In his book, NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, Samuel L. Blumenfeld exposed the sweeping agenda of the NEA for the public school system and, therefore, the children of the United States. As the public school system faces the 21st century, it is plagued by poor student performance, increased crime, a shortage of quality employees, and a decrease in enrollment. For some in the home school movement, declining confidence in the public school system points to its eventual death and the vindication of home schooling.
However, in a free market society, we should not be surprised to see the public school system responding to the situation with creative solutions. The proliferation of home schooling and private schools, having effectively eliminated the monopoly previously held by the public schools, has forced public school administrators to advance solutions and alternatives that address the deficiencies of the current system as well as the needs and desires of a diverse population.
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
One of the alternatives legislators have been enacting in almost every state of the union is that of Charter schools. Charter schools are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the schools mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter (usually the State Board of Education) may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them. The basic concept of Charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability.
In 1991, Minnesota passed the first Charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of Charter schools, and by 1999, that number increased to 36 states, being joined by Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. In Clintons 1997 State of the Union Address, he called for the creation of 3,000 Charter schools by the year 2000. Since 1994, the federal Department of Education has provided grants to support the States' Charter school efforts, from $6 million in fiscal year 1995, to $100 million in fiscal year 1999.
The Center for Education Reform reports there are now 2,000-plus Charter
schools operating in 33 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 500,000
students. Some Charter schools are district-run, while others are designed and implemented
by private corporations. Technically, all Charter schools are public schools and do not
require additional fees from parents. In theory, Charter schools are freed from
categorical program requirements and are given more latitude than traditional schools in
developing innovative curricula and learning environments.
The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
There are major components of Charter schools that are no different than that of traditional public schools and, thus, should cause the Christian to reject their legitimacy as an educational option. First, and foremost, Charter schools are public schools and, therefore, must conform to state approved curriculum. Accordingly, children in Charter schools, like their peers in traditional public school, will receive a daily regiment of secular humanism, revisionist history, anti-Christian morality, egalitarianism, Marxist socialism, and liberal environmentalism.
The public school system is dominated by secular ideology. A leading secularist of the 1970s may have been bragging a bit, but wasnt far off to say, "I think the most important factor moving us toward a secular society has been the educational factor. Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is sixteen tends toward the elimination of religious superstition." (Paul Blanshard, "Three Cheers for Our Secular State," The Humanist, March-April 1976; pp17-25)
In bragging about the advancement toward a secular society, Mr. Blanshard admits that society is moving from something. This movement is from a Christian society, often expressed as a "religious" society. However, calling the shift from religious to secular is not an accurate assessment, for our society is not shifting away from religion but, rather, shifting from one religion to another secular humanism.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart understood what was happening when he wrote, "If religious exercises are held to be an impermissible activity in schools, religion is placed at an artificial and state-created disadvantage. Viewed in this light, permission of such exercises for those who want them is necessary if the schools are to truly to be neutral in the matter of religion. And a refusal to permit religious exercises thus is seen, not as the realization of state neutrality, but rather as the establishment of a religion of secularism, or at the least, as government support of the beliefs of those who think that religious exercises should be conducted only in private." (Justice Potter Stewart in a 1963 dissenting opinion in Abington School District v Schemp.)
They served their idols, which became a snare to them.
Second, as if subjecting our children to the propaganda machine of secular humanism isnt enough to over rule the appeal of enrichment programs offered by Charter schools, there still remains the heart (or social) issues that persuaded many to home school in the first place. Why is it that after years of protecting their children from the harmful influences of peer pressure and bad character influences are veteran home schooling parents suddenly willing, when the stakes are the highest, to seemingly abandon all caution and concede their children to the secular society?
Certain aspects of the Charter school environment appear to be especially attractive within the home school ranks. Each school, while required to teach the fundamental requirements of secular education, specializes in an area that might be attractive to particular students. The emphasis may be classical learning, arts, engineering, or a number of other special disciplines that set this school apart from that school. Charter schools require more parent participation, the student/teacher ratio will be lower, the school may be able to attract teachers with higher qualifications, and there is a general sense of a more secure and stable environment than that of the traditional public school setting. These purported attributes of Charter schools, working together with other factors within today's home schooling families, are garnishing support from home schoolers, particularly the veterans.
However, not all is always well even within Charter schools. In a May 29, 2001 Time Magazine article, Do Charter Schools Pass the Test?, Jodie Morse/Mesa wrote, "Yet it remains unclear if charters have lived up to their promise. Two recent studies have found that students in charter schools outgained their public school peers on standardized exams. But studies of charter students in Michigan and Texas found that their test scores severely lagged. The Texas House has since passed a two-year moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. Minnesota, California and Pennsylvania legislators are pushing for more oversight. 'Despite the rhetoric that charter schools were going to be hothouses of reform, the results are mixed,' says Bruce Fuller, an associate professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley. 'We have to ask if charters are beset by the same problems as garden-variety public schools.'"
What does a parent do if their Charter school is "beset by the same problems as the garden-variety public school?" Simply resorting to homeschooling may be more difficult this time than it was at first now that the kids are older and more peer oriented and the family schedule has been adjusted to fit the school schedule.
. . . and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary.
If you began or are planning to home school and are doing so on the basis of conviction by the Holy Spirit, pray that a future change of educational course is likewise based on a conviction of the Holy Spirit and not because of compounding consequences from years of soft choices and compromises. With regards to the latter, I believe that there are at least three factors that work individually and in conjunction toward the gradual erosion of perseverance by todays veteran home schooling parents.
First, academics just get plain harder as the children get older. Even parents with a college degree are going to encounter disciplines for which they feel inadequate to teach. Oh, that it were only one! To fill these voids, parents may organize educational co-ops in which a parent who majored in one of the disciplines, say biology or mathematics, instructs several students together in a class room setting in exchange for a nominal fee. Another alternative is interactive Internet classes. These provide individual instruction without leaving home and with a schedule that might be a little more flexible. They are also more expensive ranging in average from $150 to $250 per semester, per child.
One appeal of the Charter school, then, is that, on the surface, it operates much like the co-op setting described above. The appeal becomes much more compelling when you factor in that your child will not be taking just one co-op class but every one of the disciplines required to graduate. However, it doesnt end there, for not only are the required disciplines taken care of by better trained professionals than yourself, the children receive the benefit of whatever enrichment studies are particular to that Charter school. And then to top it off, all the bells and whistles of Charter school are free!!
Thus with the pros so overwhelmingly exceeding the cons, coupled with the cultural acceptance that fidelity to God and purity in character is separate and distinct from education, business, politics, etc , it becomes unbelievably acceptable to hand over our covenant children to an institution that is at war with God and determined to have their hearts and souls!
For many parents, though, the external marketing pressure of all the bells and whistles of Charter school may not be enough in and of themselves to sway their decision. However, pressure from peers who are enrolling their own children and are telling the parents about what a great program it is and how much their children are missing out, etc . . . certainly compounds the erosion of steadfastness.
. . . a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
It is one thing, however, to stand against the pressures from the outside, but pressures from within the home are an entirely different animal, especially when leveled by the children of the home. Thus, the second factor contributing to the gradual erosion of perseverance by todays veteran home schooling parents is the combined pressures from within and without the home. Children seem particularly capable of effective internal pressure on the parents when they have not been trained in self-discipline from an early age, have not caught the vision of the family, have built a history of successful appeals for indulgences, and when their hearts have not been protected from external influences.
Order in the home through training and discipline is a must for the successful home school especially as the number of children in the home grows. Wise parents establish goals of behavior for their children while the children are young and consistently train and discipline in light of those goals. It is much easier and less traumatic for the child and the parent to train at 6 months than 1 year or 1 year than at 2 years. What may be cute at age 4 is definitely annoying at age 14 and most likely irreversible. Dont be fooled to think they will grow out of whatever it is - they will only bring it to maturity. If training hasnt happened by age 7 or 8, it probably isnt going to happen.
Parents should be able to articulate a vision for their family and begin encouraging their children to claim the vision as their own at an early age. The children should come to understand that they have been born into a time and place of history and into a particular family of parents and siblings for the specific purpose of God. Home schooling is a part of the adventure of our children discovering their life calling of God.
The sin nature of children exhibits itself through self-centeredness, selfishness, willfulness, and discontentment. Indulgences begin as small and innocent favors parents enjoy giving their children. Parents who are trained by their children to give in through manipulation (guilt) or punishment (temper tantrums) soon discover the favors to become less and less enjoyable and more and more demanding. Left unchecked, the home becomes a child-centered home driven by the whims of the children and not conducive for home education.
The home is to be a safe haven of growth and development for our children. It is the place where sanctification begins its process of equipping the will with the Word of God in order to subdue a heart that may be born again but is still, nevertheless, subject to fleshly desires. There is, therefore, a period of 15 to 20 years when the duty of the parents is to guard and defend the heart of their children from competing forces that seek the loyalty of the children. To do so allows the process of sanctification to get a solid start in the childs life and the search for Gods specific calling to go uninhibited. Failure to guard and defend the heart of your children is to surrender them as POWs to our anti-Christian culture.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church . . .
The third factor contributing to the gradual erosion of perseverance by todays veteran home schooling parents is the parents failure to maintain their love relationship with each other and, thus, they loose the feverence and/or vision for equipping the next generation. As the family grows in size and age, the individual responsibilities of each parent tend to drive them in different directions. The wife is busy with more children, harder academics, and more diverse activities. The husband is under the pressure of a swelling overhead to fund and increased responsibilities at his work place. The result can be a gradual diminishing of companionship between the couple which can become fertile ground for infidelity and other harmful life choices that threaten the stability of the family and the home school.
Companionship is more than just hanging out with each other or sharing the same TV and bathroom. Companionship is marked by each persons unequivocating commitment and loyalty to the other person. Thus to be a faithful companion is to be marked as one who lives a singular life that is open and transparent, has no hidden or contrary agendas, and is sensitive to the desires and needs of the other person. This type of lifestyle is not likely to occur apart from the ability and willingness of each party to communicate openly and honestly.
. . . then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
Charter schools seem to have the capability of some attractive attributes, but then, the grass usually seems to appear greener on the other side. Hopefully, its more often an optical illusion than a reality. But if it is a reality, if the other guys grass really is greener than mine, then what could be the cause? Could it be that my grass is pretty green but the soil on the other side is just so much richer? Or could it be that my field has not been adequately weeded, toiled, fertilized, or otherwise tended and therefore, it is not that the other field is so green, but that my field is so brown? If the answer is the latter, then climbing the fence is nothing but a short-term fix. Of course, if I only need a short-term fix to get my kids through the rest of school, out of the house, and into the rigors of their own life, then maybe using someone elses field is not such a bad idea.
On the other hand, if I have a long term vision for the education of my children and grandchildren, one that transcends simply equipping the children to be wage earners of the future, then perhaps I should be making some investments in my own field instead of gazing around into other backyards. Perhaps I should weed my old worldview, transplanted from the secular school system, and replant it with one that not only integrates all the scholarly disciplines under the lordship of Jesus Christ but also demands these disciplines to bow the knee to His lordship. Perhaps I should till the soil of my faith to such that it not only stands the attack of competing ideas but is actively involved in taking renegade thoughts captive. Perhaps I should water and fertilize my soul with the uncompromising word of God that gives me hope, produces joy, instills strength, and yields perseverance. And then perhaps I should unfold this lush field before my children, irresistibly calling them forth to take the call of God far beyond what He has done in any previous generation. Such is the Charter of God to the Christian parent.
For additional information on the charter school movement in America click on HSLDA article.