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Why a Christian School
by Dr. Paul A. Kienel, President
Association of Christian Schools International
In a recent survey of 96 Christian school administrators, I asked them to prioritize the following list of reasons why parents enroll their students in their Christian school. Here are the results of that survey:
- Parents who enroll their children in our Christian school are looking for an academic curriculum which is supportive of their Christian philosophy of education.
- Parents want Bible-centered education for their children.
- Parents are enrolling their youngsters in our school because they are concerned about the heavy emphasis on Outcome-Based Education in the local public schools.
- Parents enroll their children in our Christian school because they are looking for a stronger academic program.
- Parents believe the lifestyle of the teachers in our school will be a better influence on their students than the lifestyle of teachers generally found in the public schools.
- Parents believe their children will cultivate better friends in our Christian school.
- Parents believe their children will be physically safer in our Christian school.
Quite frankly, I was surprised by the outcome.I thought the number one reason why parents enroll their children and young people in Christian schools would be “Parents believe their children will be physically safer in our Christian school,” which turned out to be number seven on the list. In a recent U. S. Department of Education report, one government official said, “In matter of fact ways, children tell you they're not sure they will live to finish high school. It is not the academic challenges they confront, it's the challenges to their physical safety.”1
I was pleased to see that the top two on the prioritized list indicate that parents are looking for “curriculum which is supportive of their Christian philosophy of education” and that they want “Bible-centered education for their children.” Every Christian educator will be encouraged by that part of the survey.
Obviously, Christian values in education are increasingly important to parents. “Value-free” education was introduced into the American public schools in the 1960's. One of the founders of value-free education, Dr. W. R. Coulson, has recently admitted that it “turned out to be a deadly scheme.” He said, “The fault lies in an educational philosophy that calls on students and teachers alike to disbelieve in the concept of temptation. Moral absolutes are routed…in favor of a psychotherapeutic imperative.”
Realizing the terrible error of “value-free” education, Dr. Coulson states, “I and our project teammates owe the nation's parents an apology.”2 We agree! The “project” Dr. Coulson refers to was a public school project started in 1967 called “affective education” funded by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. There is, of course, no such thing as “value-free” education. The Greek philosopher, Plato, 2,500 years ago said, “The rejection of a dogma itself implies a dogma.”
Our survey also indicated that parents are still concerned about a strong academic program for their children. Numbers three and four on the survey list have to do with academic quality. Critics of Outcome Based Eductation, now prevalent in various forms in many states, claim that it “dumbs down” the educational process and that it de-emphasizes academic competition. America already has a major academic problem. Each year the American Legislative Exchange Council publishes a “Report Card on American Education.” The following is taken from their 1993 report:
American students have not only lost ground from where American students were twenty years ago; they have also lost considerable ground relative to students in other industrial nations. The 1991 International Assessment of Education Progress exams in math show that the United States finished last out of 11 nations.3
U. S. students were low on the list in other subjects as well.
I agree with William Bennett, who said, “A crisis in American education will lead, finally, to a crisis in American democracy.”4 A Lou Harris poll of 2,130 public high school seniors found that “37 percent of the students could not find France on a map. Thirty-four percent were unaware that the Great Depression happened in this century. Fully a third did not know that Japan and Germany were America's principal enemies during World War II.”5
I am pleased to report that numbers five and six on the survey, having to do with the influence of teachers and friends, were not higher on the list. We all know that the wrong friends and ungodly teachers influence children and often undo the godly training which parents and preachers have given over the years. The Bible says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB)
The ACSI survey was an eye-opener. It gave us a clear picture of why parents enroll their children in Christian schools. Former U. S. Secretary of Education Terrel Bell was prophetic when he said, “Whether those of use who have been public school leaders like it or not, the private school will become more prominent and will flourish in the years ahead.”6
This small survey helps us understand why.
1."Community Update" No. 16, September 1994, pp. 2-3.
2.American Family Association Journal 1994, Don Wildmon.
3.William J. Bennett, "The Report Card on American Education 1993."
5.Reader's Digest, October 1994, p. 50.
6."Cape Outlook" June 1993, p. 1.
(Reproduced with permission from the Christian School Comment, a publication of the Association of Christian Schools International.)