The first time the English word education pops up is sometime in the 15th century. The Latin word educare carried connotations of rearing, maturing and nourishing children to adulthood. Originally, education as an idea took its place alongside parenting, training and apprenticing: the acts that parents and guardians took to shape their young into the adults and citizens they wanted them to be. Education was embedded in a family’s religion, tradition, and even vocation.
It isn’t until after the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution that education begins to take on the meaning of providing a broad, neutral, “secular” numeracy and literacy for children, so that they can find middle and upper class professions when adults. A shift occurs, from education being the shaping of hearts and minds to education being the provision of economic tools – a passport to professional life. Once multiple cultures and religions are living side-by-side in towns and cities, public education becomes mass education, and supposedly religionless, value-free, utilitarian education.
A great part of parenting is the preparation of our young to eventually be independent bread-winners. Unsurprisingly, many Christians see little problem with the secular view of education. It appears, superficially, to be just one more rite of passage to adulthood: learning what everyone else learns so as to eventually “get a good job”.
In accepting this view, however, those Christian parents have accepted something that previous generations would never have countenanced. They have accepted the idea that teaching our children knowledge, wisdom and an understanding of the world can be farmed out to unbelievers who do not share our faith, our worldview, or our understanding of morality, science, art, anthropology, sexuality, economics, or politics. They have accepted the idea that a child’s peers at school (from a kaleidoscope of backgrounds) should be the child’s cultural mentors. They have imagined that education is truly a value-free, morally-neutral exercise of transferring information from adults to children. They convince themselves that exposure to unbelieving worldviews and moralities for seven hours a day, two hundred days a year for twelve years will not have an effect on the child’s faith. After all, there’s always Sunday school, right?
More and more Christian parents are waking up from the dreamy state of trusting the benevolence and goodness of the state and the wider culture to shape our children. That’s perhaps because they are finally seeing that the state and wider culture wants your children to celebrate what Scripture calls abominations, that they will encourage your children to revisit the question of their own sex (without your consent), that they will teach your children about sex using pornographic materials, and if they don’t, then one of their friends at school with a smartphone certainly will. After failing to see that their own school years took place when Christianity still had a lingering voice in culture, some Christian parents are starting to see that the culture is not a neutral beast, but always the incarnation of the dominant religion. The dominant religion is now vehemently anti-Christian: it is dedicated to destroying, undermining and overturning the views it now calls patriarchal, colonial, Western, white, cis-gendered, or privileged, which is Marxist code for Christian.
To submit your children to this is quite simply to send them to the Enemy to be trained. It is to seek their economic progress at the expense of their souls, which is an illustration of Esau (Heb. 12:16), if there ever was one. And worst of all, it is wasting a huge portion of their lives on what will make them neither fervent disciples of Christ nor particularly thoughtful citizens.
But abandoning the old haunts of a civilisation is a daunting thing, especially when you are unprepared to replace what you are leaving. So it is little wonder that the experiments in Christian schools, charter schools and homeschooling of the last fifty years have been uneven in quality and often experimental in approach. If you abandon a city and have to catch and cook your food in the wild, the transition will be a bumpy one. Christian adults at the end of Western civilisation have been trying to educate their children while lacking and needing a Christian education themselves. Being a learner and teacher at the same time is a nerve-wracking ride.
Books on education and Christian education abound, and probably add to the panic in many a parent, professor and principal. There are, nevertheless, a few singular books that cut through the morass, and distill for us the heart of what a Christian education is, and what it means to educate in a Christian manner. To that end, I wish to suggest seven books, or more accurately, seven authors, whose books each provide a piece of the Christian education puzzle. Some of the men and women will be well known, others are less so. Often enough, they are representative of a stream of authors who say very similar things. Each one will guide us closer to a thoroughly Christian education.