I don’t know how often The New York Times features an article on Christian education, but they did this past October. They report that Christian schools across the country are booming. This February, The Grand Rapids Press reported similarly. Christian schools across Michigan are seeing huge enrollment increases and many are making plans for building expansions. One of the largest Christian school associations in America, Association for Christian Schools International, reported a 12% enrollment increase across the country. One Christian school leader stated it quite simply: “This is a once-in-100-year moment for the growth of Christian education.”
It’s not difficult to understand the recent explosion in interest in Christian schools. Public schools are in a quandary. The godless theories and philosophies they have adopted have seemingly outpaced the worldviews of many Americans. Chickens are coming home to roost.
When schools shut down due to COVID, many parents got a glimpse of what was being taught to their children. Enough bad stories emerged that a storyline began to develop. Further, when many parents thought it safe to send their children back to school, many districts continued to remain closed to in-person education. Parents could see the disastrous results of having their children out of school. Neither parents nor schools were equipped to handle this arrangement. Parents became very dissatisfied with public school leadership for the decisions being made.
But that wasn’t all of it. In recent years, transgenderism has been a wrecking ball for schools and their communities. Boys want to be girls and girls want to be boys. Girl bathrooms are being opened to boys and vice-versa. Sports programs are grappling with the consequences of having girls play on boys’ teams and boys playing on girls’ teams.
Then there is the issue of race and the growing attention on Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT arose as a response to the belief that racism in the US went underground after the Civil Rights movement in the 60s/70s. To root it out, institutions must actively alter certain societal norms beginning with identifying our own racial biases. Racial minorities are the marginalized and the white majority is their oppressor. Terms like “white privilege” became more commonplace and human relationships were redefined in terms of power. All this is a clear hallmark of Marxist ideology which is, by itself, unwanted by many American families. These families are awakening to all these new ideas and are realizing the school their children attend is increasingly not the school they attended as a child.
With all this and more brewing in the public education sphere, it seems many parents are just now realizing they don’t have control over the formal education of their children. They are now realizing they are at the mercy of a huge public bureaucratic machine. While I find it odd that they are only now coming to this conclusion, it is not my purpose to minimize their burden. They are troubled and they have good reason to be even though they are well past a day late and a dollar short.
As a result, there is a growing number of families that are looking for alternatives to public schools. Private Christian schools are being held as the alternative. Suddenly, the baby brother of public schools is getting noticed. And as a result, Christian schools are getting a lot of looks from families. Many are walking through the front door with their child in one hand and their checkbook in the other.
We need to be sober about this phenomenon. It is only rational that if this continues Christian schools will receive undesirable attention in the coming years. The growing movement away from public schools toward private schools doesn’t go unnoticed. A growing challenge to their supremacy will garner a response.
But knowing their response isn’t the point of this article. We should consider our response to the shifting educational landscape. It seems a growing number of American families want schools that are simply cultural alternatives to public schools. Not Christian schools as they have historically been conceived, but “Fox News schools.” Schools that are the conservative alternative to public education. Schools with no transgender bathrooms; no CRT; no liberal progressive curriculum; no rule by the bureaucrat. The “Fox News school” is one that is founded on the value of hard work, competition, preparation for good paying jobs, blue collar common sense, and family values.
I think there is a growing marketplace for that kind of school model. And we may find subtle pressure to enter that marketplace. But the Christian school conceived as the conservative alternative will likely sell its birthright for a sack of gold. It will see its purpose and mission in terms of a conservative culture, not God’s covenant and kingdom. It will use political and economic currency to make its way in the world and thus be bound to a material reality only. But covenant and kingdom are neither conservative nor liberal. They are neither a social theory nor a social agenda. It is a spiritual reality that uses the currency of regeneration.
I don’t think Christian schools should build themselves as alternative schools. They must maintain their conviction that they are the standard. A standard that doesn’t move no matter how much the public school does. A standard that doesn’t find its grounding as an alternative to something else but finds its grounding in the work of Jesus Christ.
Photo by John-Mark Smith