The Problem with Public Education

This may sound like a topic that is “out-of-bounds” for a pastor but I don’t think it is.  I think when I am done you will see why.

There seems to be an endless effort to improve education in our public school system.  Millions of dollars have been spent, new curriculum developed, mandated testing, teacher accountability, No Child Left Behind, and on and on.  And yet the problem seems to only grow.  And it will continue to grow because none of the above addresses THE root problem of why students in our public education system falter.

I am going to lay the blame somewhere else.  It is a “somewhere” else that no one wants to talk about.  The root of it all is a problem that we don’t even want to label as a problem.  And here it is…

The erosion of the Mother-Father family unit in America.

You are going to have to stick with me for a bit, but as a pastor, this whole issue of the family falls squarely in my “territory.”  From a purely theological perspective, God has established an order for creation and society.  That order when lived out will produce a stable and thriving culture, of which an effective education system would be a by-product.

The Mother-Father family unit in this nation first began to erode with the acceleration of divorce.  When Mom and Dad are separated the home is not as stable as when Mom and Dad are together.  Period.  Little Johnny’s and Little Mary’s life will change when Mom and Dad divorce.  They now have two bedrooms, split weekends, visitation, and potentially step-siblings.  Many divorced people do the best they can to restore a sense of stability for their kids, but the fact remains that it would have been better if Mom and Dad could have / would have stayed married.  Some will argue that in many cases divorce is better because of the deterioration of the relationship.  I won’t argue that marriages deteriorate into chaos, but I defer once again back to God’s order.  That order of a Mom and a Dad includes that Mom and Dad will do the things that build a healthy marriage.  Things like submit to God and each other. Things like build their life around a church family.  It is not surprising that in the absence of the elements that God calls for in a marriage that the marriage will fall apart.  Now I am not an idealist.  I know that in the most perfect of worlds that we could hope to live in (outside the earthly reign of Christ) that there will always be divorce.  Men cheat on their wives.  Men beat their wives (and kids).  Women abandon their husbands for the “promise” of something better.  That’s life and I know it.  I also know that the Bible even makes provision for divorce.  But the Bible also makes it clear that God hates divorce.  Not divorced people but divorce itself.  That’s because every divorce comes with consequences and that is really what this article is all about.

Divorce used to be looked down upon.  Sadly the culture also looked down on divorced people and not just the concept of divorce.  This led to a back-lash.  A back-lash that said we need to be more tolerant of divorce.  And we were.  But the “tolerance” did not stop there.  The casualness that we came to accept and then embrace divorce was only the first domino to fall when talking about the stability of the family.  Consider for a moment the various social structures that we now not only tolerate but actually endorse.

  • Pre-marital sex is expected.
  • Living together before marriage is the norm.
  • Having children before marriage is common.
  • Homosexuality is God’s idea for some.
  • Marriage now includes same-sex unions.

Each of these social conditions used to be rejected outright by our culture.  Incidentally, test scores in public schools were higher when this was the case.  Some might accuse me of jumping to an unwarranted conclusion.  I don’t think so.

In the city of Fort Smith where I live, there are schools that do better than others.  Why?  All the schools in Fort Smith are a part of the same school district.  They share a common curriculum, funding, teacher hiring practices, etc.  Why do some schools struggle more than others?  All you have to do is look at the demographics.  There is a school down the road from my church.  This school is in a part of town that is highly transient.  The kids in this school have a much higher percentage of dysfunction at home than other schools in the district.  One teacher at this school recently told me that she had a student last year who came to her toward the end of the year.  She asked him what school he was coming from only to find out that this was his seventh school that year!  His mom is single, struggling to get and keep a good job, living with various boyfriends along the way, etc.  I would submit to you that there is nothing a school, or the government, or more money can do to help this child educationally.  What he needs is a stable home with stable parents.  He needs someone to sit down with him at night, every night, to help him with homework.  He needs a Mom to show him what kind of lady he needs to look for in a wife one day and he needs a Dad to show him how to treat a lady.  He needs the same set of friends at school and the same teacher for more than a month at a time.  Sadly this child is not uncommon.

What we have done as a society is degenerate into an “anything goes” mish-mash of moral relativism.  The only thing that is unacceptable is saying “No” to someone’s poor choices.  We are a society that wants the freedom to pursue whatever physical pleasures we want, with no restraint or regard for the impact on those around us, including our children.  And we expect that our children will be just fine.  Too many kids are relegated to homes with drug abuse, domestic abuse, no father figure at all, Mom who shacks up with a new boyfriend every other month, etc.  Increasingly kids are being raised in home environments where instead of a mom and a dad, there are two dads or two moms, or rotating homosexual partners.  In all of these circumstances, children are robbed of God’s best for them.  Every boy and girl deserves a home with a mother and a father who met, dated, and married before having sex and then having children.  Every boy and every girl deserves a mother and father who love God and seek His will for their lives as they love each other and love their kids.

Once again, I realize that every boy and every girl will not get what they deserve.  But every boy and every girl also deserves a society that enforces the common values and moral standards that God has woven into his creative order.  They need to know that there are certain “rules” that govern our behavior.  They need to know that divorce is not the ideal.  They need to know that sex should wait until marriage.  There should be a cultural pressure to do the “right thing” rather than declaring that all things are right.

And I submit that in this environment we would not have a problem with public education.

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8 responses to “The Problem with Public Education”

  1. One Salient Oversight says :

    So you would support Public Schools only when:

    a) Everyone is a Christian, or

    b) Everyone practices the life of a Christian, even if they aren’t.

  2. Chris Sale says :

    great article!! I’m living that everyday at school. some homes are chaotic and we expect these kids to learn math and english!

  3. Gordon Chitwood says :

    Right on! Amen and Amen.

  4. Amy Farris Swofford says :

    I have students that are functioning in survival mode. They come to school because it is the only safe place where they can eat breakfast and lunch. I completely support teacher accountability. Challenge me to be a better teacher; I thrive on that, but when are we going to hold parents accountable for their role in their children’s academic lives? My job performance is not the only determining factor of tests scores.

  5. Staci says :

    I guess I don’t see a solution in this argument. Yes we need stable homes with great Christian moms and dads, BUT that doesn’t always happen. So what is the solution?

    • Jordan M. says :

      Staci, I think Jeff’s point from the start is that responsible parents giving their kids a stable, loving, Godly home IS the only real solution. Anything else is like a band-aid on a bullet wound. Even our best teachers with the best tools and the most funding are going to have a difficult time educating a child that is dealing with chaos in the home. My kids will never have perfect parents, but they will have their parents, under one roof, always there for them…..whether they like it or not, haha!!

  6. kathi says :

    i think you could be talking about a high priced private school for the privileged children of a mama and daddy home. they have those you know.

  7. Chris says :

    I teach over 600 kids a week in FS elementary schools. The difficulties for a majority of my students start at home. Their families move often, have little money, often times no father, know what sex an drugs are as early as kindergarten, etc… It’s sad seeing children who don’t know who is going to pick them up from day to day. Some of the things I’ve heard from them about their families truly break my heart. I praise God that in the past week I’ve had at least ten students talk about God, Jesus, and/or a church while they were waiting to be picked up. To hear a 5th grade special education student point to me and others while saying, “In God’s eyes we are brothers & sisters” is awesome! I pray that our Christian teachers take the opportunities that God presents us with to talk about Jesus to our students. Of course we can’t bring the topic up, but when they do we can legally discuss God!

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