Athens, Jerusalem, and… Canaan?

Dan Edelen, one of my new pneumablogger reads, has a new post up at Cerulean Sanctum on their decision to send an only child to public school, rather than a local Christian school. The argument goes something like this:

Up till now, they’ve been homeschooling, but they’re starting to see evidence of socialization problems that, partly due to his being an only child, simply aren’t being solved by extracurricular activities. He needs to be in a fully socialized environment. But a friend of theirs has insisted that, by sending his kid to a public school, he’s essentially “handing him over to the Canaanites.”

Tertullian, the 2nd century church father once asked the famous question, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” That is, why should we bother teaching our children philosophy and the classics when all they really need to know is the Bible? Dan takes this metaphor one step further and basically asserts that, Jerusalem or Athens, all of it is Canaan. That is, public or private school, classical or modern, no matter how you do it, Christians don’t have the privilege of living in a purely separate society. We still live in a secular society, we still have secular influences. The only real choice you get is **which** Canaan you live in. In a public school, there runs a real danger of your kids being exposed to harmful ideas: unchastity, deceitfulness, vengefulness, violence. But these are obvious dangers; they can be targeted and exposed a hundred yards off. In a private school which proports to be Christian, there are just as many dangers – there are just as many fallen people – but their unchristian nature may be more subtle and difficult to weed out.

So far so good, and if he’d stopped there, I’d be singing the praises of Dan Edelen. But then he zooms in on the specific, subtle evil to be learned at Christian schools: Materialism. “Truth is, most people making a household income less than $100,000 a year can’t pay to send their children to private Christian schools.” I never knew. I’m pretty sure my parents never made so much (even adjusting for inflation), and yet we went to a Christian school. I suppose there were people there who were better off than we were, but there were plenty who were worse. But maybe things are different in central Ohio. “Fourth-graders putting condoms on bananas OR materialism,” he says. “Which one damages the soul more? Which is harder to root out?” I had no idea the choice was so clean.

Frankly (and this is where I depart from Dan Edelen and mount my own soap box), I have no problem sending your kids to a public school. My sister and I both went to a Christian school for one year in Tulsa and then promptly insisted we transfer to public school, and I found, at least, that the Christian character at the public school was at least as good as at the Christian school. And even then we longed for the days of homeschooling. Different solutions fit different needs, and that’s as it should be.

But honestly, I think “socialization” is a red herring when it comes to school. Maybe I’m wrong. I wasn’t an only child, and as I get older I’m discovering that I’m pretty well introverted, so for some people maybe socializing is something like a need. For me it’s something like a Cadbury Easter egg: Oh! it’s so good! But a little bit can last you a very long time. Maybe some people need socializing. But socializing and socialization are two different things. Socialization is only tangentially related to education. Socialization has to do with the fact that we don’t just learn from books, we learn from models. But to take an ignorant child and surround him with other ignorant children and call that socialization is to teach your child to model ignorance.

My problem with most schools, public or private, is that they’re very little about the business of educating children, very little about *catechizing* them. What they are about is babysitting, putting them in giant intellectual holding pens until they’re *ripe*. There are some schools that take education as their primary task very seriously, but I see very little difference between many schools and the animal factories we so often hear about that produce our meat and poultry.

The task for parents (and I admit I am not yet one) is to *raise* children, to prepare them to be God’s people. Part of that task is education, education in values as well as facts and skills. A significant part of education is modeling, and that’s fine. But to allow real and proper education to be undermined by the chimera socialization (socializing needs notwithstanding), is a waste and a shame.

8 thoughts on “Athens, Jerusalem, and… Canaan?”

  1. I can’t speak for other families, but we homeschooled both of our kids – one through graduation (he had special needs) and one through what we thought would be 11th grade (she is quite gifted and wants to be a special ed teacher; requested we enroll her in pubschool specifically for an internship in teaching. It’s not something we can give in homeschool, she gave us extremely good arguments, so we enrolled her. They took one look @ our transcript and made her a senior.)

    Socialization was never an issue, we had plenty of opps through our church and intentional outlets. Sure, Kayti really enjoys lunch with her friends at public school, and she also enjoys the classroom dialogue… but is that reason to enroll your kids anywhere? I think not. Does she NEED that? No, of course not. Giving in to her “wants” was never an option. She was already getting an excellent education at home (4.0 GPA, which she’s maintained and even raised through honors-level classes – even with skipping a grade).

    Raising godly children, followed by excellence in education, needs to be our chief concern. Not this amorphous “socialization-in-school”.

    Just my ten cents and a cuppa coffee 🙂

    -Kathi

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  2. Puretext,

    The private Christian school I’m referring to is located in the heart of McMansionville. So yes, you’ve got to be in the six-figure club to seriously consider getting in.

    I’m not sure taking me to task on the issue of socialization is truly fair since you don’t know our situation nor our son. I’ll leave it at that.

    Homeschooling advocates ALWAYS run afoul when they start attempting to out-think the parents of non-homeschoolers on what is right for the child in question.

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  3. Like stars, schools differ from schools in their brightness. You did attend an excellent private school, Emmanuel, in Enid [which was a gift from Grandma & Grandpa — though we had committed to paying the fees somehow no matter what]. On the flip side Victory was not a good fit for you or Ces, academically, socially or spiritually. I would say in hindsight that there were good aspects of public school for you — forcing you to work to a deadline as opposed to simply learning stuff. [learning stuff you were good at] For Ces, in hindsight, I would say that it rates as one of my poorer parenting decisions — right up there with buying you a dog. She did well, she worked hard but my choice had more to do with wanting a break myself and figuring that as she had always “socialized” well that she would enjoy the change.

    Homeschooling is a major commitment and I have to agree with the first homeschooling mom I ever met — I think it’s best for all kids but not necessarily for all parents. Who couldn’t learn better in a one-on-one [or two or ten] setting with fewer distractions not to mention the ability to specifically target strengths and weaknesses.

    I think the article you cited made too light of the intense propaganda that kids are subjected to at an age when they are most pliable. I think the idea that a parent can “target” every subtle argument and counter them at home is quixotic. I rather agree with Mr. Mac who saw a problem in parents sending their kids to public schools and then on to Christian colleges. He said he would rather provide the strong foundation in those formative years and then let them go on to “hell university”.One of the rarely discussed side effects of public school socialization is that it creates peer depenency which is exploited in the classroom and then later more pointedly in the college setting.

    The other problem with the large amount of propaganda is that it is taking away from the time needed to actually learn something. Right now kids are spending approximately 6 hours [give or take] a day in the educational setting but having to come home to actually “get their education” in the form of homework. That was my biggest complaint when Ces went back to school — what’s all this homework? Why couldn’t it have been done on site? I thought of that especially when she was emailing you in NC to get explanations for Algebra. Dakota and I start by 9 and are through by 2 and all the work has been done plus he’s doing several enrichment projects, we’re reading several different books and covering quite a bit of anti-propaganda while we’re at it. Sidebar: but as we’re free-lancing a bit more this time, using fewer “textbooks”, I’m learning quite a bit more myself and that’s always a good thing.

    However, if you can find a decent public school [easier in red states], public school does have the advantage of freeing up financial resources and parental time.

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  4. DLE, thanks for stopping by. I hope I didn’t offend you, because that surely wasn’t my intent. Apparently, I did fail to communicate, though: I didn’t mean my tirade against socialization to be directed at you particularly, and certainly not at your son. I do think in general that the question of socialization is nonsense, but I have no experience with McMansionville or with only children. I don’t the first person I met who was an only child (in my memory at least) was in college, and hers was a very peculiar situation indeed.

    “Homeschooling advocates ALWAYS run afoul when they start attempting to out-think the parents of non-homeschoolers on what is right for the child in question.”

    And this is NOTHING compared to the problem of people with no children telling parents how to raise their kids.

    Different solutions fit different needs. My only direct complaint about what you were saying was that you gave the impression that All Christian schools everywhere charge vast sums of money, and that seemed a bit of a generalization.

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  5. I don’t remember requesting to go to public. That had to have been just you because my understanding was that it was too much of a hassle to drive so far when it wasn’t benefitting us anyway. As to socialization, here’s my take. You probably don’t remember half of it because you ditched me, essentially causing me to be an only child 😉

    I was social while homeschooling. I stopped choosing to socialize when we moved. It was to an extent that I thought nobody in Lawton remembered or liked me. Imagine how fun return trips were for me.

    5th grade – Christian school. I turned into the teacher’s pet because no one else would really talk to me or notice me (in my memory). Not having friends didn’t help, because I didn’t have any idea what I was supposed to do. Apparently important things like this are covered prior to 5th grade.

    6th-12th grade – Public school. In 6th grade I put myself into a bubble and wasn’t aware of anyone at school that wasn’t in one of my classes or that I knew of from riding the bus. Riding the bus.. what joys. Like the time when a 7th grade turned around, help up a condom (I knew because it said condom across the front) and asked me if I knew what it was. I didn’t want to sit anywhere near him after that. Public school didn’t improve for me from there. Nothing so.. ick.. as that, but the socialization part. I dreaded school, not because of the work, but because I was an outsider. I didn’t have anywhere to really fit in. How is it that just being stuck in a room of people about your age is suddenly being socialized? So apparently I can be equally socialized by doing my business at the grocery store and not talking to anyone else. That’s basically what I did through high school.

    TCC – no friends from school. Zilch. Nada.

    NSU – no friends. It’s becoming a problem, because I’m supposed to have peer observations – and no one that I can ask because they already are doing peer observations on their own friends. I got really irritated a couple of semesters ago. It was known in the class that I had homeschooled (and preferred it) and some discussion came up in a group I got assigned to for a project, and I made a comment about being oblivious to anything going on around me and she claimed it was from being homeschooled. Somehow 4 years of homeschooling at the elementary level surpassed 6 years of “socialization” in public school. Amusingly, she and her friend (also in our group) did a lot more socializing with each other than any work towards the project.

    End result: I had 3 good friends when I graduated. 2 were from church, and 1 was from school – but our friendship was developed from time away from school… and that would have happened regardless of being in public school. Public school hasn’t really won any points with me yet.

    I take that back. Considering I’ll probably be teaching in a public school, they have won points with me by having 100% medical benefits for teachers. With three kids, I can use that. I’d rather my kids be homeschooled or in a Christian school (where I can at least discuss values openly instead of hinting at the idea) but it’s not a viable option at this point. And, unfortunately, I can’t get paid to homeschool my kids (so I let Momma do it 😀 ).

    I’m not even planning to do preschool for Josiah. I see no reason to put him into a classroom setting when I have no intentions of keeping him in a classroom setting.

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  6. Forgot to include: the things I do remember from 5th grade are the parts that involved me working alone.

    I especially don’t like the practice of “invite everyone in the class to the birthday party” because why should I be invited to your party if you don’t even like me? Or pretend to like me? Or even talk to me? Educational politics. Ick.

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  7. Ouch.

    I guess I must have made up the part about you wanting to switch schools, I sure thought it was both of us that hated being there. At any rate, it seems obvious now that being oblivious has nothing to do with homeschooling, but everything to do with having the last name “French.” You’re married now. Your social life *should* be much improved…

    Sometime later, I’ll have to do a post talking about shyness vs. introversion. Valerie’s a shy extrovert; I’m an outgoing introvert. I think you’re probably more like Valerie.

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  8. Have you met my husband? He’d prefer to be a hermit, and he has more of a social life than I do. Meaning, people come to see him at our house. Neither of us have much of an actual social life. I think I’m a midtrovert. I crave social activities.. but can’t handle them very long.

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