Being Christian Pioneers in an Educational Wilderness – Part 1: The Educational Wilderness

We have an interesting phenomenon in the Christian homeschool community.

We look at our young children and conclude that we cannot send them to secular elementary schools. They are too precious to us and we want them to grow primarily in their knowledge of God and secondarily (make no mistake—it is secondary but it is important) in their knowledge of God’s world. We also know that the responsibility to do this is ours. We can recite Deut. 6:4-9 and we have read Psalm 78 countless times.

Then, we look at our growing children and conclude that we cannot send them to secular middle and high schools. They are too impressionable. Not only do we know that the task of training them in their knowledge of God is not finished, we also know that secular secondary education is a minefield of problems both academically and culturally. We are willing to sacrifice income, time and pleasure; forego social and extracurricular activities; manage difficulties, motivation and rebellion; all for benefits too many and too great to convey here. We rejoice in God’s blessings and cry through God’s disciplines. Throughout the outworking of God’s secret plan, our hope is strengthened and we know we could not have done otherwise. We have learned to meditate on Phil. 4: 4-9.

Finally, we look at our young men and women as they prepare for college studies and conclude that they are ready to engage the real world. It has to happen sometime and we can’t be there for them forever.  Then, we become pragmatic and ask questions like: which college has the most subsidies? Which one will accept more of my dual enrollment credits? Which one will land the job most securely? What about that new interesting classical college we visited? Oh, it isn’t accredited is it? No, that definitely will not work.

No, I am not a pure idealist and I recognize that being pragmatic, at least to some degree, is reasonable. The question I want to ask is whether we are sufficiently addressing some important questions with respect to college studies that transcend the pragmatic issues.

It occurs to me that roughly 40 years ago some brave pioneers blazed a trail for us that is now paying back dividends that were far beyond imagination at the time. These pioneers looked at the educational opportunities available to them and decided that they were not sufficient in three aspects: culture, academics and philosophy. Culturally, the Christian foundations that our forefathers deemed necessary to establish an orderly society were being abandoned. Academically, long held standards were being lowered and other criteria for educational success, including equality, were being elevated. Philosophically, a biblical worldview which had been deteriorating for some time was being intentionally replaced with its opposite: humanism. So, what did those pioneers do? They broke the mold! And having done so, they created a movement that we dearly love and would fight to defend.

Now when we consider higher education from cultural, academic and philosophical perspectives, what do we find? Granting some obvious exceptions from committed Christian colleges and universities, I think we find all of the issues that those early pioneers found with primary and secondary education. I might even argue that we find them at more extreme levels. Culturally, higher education promotes the destruction of family and gender negating the primary societal norms that God established in the garden. Academically, political agenda and pressures to grant a “college education to all” are not only lowering the standards but also compromising the free quest for knowledge. Philosophically, the basis of education, that has historically transitioned from theology to philosophy to psychology and then to utility, has now become personal identity. It is not only that God is dead; humanity and rationality have suffered the same fate. This, of course, is no surprise since both humanity and rationality have their basis in God.

It is true that our young men and women do grow to maturity and do establish their own households and lives. What does it mean to do this and is this what we mean by engaging the real world? If so, then I want to suggest that engaging the real world does not have to include submitting to educational institutions that are culturally, academically, and philosophically compromised. Thus, while I think the pragmatic questions have their place, I also think that we have some fundamental issues to address. The pioneers that gave us the homeschool movement elevated their desire to educate their children in the knowledge of God over the financial and societal benefits of continuing to participate in the government school system.  I give thanks to God for their willingness to do so.

The question of the day is whether a similar pioneering effort is needed in a new educational wilderness.

This is a question that I want to consider. Future considerations, Lord willing, will include further detail on the cultural, academic, and philosophical challenges in higher education; as well as alternatives on how pioneers might blaze new trails within a Christian based educational frontier.

Follow this links to continue this article:

Part 2: Philosophy and Culture

Part 3: Academics and Educational Choices