For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.
Psalm 78:5–7, NLT
As long-time readers know, we are big supporters of education. In fact, education is one of the three pillars to successful parenting we discuss in Sonkist Ministries’ book, Straight Lines for Parents: 9 Strategies for Raising Exceptional Kids. Steve and I have not only devoted our lives to people-helping, I have also spent over thirty years of my professional career in the field of education.
With that said, however, this back-to-school season we want to address some concerns that have been voiced to us about changes taking place in the educational landscape across the United States. Let’s begin by sharing one unsettling situation a couple experienced this past school year. Their first grader came home with a reading assignment about a little boy who looked into a mirror and struggled with the decision of whether or not he was male or female. The startled parents went straight to school the next morning, hoping that some error had been made with this piece of curriculum. After talking to the principal, they realized this story had indeed been added to the reading program—and school leaders had no intention of removing it. To add to the dilemma, these parents were scolded and told they needed to get comfortable with changes in twenty-first-century thinking!
Needless to say, the parents were upset over the entire scenario. In their mind, this type of curriculum had no place in first grade. They also felt disrespected and disengaged from their child’s school where changes in policy and programming used to be discussed with parents. After much prayer, they’ve decided that they cannot let this situation continue without exhausting every effort to either remove this material from the curriculum—or at least make other parents aware of what is happening, perhaps without their knowledge, in their local schools.
Sadly, educational dilemmas are on the increase in our society as more and more “agendas” are being crammed into an already overburdened system. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, some activists feel the public education setting is an ideal platform to promote their specific programs. Perhaps even more disconcerting, some of these topics are far removed from the Judeo-Christian principles which American education has been based upon in decades past.
What can you and I do in the midst of culture shifts that are creating these kinds of dilemmas in the world of education? Here are a few ideas I’d like to suggest to you:
- Parents are the primary educators of their children, so embrace that role fully! Even if your children are in private school, part of your calling is to educate your kids—especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Notice the rationale for this found in Psalm 78 above: “so each generation should set its hope anew on God.” No matter who we are, as believers there is nothing more important than passing on God’s truths to others in our lives!
- All of us—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and citizens in general—should be praying for our public schools, private schools, and those involved in home schooling. Pray for the leaders; pray for the teachers. Pray for families. Remember, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b, NIV).
- Most public school educators are truly dedicated to doing what’s best for kids, but they are also employees of the government which legislates the policies and procedures they must follow (as a former public school teacher, I am well aware of this fact). So, when you need to address a problem, always try to do so with these thoughts in mind—as well as this great reminder given to us in Colossians 4:5-6: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
- Get more involved in local schools. They need you, and you also need to stay in touch with what’s going on. Here’s an insightful Barna article you may want to check out for additional thoughts on this topic.
- If you aren’t happy with your children’s school, look for other alternatives. For example, I have been very involved with charter schools for the past six years. More of these publicly-funded school options are opening in communities across the country, which, according the National Center for Education Statistics, are now serving the needs of more than 2.5 million US students. Most of them offer smaller class sizes with specialized programs, and many are thrilled to have families involved in the educational process! For further reading, check out the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools at http://www.publiccharters.org. There are also many alternatives for families that would like to home school, and some charter schools support students who are involved in these “independent study” programs.
Yes, there are dilemmas in many parts of society today, including our educational institutions. We hope the thoughts above will give you some new ideas on how to head into this back-to-school season so you can make a difference in the lives of children—even those “not yet born.”