We are now in our 12th year of public schooling, and between our three children we have totaled 22 school years of public education. This has taken place in a limited context, of course: one primary school and one high school in one school district in one town in one province in one country.
I have written elsewhere about how and why we made the decision to educate our children this way and do not wish to cover that ground again today. What I do wish to do, though, is to reflect on the way that Christians speak about public schools and, even more so, about public school teachers. The last 10 years have made me realize that many Christians speak unfairly about public school teachers. They may even speak slanderously.
Being Fair to Public School Teachers
To slander someone is to “make a false spoken statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone.”1 It is a deliberate or inadvertent misrepresentation that does damage to a person’s reputation. I have learned a lot about this sin from R.C. Sproul of all people. Several times Dr. Sproul has written books about Catholicism and he has often said that Protestants are prone to slander Catholics by inadequately understanding and unfairly representing their beliefs.
Protestants tend to say things like, “We believe that justification is by faith but Roman Catholics say it is by works. We believe it is by grace but Roman Catholics say it is by merit. We believe it is through Christ but Roman Catholics believe it is through one’s own righteousness.” But as Sproul points out, “These are terrible slanders against Rome” because from “the 16th century to today, the Roman Catholic Church has said that justification requires faith, the grace of God and the work of Jesus Christ.”2 The real debate is not over faith, but over faith alone. To right this injustice he has attempted to make a careful study of Catholicism, to represent it fairly and to critique it for what it actually is. In this way he has modeled fair engagement.
When it comes to education in North America, the tides in the Reformed world have shifted away from public education and toward Christian or home schooling. The decision on education is for each family to make on the basis of beliefs, conscience and context. I am convinced that any of the options are in play, at least for our family, and at various times we have seriously considered all three. To this point we have maintained public schooling.