This myth is bolstered by the notion that as long as a secular school does not address spiritual issues it remains a neutral environment. Even if there is no overt antagonism against Christianity, when Biblical teaching is omitted from a child's schooling, he or she learns through practice and modeling that it is not important to have God central to how we think. If God is not central to how we think, He will not be central to how we live either.
Consider the following instructive words from scripture:
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Both of these passages encourage us to immerse ourselves and our children in biblical truth throughout the day and in the midst of all of our various activities. In contrast, in an attempt to create a neutral environment where students from a variety of spiritual or religious backgrounds can co-exist, the secular school has no choice but to suppress this kind of integrated inclusion of biblical truths.
Plumstead Christian School, in contrast, works hard to provide excellent academics within a caring environment where students are taught to think biblically, serve effectively, and lead Christ-centered lives. While we encourage biblical literacy through concentrated academic Bible classes at every grade level and worship together in weekly chapels we also intentionally weave spiritual discussions and true biblical integration into every subject and every co-curricular activity. God and the Bible are central to how we think, and if God is central to how we think, He will be central to how we live.
Many people believe that Christian schools are an artificial environment – a bubble – that ultimately produces students who are naïve and vulnerable against the “real world.” In reality, Christian schools expose students to harsh truths in a strategic manner in partnership with parents. Employing this strategy protects the innocence of children without sidestepping real world issues such as post-modernism, drug and sex education, evolution, and materialism. Confronting issues at age appropriate times, Christian schools offer a biblical perspective and help each student to develop their own Christian worldview. Through this approach, students are equipped with tools needed to make godly decisions both as a student and as they navigate adulthood.
While the connotation of “living in a bubble” is generally perceived as a negative, does “training in a bubble” carry that same negative sentiment? No eighteen year old military recruit, for example, is shuttled from the recruiter’s office directly to the battlefield. Recruits are sent to boot camp where they are put through artificial experiences that are designed to simulate what the soldier may experience in battle. Boot camp prepares the soldier for real life in a sort of bubble with the aim of releasing them into the harsh reality of battle fully prepared to confront every situation with success. Likewise, the Christian school is a training ground for young Christian students – providing challenging opportunities in the areas of faith, virtue, and knowledge that are designed to prepare the student for the challenges that each student will face in life.
During a child’s formative years, he or she is continually inquisitive, seeking answers from peers and elders alike. According to scripture, Christians ought to seek counsel with a high degree of discernment:
“Blessed is the person who does not follow the advice of wicked people, take the path of sinners, or join in the company of mockers. Rather, he delights in the teachings of the Lord and reflects on his teachings day and night. He is like a tree that is planted beside streams–a tree that produces fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. He succeeds in everything he does.”(Psalm 1:1-3)
Consider the following scripture:
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Titus 2:7-8
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James 3:1-2
In light of the truth found in this scripture, Christian school faculty understand the importance of their mission, and they embrace their responsibility prayerfully.
Christian schools do offer a safe haven for students to explore, learn, and develop a biblical foundation for their lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which children are barraged with social challenges that can have long term effects on their character and/or behavior. Although Christian schools cannot promise freedom from negative peer influence, it is comforting to know that children in a Christian school are learning alongside other children who are most likely being raised in homes that demonstrate the love of Christ and that exemplify Judeo-Christian morals. Surrounding children with as many believers as possible during this vital training period is clearly biblical:
“Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”Proverbs 13:20
There are no guarantees that a child will become a follower of Christ based solely on their school environment, but don’t you want to give your child the very best opportunity to hear God’s Word daily and believe in it by attending a Christian school?
Many Christian parents won’t consider Christian schooling as an option because they believe that Christian schools offer a substandard educational experience for their children that will not prepare them for top college choices.
It would be wrong to debunk this myth with broad sweeping generalizations to the contrary. Within each subset of school types there are schools with weak academic reputations and others with strong academic reputations. Parents should exercise great discretion when looking at each individual school. Even so, just as it would be wrong to defend all Christian schools as bastions of academic excellence, it is not appropriate to characterize all Christian schools as weak academic institutions.
In 2011 Cardus, a Canadian think tank, conducted a massive educational survey known as the 2011 Cardus Educational Survey (CES). CES surveys graduates of secular private, secular public, private Christian schools, private Catholic schools, and home school. CES demonstrated that Protestant Christian schools, and specifically ACSI accredited schools like Plumstead Christian School, are excelling academically. In determining overall strength of schools, the Cardus Educational Survey measured the number of required courses in various disciplines, the number of Advanced Placement courses available, the percentage of graduates who attend top tier colleges and universities, and the graduates’ years of higher education and number of advanced degrees.
At Plumstead Christian School, 98 percent of our recent graduates matriculate to colleges and universities – many of them being accepted into top schools such as MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Lehigh University, Wheaton College, Grove City College, Villanova, Duke, Davidson, Wake Forest, and more. These colleges and universities recognize the strength of our programs and have taken notice of the fact that our students, on average, score well above national and state averages on standardized tests. Many of Plumstead Christian School’s 2013 graduates have been offered large academic scholarships to offset the cost of higher education, and because of enrollment in one or more of our eight Advanced Placement courses many will enter college with college credit – a few with as much as forty five semester credit hours to their credit.
It is reasonable for parents to expect their child’s secondary school to prepare students for entrance into and success in college, but the educational objectives of a good school need to be much broader than this. The Apostle Peter summarizes it well in 1 Peter 1:5, imploring us to “add to our faith virtue and to virtue knowledge.”
When this myth is articulated by some, it may be borne out of the assumption that an emphasis on the spiritual formation of our students and an emphasis on a rigorous academic experience are mutually exclusive. The argument may be stated as follows: Academics must be sacrificed if the school is going to spend time teaching the Bible, scheduling weekly chapel services, and integrating biblical truth.
At Plumstead Christian School we unapologetically emphasize the spiritual formation of the child. We also strive for excellence in design and execution of our rigorous and extensive curriculum. In addition to a proper response to national standards, we focus on such intangible “soft skills” like public speaking, the art of collaboration, writing across the curriculum, biblical literacy, technology literacy, leadership, service, worship, creativity, empathy, and interpersonal communication. These cannot be tested on a nationally standardized test, but these are life skills that, when mastered, will lead to a fuller, richer life at home, in the church, and at work so that it can be said of our students that they “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”
This myth has its roots in the scriptural mandate that we, as Christians, are called to be salt and light in the world. The Great Commission further urges Christians to “go and make disciples of all nations…”
With this said, should Christians be sending their children into the secular school as missionaries? Children are childlike. The Webster-Merriam dictionary defines “childlike" as “resembling, suggesting, or appropriate to a child or childhood; especially:marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness.” Children are extremely impressionable due to emotions affected by growth and hormonal change and the fact that their brains are rapidly absorbing information and developing.
According to an MIT Young Adult Development Project, the human brain does not fully develop until at least the mid-twenties. The study goes on to say,
“The specific changes that follow young adulthood are not yet well studied, but it is known that they involve increased myelination and continued adding and pruning of neurons. As a number of researchers have put it, "the rental car companies have it right." The brain isn't fully mature at 16, when we are allowed to drive, or at 18, when we are allowed to vote, or at 21, when we are allowed to drink, but closer to 25, when we are allowed to rent a car.
Missionaries are supposed to be fully trained before they enter the mission field. This training prepares them to “give an explanation of scriptures and withstand the abuse and rejection that Jesus promised from the world.” Children themselves are still being taught by educators and their parents how to conduct themselves socially and therefore cannot effectively endure persecution by their classmates. The Bible clearly teaches us that children lack maturity.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” – Proverbs 22:15
We are in a spiritual battle; a battle for souls. So Michael Lee of Cherokee Christian Schools gives us two illustrations:
“First, let us examine a military example because the Bible gives us so many analogies of the Christian life to warfare. When have we ever thought that we should send a 6, 10, or 14 year old child to Iraq to disarm roadside bombs or negotiate with terrorists? Or let us ask a less militaristic question of how we use our children. Why do we not have our children driving cars at 10 years old or running for political office when they are 12 years old? Yes, these questions are somewhat ridiculous because the answers are so obvious! Children must have an opportunity to grow up to an age where they have both physical and mental preparation before we thrust them in such situations.”
This lack of maturity can result in our children being negatively influenced by secular philosophy and peers who don’t know Christ as their Lord and savior. Michael Lee states it this way:
“The Bible contradicts the thinking that a well-mannered, sweet child can be a spiritual change agent. In fact, the teaching of the Bible tells us that every child is born with a sinful nature that is bent toward sinning and is not prone to honor and obey God. Rather than a sweet, young person changing those around him for the good, the Bible tells us that it is more likely that those who don’t obey and love God will change that sweet, young person for bad.”
The scriptures support this:
“Do not be deceived. Bad company corrupts good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” – Proverbs 13:20
“The devil is like a roaming lion looking to devour someone.” – 1 Peter 5:8
If you were to ask the average parent, teacher, or student what they most want their school to provide, in all likelihood, they would say, “a good education.” This answer is just vague and innocuous enough that it seems almost self-evident. Yet for all the lip-service that is paid to the idea, when pressed for a more precise definition of what is meant by a “good education,” most would struggle to articulate what they mean.
The history of the American school system has largely been shaped by debates over conflicting views about what constitutes a good education. Horace Mann, the founder of the 19th century common school movement, linked the notion to students’ moral development. John Dewey, the pragmatic philosopher and education reformer, said it should promote democracy through creation of a critically engaged public. Both of these views rightly acknowledge that “education” is concerned with more than the learning of useful facts and skills – it aims to connect a cohesive body of knowledge to a meaningful narrative by which we can better make sense of our world.
In recent years, however, such loftier aims have been replaced by more utilitarian purposes for education. Schools that once constructed curricula with a guiding narrative of moral and civic responsibility now shape classes based on disjointed national standards alone. Likewise, where learning was once viewed as something of intrinsic worth – an opportunity to investigate and appreciate the nuanced tapestry of creation – today’s schools have reduced it to a commodity in service of narrow extrinsic objectives– usually, access to better jobs, prestigious universities, financial security, or a competitive edge in the global economy. When schools stake their foundation on such limited ends, what they offer is not a true education as much as a fragmented vocational training.
Of those schools that remain steadfast in their desire to truly educate students, we must ask what it is that distinguishes an “education” from a “good education.” The roots of this question extend far beyond our American system. Indeed, the relationship between “goodness” and “education” was a topic of conversation between Socrates and Meno nearly 2500 years ago. In their dialogue, the two figures determined that a “good education” is better understood as an “education in goodness;” however, they struggled to reach a consensus on how this can be best achieved, as they could not agree on the definition of “goodness.” Fortunately for us, 300 years before their discourse, the prophet Micah provided clarity on the term, saying, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord requires of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
If an education is concerned with connecting a body of understandings to an overarching narrative, or worldview, then, according to Micah, a “good” education is one whose driving narrative is predominantly concerned with justice, mercy, and humble communion with God. Properly understood, this upends the socially constructed idea of what a good education entails. At a time when most schools have bought into the narrative that the aim of education is a fast-track to college, a job, and financial stability (and perhaps a spouse, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence along the way), an education in goodness recognizes that every one of these steps on the roadmap to success is meaningless if a student lacks the spiritual maturity to discern sacrifice from drudgery, humble service from childish egoism, conscience from feelings, self-respect from arrogance, and productive collaboration from selfish individualism.
Every school presents its students with a narrative. Some ground their narratives in what is good, true, and beautiful; others, unfortunately, emphasize more self-serving ends. Parents, teachers, and students must ask, what is the narrative that guides my school? Is it “good”? Does it lead to a more virtuous life? These are the questions that help us see whether or not a school provides a truly “good education.”
Visit Plumstead Christian School. Have a conversation with our Director of Admissions or our faculty and discover what we consider to be a “good education.”