Rod Dreher has an interesting post up about the “missionary schooling” idea, the idea that some Christian parents have that they must eschew homeschooling or even private Christian schools in favor of sending their kids into the public schools to be “salt and light” and witness to the Gospel.
The comments over there have been pretty interesting, to say the least.
Now, I’ve sometimes erred on the side of being too enthusiastic about homeschooling, especially in the past before the mellowness of middle age hit. I still think homeschooling is a terrific way to educate your children, especially if you want to give them a specifically Catholic or Christian (or Jewish or Muslim etc.) education. The reality of the public school is that it cannot teach much at all about religion except in a very abstract way. Since I wanted to give my children a good Catholic education, could not afford the local Catholic schools, and didn’t really trust diocesan Catholic schools generally to give a good Catholic education anyway, homeschooling was, and remains for our youngest who is still in high school, the best option for our family.
But even though I’ve relaxed about people doing what works for their own individual families and situations including public school when that’s the best option, I still think that sending one’s kids into the schools with the idea that young children should be expected to spread the Gospel and witness to their friends is a bit much. In some public schools where the vast majority of kids are Christians, this isn’t even necessary--but in other public schools where the vast majority of kids are from irreligious and badly broken homes and where violent forms of bullying are daily occurrences, you wouldn’t be sending your kids in as witnesses, but as potential martyrs. To place such a burden on a child who is likely still learning to tie his shoes is not particularly just, I think.
Is the “salt and light” option a good way for Christians to engage the culture via their children? Is it a terrible idea that puts innocent children at risk from a culture which is daily growing more hostile to their, and our, values? Or is it really just a nice way for Christian parents to put things so that the local Christian co-op parents will quit bugging them about homeschooling which really wouldn’t work for their particular family?
What do you think?