The Background of Public Education

Many Americans are likely unaware that the public schools in this country were founded on a similar vision. This is especially true in the late nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth. Public school advocates preached a message of cultural disaster if children were not raised in a common culture. Concern over the assimilation of immigrant children fueled the sense of crisis, but more was at stake. John Dewey, one of the most influential figures in the development of the public school ideal, explicitly argued that children should be educated in public schools so that the schools could help them break with the traditions and perspectives of their parents.


5 thoughts on “The Background of Public Education

  1. Yeah, and I’d say the public education system has done much towards building a rebellious, lazy generation.

    I was homeschooled. It worked well for me. I would encourage folks to homeschool if the parents are up to it.

    I haven’t homeschooled my son because it would be too much for me and my wife. So we’ve settled for a Christian private school, and it’s worked pretty well.

  2. There’s a great book that Vison Forum sells called Safely Home and I highly recommend it. It talks about the public school perspective being more Greek in worldview (raising students to be wards of the state) vs the Hebrew thought of raising students which is radically different. It was a fascinating book that’s worth the read:

  3. Thanks for the recommendation, Tom. I ordered a copy from Amazon.


    We tried putting our two oldest kids in a Christian school this year, and had some interesting experiences. I would say that a public school might even be safer then a bad Christian school; the reason being that at least at a public school the kids know they are going to be different, but at a Christian school it is easy to think that whatever you witness around you ought to be normative for followers of Messiah, and in our experience, nothing is further from the truth.

    At the end of the day, we live in an environment today where I am increasingly questioning whether any option but homeschool is really suitable for disciples.

    Clearly there are exceptions where Christian schools can be a good solution, but they are increasingly rare.

  4. I think we have to recognize that there are good school systems and bad school systems. So much depends on where people live, and what the local circumstances are like. Having participated personally in public, private, and homeschool–I got the most out of public school and the least out of homeschool. But, everyone’s circumstances are different, and I think we should allow people to have the ability to choose without being pressured by another family’s decisions. Parents need to be involved in raising their children, regardless of which option is chosen.

    My youngest sister has excelled a great deal at her public high school, including becoming the chapter president of both the National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and she is enrolled in almost all AP classes. Most of her teachers are conservative evangelical Christians, and I will be giving a brief teaching to FCA on Passover in a few weeks. I know that my sister has had opportunities at her school that would be unavailable anywhere else–including being awarded the Navy ROTC scholarship for college! She will be going to the University of Oklahoma the same as her brother, and this past Summer I got a full tour by the Captain himself of the level of training the Navy will give her. Pretty awesome!

  5. John, there are of course phenomenal opportunities available to students via the public education system. However, my observation is that even conservative evangelicals are incredibly unaware of just how pervasively they have adopted the viewpoint of the world.

    The chasm between the American Way and the Jesus Way has become so vast as to be seemingly insurmountable. But those who are oblivious to that reality are deprived of the power of the Gospel.

    This is a problem of epidemic proportions; can we afford to send our children to teachers who are unaware of the worldview they are propagating? The problem with this question, of course, is that many–perhaps most–parents are equally unaware of how insidiously the perspective of the world has infected their own paradigm.

    What, I submit, is to be done? I have some thoughts, but I certainly do not have a solution.

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