Jul
10

The Case for CCE, chapter 5

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Chapter 5 of The Case for CCE is called “The Case Against Government Schools.” Wilson states his bottom line clearly: “Given what we have seen to this point, there is no good reason for Christian parents to entrust their children to the government school system.”

We need to remember that Wilson’s purpose here is to tear down — but not to tear down in the sense of spreading wanton destruction, confusion, and division. Rather, he means to tear down in order to build up in its place. Wilson wants to do what good teachers do — discover existing erroneous assumptions and eat away at those so that sound assumptions can be inserted in their place.

For example, when I teach about Medieval Europe, in order to show that this period was an era of remarkable wisdom and light, the first thing I attempt to do is to tear down the assumption that this period was a thousand-year experiment in darkness, ignorance, and bigotry. There exist powerful assumptions saying that the Medieval millennium was a “Dark Age” (light came only after we got over Christianity) or the “Middle Ages” (coming between something good before and even better after). Where did these ideas come from? Are they accurate? Do they lead to a proper understanding? Assumptions are powerful, and in order to have a right understanding of something, we often have to have our assumptions challenged. Teachers who know their stuff know this.

So Wilson is challenging assumptions in The Case of CCE. One of the most powerful assumptions among American Christians is that their children ought to be educated in the local school system. Wilson is attacking this assumption and asserting instead the assumption that “Christian education is not a luxury or an option. It is part of Christian discipleship for those who have been blessed with children.”

He is also challenging the assumption that the government school system is “neutral ground” for Christians. If education is an inherently religious activity, then schools have inescapable objects of worship. Christians are called to worship only one Lord. A unified life under the Lordship of Christ, according to Wilson, cannot include multiple lords.

Government education was birthed in a revolutionary rejection of the historic Christian faith, and the progressive claims for the saving power of education were breathtaking. . . . But many Christians still think of local government schools as being somehow “our” schools. Because local government was significant at the founding of our nation, and because many of the forms of local government have been kept intact, many Christians still think this is the case.

Thus, many Christians argue for the reform of the schools by restoring school prayer or the teaching of creation or making schools safer. But “Why prayer in an officially agnostic institution? Why the teaching of creation in an officially pluralistic institution? Why do we think it is a victory when the pagans admit our Lord, as an option just for some, to their pantheon of gods many and lords many?”

Further, Wilson argues that merely reacting to the ills of the schools — things like danger, academic incompetence, and immorality — “is not good enough. Believing parents must come to see Christian education as a demand of the covenant.” “God requires that covenant children be brought up in covenant truths.” Biblical passages like Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalm 78:5-8 make this clear.

Wilson takes up corollary issues: the “salt and light” argument for leaving children in public schools so that they can be an influence for good, and the issue of Christian teachers in public schools. But his central point is clear: Christian parents are to give their children a Christian education, and this simply cannot be accomplished in the local school system.

One last quote that begins to point in the direction of a positive argument for classical and Christian education:

Educated under the wrong kind of fear, our children will become servile in their thinking. Educated under no fear at all, they will become arrogant. . . .  God demands that we teach our children (His children) in accordance with their station. They are royalty and should receive a royal education. The mark of such an education is confident humility.

Amen.

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