Monday, November 1, 2010

Why Christian Opt out of Public Schools

Post 21

I promised you in the previous blog that I would explain why many Christians have opted out of the Public School system, the system that was supposed to make everyone feel comfortable but, in fact, seems not to do that.

By Christians I mean Protestants and Roman Catholics. I make a point of that, for I get the impression that at least some Catholics apply the term “Christian” only to Protestants. Catholics, we may have our differences, but when it comes to the public school system, we’re in the same boat. In fact, in BC, Protestants and Catholics, along with some other groups for reasons of their own, have banded together in an organization called Federation of Independent Schools Associations of BC (FISA).

Not all Christians attend these independent schools. Some cannot afford it, even after their faith community will often subsidize them. Others prefer the Public Schools; they are committed to them for a variety of reasons. I am not discussing these Christians and I am not casting doubt on their status as Christians.

This Federation has its secretariat in downtown Vancouver. Since 1966, it has fought a long and hard battle on behalf of the various independent schools in the province, both religious and secular. While it educates 11% of BC’s primary and secondary students, it receives only 5% support from the BC government school budget. The maximum grant to an independent school is 1/2 the per pupil grant to a public school. The rest has to be coughed up by the parents, who are already paying the same hard cash for the Public Schools that everyone else is paying. Good deal for the province and public school supporters. Should these schools close down, it would be a financial catastrophe for the Ministry of Education, especially in these days of dollar shortages and school closures.

I urge you to explore their website and then follow especially the links to the websites of the Christian members of the FISA, for they will give you more of the Christian rationale. I also highly recommend their major publication: Victoria Cunningham, Justice Achieved: The Political Struggle of Independent Schools in British Columbia. This is a very enlightening history of the work of the FISA in obtaining legal recognition and partial funding for independent schools in British Columbia, 2002 (311 pages).

Why do these parents choose private schooling? Speaking for Christians, it is that matter of worldview or belief or faith. Christians want to see God and His Word penetrate every subject that children are taught. Of course, there are different types of Christians and I cannot represent them all in these blogs. So, I will restrict myself to my own Calvinist tradition. These Christians—I should say “we,” for I am one of them—do not accept the secular definition of religion, at least, not of the Christian religion. The Christian religion is a wholistic world view that covers all of life. The idea that Christianity is personal, for private and church matters, is the idea of secularists, not ours. We do not accept their limiting religion to a small slice of life, while the rest of life is supposedly based on a neutral platform that is rational and that everyone has in common. We do not accept that education or politics or any other sphere of life can be conducted without reference to God and His revelation, which is found both in the Bible and in nature, history or human experience. We do not want our children to get the impression that God can be left out of our daily affairs and therefore do not want Him ignored during the many hours and years our children spend in school. As if He is of little or no account.

We are rational like everyone else, but not rationalistic. Our rationality, both Christian and secular, is not a neutral objective entity where we work with what we have in common. The neutrality of reason is itself a belief. Belief in the ability of human reason to find all truth and to solve all our problems amounts to an exaggeration of our rational abilities. That belief has never been proven by anyone; it is an article of faith. Christians believe in reason, but not in an independent reason. Human reasoning is imperfect and limited. There are many areas where it cannot reach or where it is liable to going astray. Thus, while secularists believe in the ability of independent or autonomous reason to find our way in this world, Christians, along with some other religions, believe in the need for divine revelation to correct our reasoning processes that have been affected by the fall. We all believe! We are all believers. We are all in a boat, but not in the same boat, since our beliefs differ. But it is all belief! You cannot get around that.

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