2017 | Week of February 6 | #1189
Who is responsible to educate children? The local community? The state? The federal government? The parents? A combination of these?
This really isn’t a question with lots of correct answers. There’s one correct answer, and that is parents. I base that answer on my authority source—the same source I use for every issue we evaluate—the unchanging, inerrant Word of God.
Others in answering this question will use other authority sources. That’s their choice; they are entitled to be wrong. I digress for a moment here. In 2005 and 2006 when we were working on the marriage amendment, I spoke several times in a Current Issues class at the very liberal Madison West High School. On one of these occasions, between classes, the teacher asked me what my authority was for my position on marriage. I wasn’t sure where he was going, so I responded in terms of social science research and its years and years and multitudes of studies. When I finished, he said, “No, I mean what’s your final authority on marriage?” I said, “Well, that would be the Bible.” He reared back and exclaimed, “Aha. I thought so!” I said, “So, what’s your final authority on marriage?” To which he replied, “Me.”
I kept my words and face as neutral as possible as I said, “You. Ok. So what makes you a final authority on marriage?” His response, “Whatever I believe is right and that makes me an authority.” The students returned to class, preventing further discussion of this important idea of what constitutes an authority.
While I call that a digression, it really isn’t. Our worldview—and our ultimate authority—makes all the difference in how we answer the question at hand: who is responsible for the education of children?
I answer quickly and decidedly parents because I believe what the Bible says about God being the creator of human life, male and female, about marriage between male and female and about the command God gave the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, to be fruitful and multiply. Further, I believe the totality of the Scripture’s teaching about children being a heritage of the Lord, a gift to parents—not the state, not the community, not the federal government. I believe the totality Scripture is clear that parents are ultimately responsible for the entire upbringing of their children, including their education.
In the course of fulfilling their responsibility for the education of their children, parents can certainly enlist help. In fact, they may choose to have an educational partner involved. In Wisconsin, as we noted during the recent School Choice Week, parents have many options for educational partners. We have vibrant, growing and successful voucher programs in Milwaukee, Racine and statewide. We have open enrollment for public schools beginning this week and running through early April. This allows parents to enroll their children in a school that is outside the district in which they live. We have charter schools and virtual charter schools. We have private schools—both religious and secular—and home schooling. In fact, we have one of the best home school and private school laws in the country, with minimal requirements and restrictions. Lots of choices for parents.
At the end of the day, however, even if an educational partner fails, parents are still responsible for the education of their children. God’s plan and standard don’t change because a partner didn’t do what it claimed or was supposed to.
A follow-up to this foundational truth is that parents must be actively involved in the education of their children, even if a full-time partner is chosen. Are your kids learning to read, to understand what they read, to think critically? Are they learning the truth about American history? Are they being taught civics? Are they learning math factually and usefully? Are they learning that evolution is just a theory about the origin of the universe or are they being told it is fact? What are they reading in English class? Who else is coming into their rooms? Who is speaking in those all-school assemblies? What surveys are they being asked to take? What are they being taught about gender, sexuality, marriage? Is their faith being mocked or fortified?
Yes, the answer to the question is simple. Parents are responsible for the education of their children. The hard part is fulfilling the responsibility. It takes time and dedication, but is there really anything more important for parents to do?
For Wisconsin Family Council, I’m Julaine Appling, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”