being Christian is not an excuse

photo by Ian Britton

How’s that for a testy title? I’ve been thinking quite a bit about schooling recently, as R switched preschools this year and will begin kindergarten next year. N will start preschool next fall as well. (Where are my babies going? Good thing I love this stage even more!) People ask whether or not I’m considering Christian schools for the kids. Sometimes I wonder if I really am.

To be fair, Tom and I would like to try public schools before we really consider any private options, Christian or otherwise. We both spent most of our education in public schools (C: from K-college, T: 4th-high school) and we live in an area that is known for “good” public schools. We also believe in being part of our community and world, engaging with the diversity that brings, sharing our lives with others. But that doesn’t really get to the root of the question: am I considering Christian schools? Sadly, the answer is probably no. Why not? Well, much of the time, it’s because Christian schools rest on their laurels being “Christian”, and don’t pursue excellence in education. Before you comment that you had an amazing education at a Christian school, please note that I recognize that there are wonderful exceptions to the above statement! And I’m so glad there are. I just wish there were more.

Let me explain. I have a number of friends who went to Christian schools. Many (not all!) of them unequivocally state that the academics given to them were mediocre. Those that transitioned from a Christian school to a secular one were shocked at the different academic expectations; they were unprepared. Why is this? Why is it that Christians aren’t exceeding the expectation bar, not lowering it? Why are some satisfied that you should send your kid there “because we’re Christian” and not because “we’re amazing”?

I don’t want to give a misguided impression here that I think we, in the name of God, need to be at the top of the worldly standard of success; I have no intention of implying that. Neither am I belittling the importance of character development, on which many Christian schools place a premium, as well they should. (It’s another post to discuss whether or not character development sadly ends up churning out kids who do the right thing but whose hearts are not seeking God.) What I am wondering is why sometimes “Christian” ends up being less than.

Here’s my dream: Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had such great schools–that were developmentally appropriate (no worksheets in preschool, folks!), that encouraged creativity (because we have a Creator who excelled there), that engaged with students in such a fashion that they graduated being whatever it is that God calls them to be, and doing it supremely well. Research scientist? Check. School teacher? Check. Mechanic? Check. Missionary? Check. Wouldn’t it be incredible if the assumption when someone found out something was done by a Christian was that it would exceed people’s expectations, that it would be filled with integrity, that it would be academically rigorous (as appropriate)?

I hope that this post becomes arcane and that, in the not too distant future, people say, “Ha, remember when this used to be true? No more.” just like my kids don’t understand print film. Until then, I charge that we are held to a higher standard than the world, and I pray we seek it.

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