Monday, May 11, 2009

More on Doug Phillips' vision for the future of homeschooling in America

#6 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part V - "Visionary Fathers". First post in the series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.

Karen Campbell/"thatmom" has written a thoughtful follow-up to my post about Doug Phillips' second speech at the CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" back in early March. I encourage you to read her post.

Her comments--especially about Phillips' calls to abolish government-run schools, Child Protective Services, and church-based or church-run schools) reminded me of some things I had thought about but forgot to mention when I wrote my post:
As I grew up, my parents' home was absolutely not a haven of rest. It was a place from which I attempted to escape as much and as often as possible. The anger, the verbal abuse, the (occasional) physical violence my parents expressed one toward the other (which, of course, impacted all six of us children): I needed to escape.

And guess what? My effective "family," for almost all practical purposes, was our church--i.e., of course, not the church building, but the loving, caring, nurturing people, the youth group leaders, the pastors, the Youth for Christ/Campus Life leader, and others who were willing to take me in and provide aid and comfort if and as I needed it.

My parents loved me. They cared for me. But there were so many dysfunctionalities in our family, they couldn't provide--they were incapable of providing--a goodly portion of the help I needed in order to grow in the grace of Christ.

. . . Moving on from my time at home--during the time I was in college--again I found my "family" in the church and in the Navigators, Campus Crusade, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

I was so thankful for all these ministries. I was so thankful for their larger world view. --Again, things that were far beyond my parents' ability to provide.

. . . Yet Phillips, Swanson, and friends seem so antagonistic to such ministries and opportunities.

How sad for kids like I was if their vision were to come to pass!
Here's another thought that came about as a result of discussing Doug's speech with our eldest son.

We got talking about how the emphasis on "family-integrated church" (which, sometimes, may mean "family church"--i.e., "church" that includes no one besides one's close family members) . . . such an emphasis can lead to sadly out-of-balance, misshapen disciples.

Voddie Baucham, in his second speech at the Men's Summit (as we will see in a while) railed against parents who permit their children to attend classroom schools. To do so, he suggested, is to permit our children to become the companions of fools. And the Scripture says (Proverbs 13:20), "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." So, he urged, we should keep our children at home.

"But," my son asked, especially in light of Phillips' call for the abolition of Child Protective Services and the public school system, etc.--"how do these guys know that they are not fools themselves (or that we, the parents, are not fools)? What if we are fools? Then what?"

I was reminded of something my mentor, Dr. Ralph Winter of the U.S. Center for World Mission, once said about one reason (among many) that international missionary endeavors are so vital to the church: Missionary outreach ensures that the various branches of the church, worldwide, are forced to confront their own narrow, and potentially heretical, teachings. We are--each branch--hopefully, brought closer to a balanced perspective when we recognize how our brothers and sisters from other cultures and in other contexts interpret the same Scriptures.

I think he is right.

Therefore, on the one side, I am extremely grateful to the FIC (Family-Integrated Church) movement for challenging the mega- and, almost, "commercial" church movement that seems so common in the United States. I think it is legitimate--as Voddie did in his first speech--for them to challenge churches and parents with respect to their individual and mutual responsibilities. For example, I think some (indeed, many, and, possibly, most) parents leave too much in the hands of their churches and local public schools. And I think it would be really wonderful for the FIC to raise questions in these parents' minds about what, exactly, they think they are doing.

--I am reminded of my experience when we first looked at the public classroom school option for our oldest daughter.

I went down to the high school and asked the person at the front desk if I might look at a syllabus for one of the classes we were told our daughter would have to take. It was some kind of worldview course and I wanted to know what they would be teaching, how they would teach it, and how I might want to prepare our daughter for whatever-it-was they would be attempting to teach her.

The man behind the counter scowled at me and demanded to know why I wanted to see the syllabus.

Frankly, I was taken aback by his response, though I quickly realized that, "of course," he was unused to having people ask about the content of courses. The public school is used to telling parents and students what they "need" or "should" or "will" be taught. They are not used to having anyone ask why . . . or to question what, specifically, will be included in a course.

Anyway, I wanted to say something about being the "customer."

I don't remember what, specifically, I told the guy. But I realized, at the time, that my entire approach to the school had been impacted by my experiences through the years as a homeschooling parent. I viewed education very much as a consumer and not as a person who is "stuck" with whatever the monopoly deigns to provide.

I viewed (and still view!) education as an open field of alternatives, opportunities. The question is not "What will 'they' stick me with?" Rather, it is, "What will I choose to use?"

The public schools with which I'm familiar have no sense that they are in a competitive, commercial environment. They don't view parents and students as customers. I think they view us more as something like their property, their appropriate servants. They have no responsibility to answer to us; we have a responsibility to answer to them! We will do what they tell us.

. . . So I think it was good that I interfaced with that teacher in the local public high school and--to whatever extent and however I did it--forced him to consider that maybe--just maybe--he didn't have a "right" either to my subservience or to my daughter's presence in his classroom. (As it turned out, the man I approached was the person who developed the particular class whose syllabus I requested to see!)

Similarly, I think it would be most valuable to many parents and pastors and local church staff members if they, too, were to hear some of the "alternative" views of advocates for the Family-Integrated Church model. (While anti-FIC advocates may complain about the overwhelming conformity required of participants in those churches, some of the more "mainstream" churches would probably benefit from hearing the stories of people like the woman whose story I quoted last month, whose family, she said, was kicked out of one church by the pastor "because we broke the rules and brought our sleeping infant" into the "adult" worship hall ("the 'Family Room' (what they call the sanctuary.........what a joke)," she said bitterly).

Again: My point: I think we need each other! We need to hear the insights that each of us has to bring to the table.

But if and as we declare fools everyone with whom we think we disagree, and if and as we cut ourselves off from the larger body of Christ--all members of which exhibit unique foibles, failures and foolishness--I am afraid we will find ourselves more and more out-of-balance and off-kilter and less and less able to reflect the beauty of Christ in the world.

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit" - "Homeschooling - Capturing the Vision," Part I (Character in Academics).
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