Thanks But No Thanks

by Tammy Drennan

I get many calls from parents pulling their children out of public schools. Sometimes they’re worried and even afraid that someone at the school will try to discourage them.

This is what I tell them, “What you’re doing is perfectly legal. If someone tells you you’re making a mistake, just tell them you appreciate their concern but you’ve made your decision.” In other words: Thank you. Goodbye.

Walking away is our most powerful weapon when it comes to our children’s education. We still have that freedom. I worry that if it remains as unexercised as it is today, we may lose it, inch by inch, yes by yes, gimme by gimme.

There are parents and reformers and organizations and agencies that war endlessly trying to get public schools to do it their way. Maybe they feel powerful throwing around their rhetoric. Maybe they believe those miniscule concessions to their demands represent an intent on the part of schools to change.

Then there are parents and reformers and organizations that do the most effective and powerful thing possible. They say, Thank you, but we can handle this. We appreciate the offer of help, but we’ve got it covered. Bye.

No anger, no drive for revenge, no bitterness, just “goodbye.” Time to move on. Time to take our children back. Time to start defining our own future, creating our own possibilities, blazing trails so others can follow more easily. Bye.

What is it all the self-help gurus say? You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself. They’re right. If you’re going to live your life trying to force other people, especially when they are an institution, to be what you want them to be so that they’ll make your children what you want them to be, you better be wearing comfortable shoes. It ain’t gonna happen.

But… you can change yourself, even when someone is trying to prevent you from changing. You can tell them “Thanks for the expression of concern. I appreciate it. I’ve gotta go now. Bye.”

And remember, it’s not only individuals who have the power to quietly, firmly move on. Churches can do it, too, as can other groups. Parents, churches, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, organizations don’t have to keep trying to change what insists on remaining unchanged. They can create better options. They can define themselves instead of letting the government define them. They can lead rather than follow.

It’s a real option. That’s what we all need to realize. Look around. There are two million homeschooled children in the U.S., 27,000+ private schools, hundreds of small private schools in India, Africa and China serving the poor. It’s already being done. It just needs to be done more.

Start a conversation today with your spouse, your church staff, your parishioners, your fellow entrepreneurs, your neighbors, your relatives. It’s Step One. Take the step and see where it leads. 

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6 Responses to Thanks But No Thanks

  1. wintertime says:

    Tammy, I don’t have much hope for churches doing the right thing. Churches benefit from the HUGE “education-industrial complex”, and few ministers ( and their boards of directors) are willing to bite the hand that puts money in the collection plate.

    In my county, the school district is the largest employer in the county. There is no other business that comes even close. We’re talking about millions of dollars going to school employees as well as the millions that go to vendors and their employees that service the schools. It is likely that in some churches in my county that **all** ( everyone) sitting in the pews directly or indirectly receives income from the government schools.

    Just as an example, my dentist and his 5 employees depend upon school dental insurance to bring patients into his office. So…I encourage others who may be reading this post to think about how deeply entrenched are the money tentacles of the government schools in their county, town, or city.

    Also…Government school accounting practices would make an Enron accountant blush. In my state direct and publicly acknowledged school expenses are more than half of the state budget, yet true expenses are far, far, far greater than that. For example, my state retired government school employees are **not** considered a school expense, they are counted as retired state employees. Our new 70 million dollar high school is not a “school” expense. It is listed as a county improvement bond issue, and many, many businesses and employees received money from building that 70 million dollar school.

    All of this openly visible and hidden money finds its way into the pockets of those who sit in church pews. It is unlikely that these church members will support church action that will disrupt the flow of the education-industrial complex money.

  2. tdbwd says:

    Wintertime,

    I agree. Principle and even religion tends to bow to money. And yet… there are many churches running Christian schools and supporting homeschoolers, so there is some hope. Also, there are Christians running unaffiliated schools. Here’s my hope: I want people to at least start talking — especially about the meaning of education. Teachers in congregations should be invited to join the conversation. If people will talk about it, progress may be made.

    You’re right that the challenge is almost overwhelming, but all the little pockets of academic freedom that exist keep the hope alive.

    I hope that many pastors are reading your comments both here and on FreeRepublic.com, because it’s a vital issue they must face if they hope to preserve and grow their churches.

    Thanks much!

    Tammy

  3. wintertime says:

    Re: Teachers in congregations should be invited

    Tammy, I struggle to find persuasive and gentle words for the following.

    How can any Christian teacher justify teaching in, supporting, and upholding government schools that are by law godless in their worldview and secular? How is it possible to have a conversation about that?

    I see a few irresolvable conflicts between being a Christian and teaching in government schools that are by law godless in their worldview and secular:

    **There are only two possible choices for any school to make regarding worldview. They will be godless or God-centered. Both have profound and non-neutral religious consequences for the children.

    –Those schools that are godless in their worldview teach children to think and evaluate everything that is presented to them in school in a godless manner devoid of any reference to their religious cultural traditions. Surely Christian teachers must know that to teach children to think godlessly is not conforming to Christian belief.

    –Children who do strive to maintain their religious beliefs **must** learn to compartmentalize their faith into a “school and home” categories . In school they evaluate history, scrutinize moral and ethical problems found in literature in a godless manner. Their day is scrubbed clean of any prayer, while in the privacy of their prayer-filled homes the opposite is true. All things are evaluated in the light of their faith. Why would any Christian teacher cooperate with this?

    –If religious discussion, scriptures, and references to the teachings of their church leaders is sanitized from the curriculum and all parts of their school day, aren’t children being subtly taught that religion is somehow shameful and must be hidden behind closed doors as if it were a bathroom activity? Christian teachers accept money for this?

    –Also…Government schools and the First Amendment and freedom of conscience are utterly incompatible! For most of the day children at ordered by the government to shut up! They can not freely publish or distribute material about their Christian belief. The government in its schools strictly controls free assembly. It it the government who dictates with whom the child will assemble. And…Free practice of religion in any government school is either totally forbidden by law or severely restricted. So?…How can any Christian government teacher cooperate with the trampling of the basic human rights that are our gift from God?

    Conclusion:

    –At some level the children in government schools know that their Christian teachers are cooperating with evil. They are teaching children to think godlessly which is evil. They are accepting a paycheck, money, and a pension in support for a school that tramples the basic human rights that are an endowment from God.

    And…If any Christian government teacher attempts to sneak in a little Christian philosophy the children will conclude that the teachers are too lukewarm in their faith to a proper job of it, and that Christians are SNEAKY!

    So?…Why would any child join a faith whose teachers teach what they **know** to be evil, are lukewarm, and sneaky? If Christ would spit a lukewarm and sneaky person out of his mouth, it is any wonder that children do this?

    Is the job of real missionaries going to be harder or easier when these children grow to adulthood? The answer is that we lose Christian children at an alarming rate if they attend government schools! Bruce Small reports that 85% or more children from active, weekly church attending families, will **not** be active in their faith 2 years after graduating from government high school.

    I conclude that Christian teachers, by their **example** are one of the main reasons we lose so many Christian youth, and, likely missionary work for reclaiming these children and converting non-Christian is made **harder** simply by having been taught by Christian teachers who are setting a very bad example of their faith.

    I don’t know how to have a tactful conversation about that.

  4. tdbwd says:

    Dear Wintertime,

    I fully agree that having such a conversation tactfully would be next to impossible. But I wonder about having a managed impassioned conversation (it would have to last a long, long time or be several conversations). There would be ground rules and a strong moderator. It might work, or at least get people thinking.

    But here’s something I think is very important and something you address strongly: the conversation needs to be about the definition and meaning of education. That’s where the problem is. I just read a book (and am 20 pages into an in-depth, written analysis of it) called Going Public: How Your Child Can Thrive in Public School by David and Kelli Pritchard in which the authors pretty much define general education as “information,” and thus acceptably secular (with a few exceptions). Religious education, they pose, is the specific teaching of God’s laws and the domain of parents and church, while other education can legitimately rest in the hands of the state and remain relgion-free.

    This gives you a picture of just how low on the scale the conversation would have to begin.

    Some Christian teachers may view working in public schools as a calling or mission field. I don’t have an opinion on that at this point — would have to ask more questions, listen to more people, think, read, but…

    What concerns me is that the biggest mission field of the church today is becoming its own members’ children, undoing the massive moral, social and intellectual damage inflicted by state schooling. The job is all the tougher because so many of the “missionaries” are products of public schooling themselves and are poorly equipped for the job.

    Now, before someone accuses me of painting public schools and everyone working in them as the incarnation of evil, I want to make clear that I am in daily contact with scores of very nice, hard-working public school graduates. I like them, I talk with them, I have friendships with them. Yet, while all people have their problems and issues, there is no doubt that there are certain life-effecting ills that are a very direct result of public schooling. They are hard to reverse and they become amplified in each succeeding generation. There will certainly be a point of no return. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we aren’t far from it.

    So this issue is not just interesting — it’s important, in all capital letters. The most heartbreaking outcome of public schooling may be that so many people don’t see how important it is to start thinking and talking about this.

    Thanks, wintertime — for writing, for caring, for pouring your heart into this.

    Tammy

  5. Frances says:

    Wintertime, whoever you are, I like you. I enjoy frankness.

    There is a book that you might both find worth the read called Already Gone by Ken Ham (and some other guy I am not remembering right now). It is a research based book about why we are losing so many of our children.

    One of the things in it that (as a homeschooler) I found challenging was the fact that homeschooled children leave the church (as in not attending as adults) in equal percentages to gov. and private schooled children. You would really have to read the book to see all the ins and outs.

    One of the main points made in the book, comes back to the question at the heart of this blog. What is education? The authors said that if God and religion were not connected to “facts” God appears to be irrelevant. For example, the flood of Noah can be connected to fossils. David can be connected to the recent ruins discovered that are believed to be his palace.

    Like I said, it is worth the read.

  6. tdbwd says:

    Frances,

    Hi. I’m definitely going to get Ken Ham’s book. I have to tell you that I find his claim very hard to believe — it definitely doesn’t line up with my own experience, which includes many hundreds of fellow homeschool families. I know that statistic is true of children reared in Christian homes, but I’ve never seen it applied specifically to homeschoolers.

    At any rate, I’ve seen firsthand that even homeschoolers need to think about the meaning of education. All too often they simply accept the definitions that have been handed to them (or forced on them) by the state. Even though homeschoolers are doing better than the public schools, their efforts could be so much better and richer.

    Thanks for writing, Frances. And wintertime — I appreciate your frankness, too. :-)

    Tammy

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