How is it possible to study the various Christian options for the education of your kids, come to settled conclusions, be prepared to articulate those conclusions for any who are interested, and yet avoid the besetting sin of factionalism and party spirit? After all, we have Christian parents who use homeschooling, others who use homeschool co-ops (or quasi-schools depending on what name you want to use), others who use internet tutorials, others who use incarnate tutorials, and others who use classical Christian schools. And this list is by no means exhaustive.
RC Jr. recently told me in conversation that he did not believe that now was the time for a roaring debate between parents who use Christian schools and home schoolers. When would the right time be? He said that the time would be right for a pedagogical debate after 80 percent of Christian parents were providing a Christian education for their children. This is just another way of saying all of us have bigger fish to fry. We don’t want those Christian parents who are already dedicated to Christian education to start a fratricidal war amongst themselves. And if we can manage to avoid such a war, it is probable that when we do get to the point where we can have this discussion, we will be able to conduct it the way we ought to, which is to say, like Christians.
So what do we do in the meantime? For we have to recognize that what is transpiring now is important to the debate, and sets the stage for it later. As the Christian school movement continues to grow, and as homeschooling continues to grow, we would be foolish to think that this growth is irrelevant to any future discussions. For the most part, people will defend where they have come, and where they are now going is obviously related to this.
So in the meantime, how can we prepare our hearts for godly debate? In my mind, we are to take care to guard against excessive pride in our own ranks. This is something we need to do before God regardless of an impending debate. We must take a stand against the idea that unwarranted conceit is something that the devil can somehow tempt “others” to fall into, but we have a free pass, and wisdom will die with us. Whenever we come to think this way, we have guaranteed that if a debate ever arises, we will not contribute to it in a productive way at all.
So all of us have to be hostile now to “party spirit,” and we have to be hostile to it in our own ranks. And the way to do this is to own and oppose excesses in whatever method you espouse. For example, it is no secret that I am a strong advocate of classical and Christian schools. If someone were to object to this, and (very reasonably) point to various excesses and distortions within the classical Christian school world, and if I were to say, “I have been involved with these schools for more than twenty years, and I have never seen anything like what you describe,” then I am either guilty of party spirit, or I am completely clueless.
And, as it happens, I would be more likely to say, “Man, is that right. I could tell you stories . . .”
The same sort of thing goes for an ardent homeschooler. If he has never seen excesses from his own side, then he is not thinking about this in wisdom. He cares more about what will advance “a side,” than he cares about the truth. In short, the mark of party spirit is just this — not only an inability to acknowledge flaws in “the method,” but an inability to acknowledge any flaws in the application of the method by anyone.
I think a good classical Christian school is just great, and such a school is where I would love to see my grandchildren attend. But at the same time, I have seen examples of classical Christian schools for rich show poodles, classical Christian schools run by a pack of gradgrinds, classical Christian schools with a scratch and sniff Latin program, and classical Christian schools where Maya Angelou might get a poetry reading scheduled. I could tell you stories.