I will start by saying that I am a homeschool parent. For good or for ill, I choose to educate my children at home. Though we are by no means wealthy, I recognize and am thankful for privilege that allows for me do so. I have also worked with children with disabilities who were underserved by the limited resources available through our local school system. I’ve struggled through IEP meetings, heard teacher’s frustrations, and spent summers trying to get children “caught up” on their reading.
Here’s the deal:
- America’s education system was started by the church. One of the first things that the Puritans did was to establish a college, Harvard. They then enacted the following laws:
“That the selectmen of every town, in the several precincts and quarters where they dwell, shall have a vigilant eye over their brethren and neighbors, to see, first, that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families, as not to endeavor to teach, by themselves or others, their children and apprentices as much learning as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue, and knowledge of the capital laws, upon penalty of 20 shillings for each neglect therein; also, that all masters of families do, once a week, at least, catechize their children and servants in the grounds and principles of religion.”
A few years later, this law was expanded upon:“It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep man from the knowledge of the Scriptures… and to the end that learning may not be buried in the grave of our forefathers… It is therefore ordered… that every township within this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to the number of fifty householders, shall then forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him, to write and read… And it is further ordered, that where any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the masters thereof being able to instruct youths so far as they may be fitted for the university.”
- The point of the American education system was not that the privileged get further ahead, but that the most vulnerable be kept from barbarism and the wiles of Satan. The point of the American education system was that we love our neighbor as ourselves in ensuring that he had the means by which to know God and obey the law of the land. Catechism, reading, and writing were the foundations of this education.
- By my conscience, I cannot enroll my children in our current public schools. This does not, however, absolve me from responsibility to my neighbor or other more vulnerable members of my community.
- Now, in our nation, there is an opportunity. There are now, and may be increasing, areas where the best efforts of the public school system are met with poverty, hunger and illiteracy. There are children who cannot read. There are children caught in cycles of generational poverty. There are children going to school hungry. The current political climate leads me to believe that there soon may be many more who are underserved, more who fall through the cracks.
- This is an opportunity for the local church to step in and do what the federal government cannot. We know our neighbors, or at least, we should. If we want to be relevant to the world around us, we can start by meeting needs.