ‘I am rich’, let the weak say ‘I am strong’
Because of what the Lord has done for us – Give thanks

The point is, that with a great teacher, a young child learns not only to respect, but to love that teacher and accept everything that she or he has to say. While the students may be able to learn their 3 R’s in the public school, they will always, always be influenced by the life philosophy of their teacher as well.

We are so very blessed to have schools and teachers who will point our children to God.


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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Katie Veldkamp

    March 19, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    So we don’t have access to Christian education in our area, how do you recommend dealing with this stuff they are learning?

    • Reformed Perspective

      March 20, 2019 at 8:34 am

      Homeschooling is one option. That’s an intimidating idea to many a parent, but there’s a lot of help to be had out there, from online Christian support groups, to well developed Christian curriculums, to helpful books on how to get started – it’s just a google search away. One helpful source for homeschooilng resources and ideas is AnnieKatesHomeschoolreviews.com (she’s contributes to the magazine now and again). Homeschooling options are very different than a generation back – the Internet has helped expand the options enormously. There’s even multiple online, specifically Reformed schools to choose from: Logos Online and Veritas Press Academy. Other great resources include Compass Classroom and Romans Road Media.

      If homeschooling is not an option for you, and your children are going to go to the local public school, then be as involved there as you can. Get to know their teachers, invite them for dinner if possible, find out how they think, and what they believe, so you can understand what your children will be taught in their classes. Look through their textbooks, find out what each subject involves. Talk with your children, and have them invite their friends over, so you can meet their peers and understand what they are being taught from that side too. (That’s good advice for parents sending their children to Christian schools too). You might be blessed to find allies – in a Christian teacher, other Christian students, or maybe fellow parents – and then you can be a help to one another to keep aware of, and answer, the false ideology that will be taught to your children.

      But a key is understanding, there is no neutrality – there may be many pleasant people at your local public school, but there is no neutrality. Even in something as pervasive but seemingly simple as the exclusion of God from the curriculum, they are powerfully presenting a lie to our unsuspecting children. They are teaching that God is not relevant to every sphere of life – He is the God of Sunday, but not math class. Mom and Dad teach that God is important when it comes to morals, but their teachers are telling them that God has nothing to do with most everything else in life, whether its Chemistry, English, Mankind’s origins, career planning, and more. The irrelevance of God is relentlessly hammered home in class after class. To counter that lie you’ll need to be teaching them to see things as they really are, showing them how God is apparent in, and important to, all that we see around us. To equip you to that task, regular Bible reading and discussion with your kids is vital. You can also supplement their education with good godly books and magazines like this one (where you’ll also find book suggestions) and World magazine for kids.

    • Marie

      April 1, 2019 at 8:02 am

      It’s essential to get into the Bible, so kids can learn to recognize what is not of God. Let them know it’s okay to NOT do something at school that would offend God. You can opt your kid out of some things, or help your kid face the consequences and be honored to stand for Christ.

      I’m a Christian teacher in a public school. Parents are our best asset!

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