Once upon a time, there were children who were eager to learn to read. They wanted as much help as possible to be able to read wonderful books like the Bible. This was not surprising because these children watched and listened as their parents and older brothers and sisters looked at pages with small, black symbols on them and learned important ideas such as our duty to love and obey God and how Jesus Christ died on the cross to make atonement for His people. In fact, in many households, the reward for learning how to decipher this code was a Bible of one’s own. These children did not work for test scores or scholarships. They just wanted to learn.
They read about faraway people and places and learned from other people’s experiences. They had the chance to work with their parents and learn a trade. They were encouraged to learn God’s Word and pray that God would show them the calling He intended for them. Their families would help them find opportunities to apprentice under others who shared the same calling God had placed on their lives. It was a system that worked for centuries.
Time passed and “experts” came along who informed parents that they were no longer capable of teaching their children. Sadly, many parents believed these “experts,” and they began to get their little boys and girls up early in the morning, five days a week, to travel to a place where there were other boys and girls their own ages. The needs of the individual child did not matter; each had to do what all the other children did. It was difficult at first for them to give their children over to other people for six hours a day, but the mothers eventually got used to it and sought for meaningful things to do with their spare time. Some went back to school or got a job to feel useful and important.
As children progressed through the different grades, they lost much of their enthusiasm for learning. Instead of being excited about learning new things, they merely finished their homework. They liked Saturdays and Sundays best because they did not have to go to school. They also liked the summer months because school was not in session. Some completely forgot that there was a time in their lives when learning was fun and they could not wait to learn new things. It was a good thing TV and video games were invented because kids needed to do things that did not have to do with learning.
As the experts continued their experiment, they decided that to be truly educated, children had to be in school for twelve years. (And if children went to preschool or kindergarten, both highly recommended, more than twelve years could be spent in getting an “education.”)
One would think that after all this time, students, now young adults, would be ready to do something productive. However, the experts thought otherwise. They thought four to six more years of even “higher education” were needed. So they convinced parents and young adults to work hard so they could get into good colleges. Students worked to get good grades and scores on standardized tests. Parents spent lots of time and money sending their children to special classes to help them pass tests. They paid people to help them write essays and fill out applications to get into the best schools.
The journey did not necessarily end after these years of undergraduate education. The experts kept moving the finish line. Before long, there were two or three more years added to the journey. By the time many young adults finished the course, they were exhausted and most often had a lot of debt because it is costly to be a perpetual student. Some were so glad to be finished that they hardly ever picked up a book again.
According to the projections of the experts, all of this schooling should have produced smarter people, people who were loyal to their family and country, and productive members of the work force, living responsibly within their means and eager to become mothers and fathers themselves.
But that is not what happened. Instead, they abandoned much of what their fathers and mothers had taught them about loving Jesus Christ and keeping His commandments. They decided that institutions like marriage were old-fashioned and out-of-date. They lived as though they were entitled to the luxuries of life without having to work for them. They learned new ways to make phony promises to each other and swindle each other financially. Moreover, when they finally finished all their schooling, it was not always easy to get a job. After having been students for so long, they did not know how to discipline themselves to get up on time and report to a job. They began to like the political leaders who promised them something for nothing.
I wish I could say there was a successful conclusion for these people. But because so many of the graduates of these schools ended up nothing more than fools, they, their families, their communities, and their nations ended up selfish, burdened by debt, and enslaved.
Fortunately, when the experts began pontificating, a good number of people asked, “What does the Bible say about sending children to government schools?” Because God mandates that His little children have a Christian education, these parents understood that they were commanded by God to oversee the education of their children. They determined to teach their children from God’s Word, instructing them that every area of faith and life was subject to the law-word of God.
Children given godly instruction grew up well and managed to attain a good report almost everywhere they went. Unfortunately, their parents ran out of vision. Although they could see that their children learned more and applied their learning much better than their public-schooled counterparts, they decided to follow the path laid out by those experts for higher education. Many sent their children off to colleges that systematically worked to dislodge professing Christians from their faith in Christ.
How will it end for these people?
Vocation vs. Ambition
Too many Christian parents, who have begun a good work in their children, nullify much of their effort when they blindly assume that the only next step available is to send their children off to college. Most colleges embrace the very philosophies of education that homeschooling parents have shielded their children from in their early education. Many parents assume that having a degree from a college or university will insure that the child can get a good job and have a good life. This becomes the ambition for the parent and for the child. But God has a higher goal for His children, as Rushdoony points out:
Vocation allies itself with the Lord and places itself under the every word of God (Matt. 4:4). A vocation is the result of regeneration and faithful obedience. It sees freedom as obedience to the Lord. Ambition is marked by a lust for power and preeminence. The ambitious man seeks to use God and man to gain his own ends.
The ambitious man assents to the great temptation and says, “I shall be my own god, determining or establishing for myself, in terms of my will, what constitutes good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). The man with a calling says with our Lord, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
The ambitious man, because power is his god, will slaughter kulaks, persecute Jews, capitalists, whites, blacks, or workers, exploit all men, treat youth as fodder, and generally dedicate himself to what, in terms of God’s law-word, is sin and only sin, however noble a cause he may ascribe to his actions. (Most sins come labeled with a noble rationale; sinning is usually called liberation; and murders in the cause of sin are usually called victories over the enemies of the people, the state, or the Great Cause.)1
Parents should instill in their children early on that God has a distinct call on their lives and that education must be pursued to develop that calling or vocation. The pursuit of calling, or vocation, provides the goal for education. The student prepares for his place in the Kingdom of God, doing the work that God has called him to do. All work becomes a sacred duty, offered to God in loving pursuit of the growth of His holy Kingdom. That is what makes the homeschool such a fertile ground for growing responsible, competent individuals. For it is only through a truly Biblical education that one can learn to seek first the Kingdom of God. At what point is it proper to place children in environments that do not seek this holy goal?
The Lure of Credentials
Too often, professing Christians are more impressed with “credentials” from secular, God-hating “prestigious” schools than they are the production of godly character. Do graduates from secular or compromised colleges and universities graduate with wisdom? How can it truly be called “higher learning” if the course of study does not include the teaching of God’s law? Without the fear of God, it is unbiblical to call it education. Yet many fall into the idolatrous trap of seeking the world’s credentials to validate their worth. Many Christian parents surrender to the “necessity” of a secular college degree because those who hold those degrees are more marketable than those who do not.
Another excuse for sending Christian children to college is the need for young people to have “the college experience,” which often includes moving away from home and family. This is not the model for building a Biblical trustee family.2 It is foolish to have these young adults abandon their familial responsibilities at a time when they are ready to be productive assets to their families. In the case of large families, it is squandering resources to send your most highly trained members away. Moreover, the “college experience” is much more about drinking binges, sexual promiscuity, Marxist political and social theory, environmentalism, and the deification of other ideologies. These are the kinds of “experiences” the Christian should want no part of. The Scripture teaches:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor. 6:14–18)
One would think that twelve years of schooling under the supervision of highly trained, credentialed teachers would be enough to prepare most to become useful, productive individuals, since the majority are not heading toward careers in rocket science or brain surgery. But the modern educational system states that twelve years is not enough and needs to be enriched by four years of college, two years more for a master’s program and then on to a Ph.D. The harsh truth is that with the philosophy and practice of humanistic education, graduates of twelve years of schooling are not prepared to do very much.
This is a dramatically different situation from colonial and early America where young men thirteen and fourteen years of age were attending colleges. By lengthening the duration of schooling, we have not produced more mature graduates. We have only prolonged the contrived and fabricated stage of human development called adolescence. Rushdoony is correct when he asserts,
Some Christian parents have bought into the modern perspective that sees adolescence and its storm and stress, its rebelliousness and spirit of independence, as biologically determined and natural to man. In fact, however, adolescence is a cultural product, a hallmark of a decadent culture, and almost unknown in the history of civilization outside the modern era. In most cultures, what we call adolescence is rather a time of the most careful and attentive imitation of adults and of the older generation. Youth, on the verge of mature life and work, is then most concerned about being closer to the adult world and accepted by it. Instead of rebelling against it, youth seeks admission and initiation into the world of adults. Only because existentialism places a premium on isolation and radical independence do youth associate the dawn of physical maturity with a declaration of war and independence. They are simply enacting thereby the necessary religious “confirmation” rite of the modern world. The Christian child is confirmed in the faith of his fathers as he approaches maturity; the confirmation rite of the humanist child is adolescence and its rebelliousness or existentialism.3
No Ready Market
One would think that knowing that a young person had been educated to live, think, and act as a Christian would make him more marketable in Christian circles. Sadly, this is not always the case. Many Christians are in the position of hiring employees. Why don’t these Christians give preference to other Christians? Paul the Apostle instructs the church:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:10 NKJV)
How is it doing good to Christian young people to make it a requirement that secularists credential them? Most professing Christians fail to see this as a betrayal of Paul’s words. Jesus made it clear that the world would be given witness to those who were His disciples.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35 NKJV)
The modern version of loving one another involves sentimental feelings rather than a deliberate application of God’s law to the practical situations of life. Of what value is a Christian education if by the time it is complete, there isn’t a ready market to receive and benefit from these graduates? Could it be that the denigration of God’s law within the church has led to the reality that no difference exists between dealing with Christians and pagans? Other ethnic and religious groups give more heed to the spirit of Paul’s words within their own cultures than does the Body of Christ.
There are Christian colleges and universities, but many have been co-opted and teach the standard fare of their secular counterparts. Those that are faithful to the orthodox faith are often a considerable distance from home and involve uprooting the student from his family and familiar surroundings, not to mention often going into debt to do so. Choices closer to home include a college or university that is secular in nature, where integrity, godliness, and Biblical law are mocked and ridiculed. What are families to do? Just skip college altogether?
If you do not send your child to college, are you abandoning higher education? Of course not. Rather, faithful, close-to-home alternatives to the demonic environment of most college campuses need to be developed. If a particular calling truly dictates venturing into such places, parents need to be equipped to mentor their children through the process of selecting classes, teachers, majors, etc. They need to educate their children with information and tactics in dealing with those who seek to alienate them from Jesus Christ and His law-word.
Summer worldview conferences are helpful (http://wcwc.ws),4 but much more is needed. Every Christian student needs to have a support network that includes faithful believers who not only pray for and with them, but also are willing to engage in extensive conversations about the presuppositions of the coursework that is being studied, and highlighting where the material deviates from a Biblical perspective. Failing this, we are sending our children into situations with a big dartboard painted on their face—greatly impaired to defend themselves against the fiery darts that are aimed at them.5
Another very positive model to be utilized is the apprenticeship model. There are apprenticeship programs available for a wide variety of vocations. How marvelous it would be for a Christian child to be able to pursue such programs under the oversight of talented Christian teachers. This may not be possible in all instances, but it is a worthy goal nonetheless. Sure, coursework might be needed in order to get the “union card” credential for a particular field, but those whom the apprentices learn under can serve as mentors and master teachers, guiding the students as to how best to avoid the pitfalls. This would include apprenticing under physicians, teachers, lawyers, nurses, pastors, engineers, plumbers, and electricians.6
Some argue that after years in the homeschool setting, it is important and desirable for these students to get a dose of the “real world.” However, as Scripture so clearly defines it, the real world is the world where Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Anything else is a counterfeit. Thus, to accept the status quo of needing to get a degree from a secular college or university as the mark of being educated and marketable for one’s vocation is really taking a huge step backward for these students. Those who are called into professions that need this “credential” should make ample preparation in the subject areas to be studied, to be sure that they can successfully stand against the wiles of the devils in such places.
Although the Christian education movement has made great strides in the primary and secondary grades, the prospects for higher education are considerably less preferable than the environments from which homeschoolers emerge. God knows we can and must do better.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 159–160.
2. Andrea Schwartz, “The Biblical Trustee Family,” Faith for All of Life (Nov./Dec. 2007), 30.
3. R. J. Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001), 163–164.
4. The mission of the West-Coast Christian Worldview Conference is “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:14–16).
5. Students face a persistent dilemma when they attend a humanistic, God-mocking educational institution. They can stand for their faith and risk failing a course, or they can remain silent and go through the necessary steps to obtain a passing grade. With the first option, they risk wasting both their time and money for a very dubious outcome. With the second option, they risk falling into syncretistic and lukewarm Christianity.
6. Individual families could work out informal summer internships that would acquaint a prospective student with the realities of a particular career, helping him or her to discover whether this field is truly something to pursue.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].