In our last post, we explored the problem a student had with her secular public school world history teacher. The teacher commented that Jesus did not really rise from the dead, that Christians and Muslims worshipped the same god, and that we would all go to the same heaven. The student was also reportedly told by the teacher that the class should leave their religions at the door, as it were, when coming into school. The student took to Facebook to get advice on how to respond to this.
I made the argument that to complain about a secular institution fulfilling its job description is intellectually incoherent; you can’t complain about Big Macs while eating at McDonald’s. Secularism reduces religion to mere sentiment; as such, everyone is their own expert when it comes to their own perceptions of religion. There is no reason for the Christian student to expect anything different from a secularized classroom.
So what then is the solution for this student?
I believe that the solution is found in churches coming together and providing education services to the wider society while bringing to bear distinctively Christ-centered frames of reference on the educational project.
As Christians, we believe that everything the gospel touches blossoms into newness of life, because everything the gospel touches is incorporated into the transformative life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
And so, when the church provides educational services to the wider society, it should do so in ways that are specific to the gospel:
The classrooms and hallways would be filled with the harmonious fragrance of psalms and hymns.
Students and teachers would bathe the school in countless hours of prayer and poetry.
Students would probe the mysteries of being in the writings of Plato and Virgil, Athanasius and Augustine.
They would sanctify their imaginations in literature, consecrate their thinking by communing with the eternity of numbers, and encounter and cultivate art and science that sanctifies their senses and prepares their bodies for their resurrection.
And here’s the good news: all of this is already going on!
Take for example the recent article on Tall Oaks Classical School in Delaware Today by the editor-in-chief: “Does Delaware Have a Blind Spot in the Education Arena? The success story of Tall Oaks’ classical learning style cannot be ignored.” The main article goes on to show how churches working together through the teachers and students at Tall Oaks are renewing and redeeming education in ways that secular schools could never hope to do.
This is the public witness of the church. This is the church being the church. This is the church as true salt and light in the world; the salt and light of the church is after all “a city set on a hill.”
When we live out our lives as a people endowed with the Holy Spirit, the world takes notice.
But what about the costs of an education like this? There are so many who can’t afford it.
First, we have to remember that the cost-per-student in Christian education is dramatically lower than in the public schools, and that schools like ours, Tall Oaks Classical, offer a number of scholarships, including full-rides.
Second, it seems strange to me that while we seem to have figured out how to pay for the ridiculously inflated prices for (often secular) colleges, we don’t do the same when it comes to K-12 education, which is a far more formative period for the student’s self-identity.
Third, if cost is really that much of an issue, then every Christian reading this post should do something about it (raise awareness for scholarships funded by churches, patrons, grandparents, associations, etc.), rather than just defer to secular institutions and assumptions that are the problem in the first place.
When the church realizes that it has been reassigned by secular institutions to the privatized consumerist wing of society, and that we can no longer rely on and expect the secular world to do and accomplish what only the church, endowed with the Holy Spirit, can, then we will see a mass renaissance of Christian education. Then we will see the emergence of sacred spaces all over the country, indeed the world, where students come to contemplate and practice Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in such a way so as to allow their faith to flourish and their humanity blossom.
Then our student’s concerns over the comments of a public school teacher posted on Facebook will be really answered, for generations to come.
Read more about the renaissance of classical Christian education in my new book: Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, available here.
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