Family Values: Is Education Among Them?
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).
An article written by William Raspberry appeared in the Grand Rapids Press (11 September, 2004). He titled his article, “The foundation of any child’s school success—a good home.” Mr. Raspberry begins,
Show me a home where education and learning are central values, and where the parents are reasonably competent at the business of child-rearing, and I’ll show you the home of a good student.
The correlation ... isn’t perfect ... But the correlation between good homes and good students stands. Further, the clearest identifying characteristic of what we call a good school is a critical mass of children from good homes.
If this is so, why do our public policies pay so little attention? Listen to our school leaders and you’d think the difference between school success and school failure lies in the quality of the superintendent, the size of the school budgets or the academic backgrounds and skill levels of the teachers.
After mentioning vouchers, charter schools and other programs, Mr. Raspberry continues,
I don’t mean to suggest that the things that schools and school districts do don’t matter. Of course it matters to have qualified teachers, principals who can provide safety and support, budgets that furnish the tools of learning and competent staff to bring all these things together.
But it matters more what parents do—and believe.
My point is not to let the schools off the hook, but to offer an explanation of why a torrent of school reforms over the past few decades has brought the merest trickle of improvement. We’ve not paid enough attention to improving the homes our children come from.
For Mr. Raspberry, however, what parents “believe” has nothing to do with God’s truth, biblical faith or the keeping of baptismal vows. Mr. Raspberry is speaking only of what parents believe about the power of education. “How can they tell their children of the wonders education will open up for them? Well, they can’t—unless they believe it. And they won’t believe it unless those of us who know the truth take the trouble to teach them.”
From this point, Mr. Raspberry speaks about government programs such as Head Start, Parents As Teachers and a program he began and funds in his Mississippi hometown called Baby Steps. Mr. Raspberry writes, “We tell them that the best help they can give is to make their children know how much they value learning.”
Mr. Raspberry is right as far as he goes, and it is clear that his concern is limited to public education. The family is a fundamental institution created by God. The overall condition of families determines the condition of schools, churches, denominations and even society on a national level. While I was taking graduate classes at Michigan State University as part of a group of thirty teachers, only three of whom taught at Christian schools, the topic of families was discussed often. Single parent and “blended” families are now the norm. A fellow student in the class mentioned that the decline of American family life could even be seen in the school directory. There were multiple entries for most of the students because their weekend address was different from their school day address. Grandparents were sometimes listed because there were times when the single parent was temporarily unfit to provide care. It was awful just to listen to what some of these children had to endure.
I was usually allowed to keep a low profile in these classes because the solutions I had offered in other discussions were quite out of fashion, as you can imagine. I still remember, however, the reaction of the class when the professor turned to me and asked about the condition of the families which used our school. There was disbelief when I reported that out of the nearly ninety families which used our school at that time, there were no blended families, no broken homes, all of the couples were on their first marriage and there was only one single-parent family because it had pleased God to take a mother in death. They wondered how that was even possible. I simply told them that God’s commandments are to be taken seriously and that there are consequences for sin. The discussion moved on.
Yet, Mr. Raspberry’s article causes us to ask how much we as parents value education. Are our schools just a haven from the world and false doctrine, and whatever they learn is just a bonus? Are we satisfied when our children do less than their best or do sloppy, careless work? Do we let them say they hate school or act as though they have no interest in learning anything? As a teacher, I do try to make lessons interesting, but I cannot make students care.
Do our children see us read anything other than the newspaper? Do we show interest in the subjects they study? Do we strive to have our children miss as little school time as possible because of vacations or appointments?
God has blessed us for many years through our schools. The churches of our denomination grow where we have our own schools. Our children have a wonderful opportunity to learn about God’s creation and the unfolding of His council in time. We must make good, diligent use of our schools while we still have them. We sometimes speak of the day our schools close as being the day when our government forces us to do so. How remote is the possibility that we close our schools ourselves because of a lack of interest or not valuing Christian education enough to make the sacrifices our schools require?