Dan Smithwick, Nehemiah Institute

For the first two centuries of our nation, civil government had no role in education. In the last century, it has wanted to be the only role. We spend more money on education per pupil than any other industrialized nation yet rank near or at bottom in academic performance, especially in math, physics and sciences. Why? The answer is theological in every sense.

I want to give nine reasons why the church today should cease using state-run schools. I also want to acknowledge upfront that there are often times circumstances why Christians believe they have to use the public schools. It is neither my place, nor anyone else's I believe, to judge all situations from afar. I will say more on this later. But first, some background on the theological basis for arguing why the church should abandon public schooling.

Here is the fundamental issue: Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. "(Matthew 4:4)

The fruit of the removal of Christianity from the public square is apparent to anyone who wants to see—a decrease in good things (honesty, morality, literacy, family coherence, etc.) and an increase in bad things (crime, sexual immorality, bankruptcies, business and government corruption, family breakdown, etc.). Within a few short generations, our nation has been changing from liberty to bondage (government dependency), from free enterprise to socialism, from creditor status to debtor status, from community spirit to isolationism, from honoring God to ignoring Him.

When the public/government school system began in the early 19th century, it was absorbed in an environment of Christian ethics held to publicly and privately since the days of the Pilgrims. Prayer, Bible reading and fear of the Lord were the foundations of learning. Not anymore. The spiritual capital inherited by the public school system has been spent and will not be replenished.

But America didn't enter this experiment of non-religious secular education without warning. Theologian and educator Dr. A.A. Hodge, Princeton Theological Seminary, said, "I am as sure as I am of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen."

Scholar J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, said "An education that trains the mind without training the moral sense is a menace to civilization rather than a help."

Martin Luther said, "I'm afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of youth." America's government-run education system has proven Luther right.

These men, and many others, gave us clear warnings about government-run, secular, no-Bible education. But the church pressed on. It bought the concept of "free" education and surrendered her posterity to be raised by the state.

Education expert Samuel L. Blumenfeld stated, "The plain, unvarnished truth is that public education is a shoddy, fraudulent piece of goods sold to the public at an astronomical price. It's time the American consumer knew the extent of the fraud which is victimizing millions of children each year."

Pastor and author Douglas Wilson captured the situation well by saying in Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, (1991) "For over one hundred years, Americans have been running a gigantic experiment in government schools, trying to find out what a society looks like without God. Now we know."
Here are my nine reasons why Christians should no longer use public schools (and really never should have)- listed in reverse order.

9. Unsafe Environment

Surely, every parent has heard about the shootings in public schools over the past several years. But there are lesser-degree acts of violence (fights, sexual abuse, name calling, teasing, etc.) but these problems show up in private schools as well, thus I believe it belongs last on the list of "top nine" reasons for Christians not enrolling their children in public schools.

8. Negative Role Models

The Bible says, "Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (I Cor. 15:33) An environment where the majority of people are not Christian will produce a 'normal' environment that is hostile to Christianity. Most students like to model their teachers, especially when they are viewed as "cool." However, the morals of Christian-family youth are being corrupted when the lifestyle of their teachers reflects such anti-Christian views as gay rights, abortion rights, and sex before marriage.

7. Reverse "Evangelism"

Many Christian families state that a key reason for staying with the public school system is to be 'salt and light' to a pagan culture. I think it is unwise (dangerous?) to send little-trained or untrained youth to perhaps the key battleground of Humanists (the public school classroom) and expect them to be effective in winning over unbelievers, adult or student. The evangelism is working in reverse far too often as is evidenced by Christian-family youth adopting morals of their unbelieving friends.

6. Godless Curriculum

School is about learning and learning is about knowing truth. Fundamental to the Christian faith is the axiom that God IS truth. When a school uses a curriculum that is completely void of God's Word, how can we possibly expect its students to be educated? Peter Marshall said, "Let us not fool ourselves- without Christianity, without Christian education, without the principles of Christ inculcated into young life, we are simply rearing pagans." A Godless curriculum will produce a Godless people.

5. Public Schooling is not Thorough

Pick any subject taught in K-12 education, if it has been taught apart from the knowledge revealed in scripture, it is incomplete (and likely inaccurate). History, biology, mathematics, sociology, science, language, arts, economics, government, -- each are openly addressed in scripture. The God who made all creation has also told us how to understand creation. Why would we want to go to the effort and expense of having our children educated for 12-16 years ignoring what the original Author has to say about the subjects we are teaching? It makes no sense, except for the fallen mind who wants no part of God.

4. Poor Academic Results

It is secret to none: Public school students, to a large degree, are simply not well-educated. Some youth, because of their gifting and good homes, are excelling in public schools in spite of the overall deterioration of the system. But for the great majority, even average to above average in intelligence, they are being badly educated. What a travesty this is.

3. Public Schooling Breeds the view that success can come apart from God

If we throw out all the bad stuff found in public schools (shootings, rapes, stealing, fighting, cheating, etc.) and have a 'nice' school where no student is afraid, we are still left with an education system that is robbing youth of the most important aspect of being educated- to trust God. The supreme value being touted today for education is so that you can be successful and have a good life.

The true purpose of being properly educated and successful is to establish God's covenant on earth. Public schools do not go this direction but rather promote materialism as a way of being successful. This is a formula for failure.

2. Public Schooling Produces no Fear of God

Fear of God is almost a lost concept in our culture. The meaning of the word fear as used in the scripture is 1) morally to revere; and 2) causatively to frighten. Five times in the Book of Deuteronomy the phrase 'learn and fear' is found in context of knowing God's Word. The reason there is little shame anymore (have you seen any lately?) is because there is no fear of God anymore.

Horace Mann and John Dewey, founders of our public school system, openly expressed their hatred for Christianity. They literally feared an education system that would teach youth to fear God, which is just what America had for the first two hundred years of existence.

Education, in any subject, should create fear (reverence) of God for how His majesty is revealed in that area of life. Teaching should also instill a proper fear (fright) of going against God's order and purpose in each discipline of life

1. Public Schooling (secular education) is Disobedience to God

Herein lies the primary reason why Christians should not use public schools any longer. Having been educated myself in public schooling through college, having become a Christian at age 33, and having put our five children through combinations of public and private Christian schools, I can only look back and confess that I was not always obedient in 'education.' I wish every day I could relive some of those years and do it 'by the Book.'

But those days are gone. It is only the present in which we can decide to be obedient in this all- important field we call education. The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) There is simply no easy way around the fact that putting our children in an anti-Christian education system is not training them up in the way they should go.

Many parents want to say, "But we are giving our children Bible training at home." Really? Are you going back to all subject matter your children are taking and giving them a scripture-based education to correct wrong teaching? If so, you are in essence homeschooling them, so why continue to have them enrolled in the public school? If you mean that you are giving your children moral training, and letting the public school give them 'academic' training, you are simply denying them a Christian worldview. Your children are being given an anti-Christian worldview in all subjects at the local public school.

I recommend two books to help with this decision. First is a new book by Rev. E. Ray Moore, Jr., Let My Children Go (quoted from above). Rev. Moore has done the Christian community an excellent service in providing the historical basis of government-run education and the proper theological response to it.

The second recommendation is Advancing the Kingdom by Don Schanzenbach. This is a very good personal or group study on learning the Biblical worldview of sixteen different subject matters. 

Public, government-run schooling has been a bad experiment. I strongly encourage Christians to use home schooling or private Christian schools for good education.

(Edited for length. Complete article may be found on the Nehemiah Institute website —