I have a bad habit of overstating my case sometimes. So does the writer of this article, which I should not have posted on facebook without a bit more qualification.
I certainly don’t agree with the article on every point, but I do think it pokes a stick at some very important questions, particularly for urban families who have the financial and/or social resources to choose where their children will go to school.
Like any parent, I want what is best for my kids. As a Christian, however, I think it’s tremendously important to question what that means. “What is best” for my daughter is that she learns to love the Lord and love her neighbour as herself. She could go to the best school in the world (of whatever type that may be) and never learn this. She could receive no formal education whatsoever and still in the end have received what is best. So I first want to posit that whether or not you send your kid to private school or public school is not necessarily a question of whether you are giving them what is best or not. That said, education matters. You probably cannot overstate how much it matters.
I want what is best for my kids – and so does every other parent. But while I can choose where to send Jubilee to school, many of my neighbours cannot. Their children will go to the public school around the corner whether they like it or not, because they cannot afford another option. Thus, my choice of where to send Jubilee to school is not just an individual choice about what is best for my daughter. It impacts my neighbours. If she goes to the public school down the street, her presence and our family’s boots-on-the-ground investment in the school will have beneficial effects on our neighbour’s children. If we send Jubilee to private school, we remove that benefit.
Sending your kid to public school is clearly not the only way to love your neighbour. In fact, if you are spending your time and energy loving your neighbours in other ways, then you probably ought not to make the enormous commitment of sending your child to an underperforming public school with the intent of being engaged in its programs and environment for the betterment of the community. If, however, you have the resources and the calling to make that commitment, then I think it is well worth considering.
I think it is worth considering even more so if you have a lot of families from your church with similarly aged children who could all send their children to the local public school together, be invested in it together, and support each other in the difficulties of doing so.
I think that the article’s ideas have some merits, and I think that public schools could be helped and even transformed if significant amounts of socially and financially wealthy families committed to their well-being with their time, money, energy, and even their children. My secret pipe dream in life is to do this in West Philly along with other families from City Church.
My fear is that the liberal Pharisees will beat us to it. That the church might fail to show sacrificial love in such a radical way. I think that it can be done, and I think that it does not involve sacrificing our children on the altar of a progressive agenda, but rather teaching them how to love God and their neighbour in the best way possible: by example.