The US Department of Education has released a new report that finds the number of children homeschooled in America rising in a rather substantial way. Since 2003, the number of homeschooled children has risen 36% with an estimated 1.5 million children in 2007. In addition, another estimated 6.6 million children attend private schools. So why the increase in parents taking their children out of the public school system? The top reasons parents give for choosing the homeschool or private school option is a concern about the public school environment, a desire to provide religious and moral instruction, and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction.
Some religious leaders have called for a “mass exodus” from the government controlled public school system. Dr. Voddie Baucham and retired US Army Chaplain Ray Moore are among the leadership who are urging Christian parents to remove their children from public schools and have called upon the church to step up in the ministry of equipping and encourging parents to homeschool their children. This movement called the “Exodus Mandate” has had increasing success in delivering their message to Christian parents. They have attempted to partner with the SBC through the passing of various resolutions at the Annual Convention. The SBC has been reluctant to climb fully on board with the organization, but has issued a call to investigate the public school system and support the decision of parents who wish to homeschool.
Not all are convinced. Even among Baptists there is a division between support for the Exodus Mandate concept and support for the public schools. Some are calling the public schools “ground zero” for the fight against the complete deterioration of a society with any moral normativity. To retreat and surrender would be akin to giving up on the school system. Others note that within the public schools is perhaps the largest mission field we have in America and to remove the “missionaries” (our Christian children) from that mission field is simply not biblical.
Having been educated in the public school system, as were my brother and sister, I can testify to the quality of education I received. Granted, I had the privilege of attending one of the leading public high schools in the state of TN. But things have changed dramatically since those days. The greater issue in this debate is not so much on the quality of the teaching (although that is more of an issue depending on the region) as it is the content of the teaching. Schools are not just in the business of teaching hard facts and figures. They never have been and never will be. Schools teach students how to think. They teach students how to develop a worldview. And no one who attends is exempt from their influence. Sure, we all like to think that our own individuality overcomes the influence exerted on us by our teachers and institutions, but we are kidding ourselves. Our education makes a difference on how we think about the world.
I have some close friends and family who are public school teachers. There are many great and dedicated instructors calling roll and preparing exams every single day. Some of them see their profession as a calling. We should be thankful for their presence in our schools and should pray for the future of public education. However, my hunch is that things will get worse and future parents will more than ever have to strongly consider the venue for their child’s education. We will anxiously await the developments in the schools during the year 2009.