Quotation of the Week

Whatever my child may face in public school, I can assure you that none of it is subtle. On the other hand, the pernicious nature of the subconscious message of the exclusive private Christian school is the the message of upper-middle-class suburban Evangelicalism: materialism.

Fourth-graders putting condoms on bananas OR materialism. Which one damages the soul more? Which is harder to root out?

From Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum

Thanks, More Than Stone


  1. I just read something in Bonhoeffer this morning that touches on the same theme, though more for the adult than the child … “I thought I could acquire faith by endeavoring to lead what might be termed a holy life. […] Later I discovered, and am still discovering to this day, that one can acquire faith only by leading an entirely worldly [as opposed to other-worldly] life. If we renounce any attempt to make something of ourselves, be it saint or penitent sinner or churchman (a so-called priestly type!), be it a righteous or unrighteous, sick or healthy individual – and by worldliness I mean living amid the [world’s] abundance of duties and problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities – if we do that, we cast ourselves completely into the arms of God; we take seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in this world; and we share Christ’s vigil in Gethsemane. That, I believe, is faith, is metanoia, and that is how one becomes a human being and a Christian. […] I’m thankful to have recognized this, and I know that I could only have done so on the road I have traveled. That is why I reflect with gratitude and serenity on things past and present.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a July 21, 1944 letter to Eberhard Bethge

  2. Jennifer,
    Thank you so much for sharing such an absolutely perfect companion reflection. I simply love his description of our call to “share Christ’s vigil in Gethsemane.” And oh, how that is truly what it feels like sometimes.

  3. Erika, that is a profound quote. I can’t help but wonder what those who send their kids off to Christian school would think. As our kids are too young for school yet, we have begun to discuss the options. We are leaning toward public school. We are leaning this way for reasons expressed in the quote and for reasons of fostering a local incarnational theology of neighbourhood presence (walk to church, school, covenant group, etc…)

    It also challenges us to consider that spiritual formation needs to happen in the home. THis approach we feel would discourage us from punting the SF of our kids to Christian teachers and Sunday school…

  4. Erika,

    Thank you for featuring this quote from my post on living in Canaan from Cerulean Sanctum. I pray it blesses your readers!

  5. Erika, thank you for the affirmation! I started not to post for fear it was too long. And yes, it’s feeling that way to me too.

  6. I’m with Jennifer and Dietrich B.

    My wife Janet is a long term teaching veteran in inner city public schools in LA and Denver. We’ve sent both kids to public schools.

    Learning in public schools may offer quite a bit more subtlety than some might imagine. I guess it depends on your point of view and your hopes for your children and how you define “education.”

    After two decades participating in public school districts we’re still waiting to see our first condom on a banana among fourth graders :^)

    In our experience many evangelical suburban schools are into money and some are just plain afraid of the world. Some are both. And a few evangelical schools do their best to strike the right balance between being in the world but not of it.

    We’re public school fans because of our particular Christian convictions but understand why a lot of Christian folks want to home school or send their kids to private school.

    We don’t think it’s mostly about condoms or bananas or moral issues.

    Lots of middle and upper middle class Christians want their kids to have the best education possible that will lead to the best career opportunities. They don’t believe their kids will get that best education or those best career opportunities in public schools. Nuff said.

    Why most Christians—and increasingly more Americans—have abandoned public education rather than seriously trying to change it for the better is an interesting question in my mind.

  7. John,

    You guys are in a similar place to ours: kids are young now, but we need to start thinking through this stuff. So far, all of my peers here who have relocated to this community are doing the home-school thing. That has not been my hope for our kids, however after spending time in a local public grade school, I was a bit depressed by the test-driven monotony that I saw. Teaching the materials for the tests, taking practice tests, and then doing the actual testing seemed to occupy so much of the classroom time–and this is not a once-a-year thing.

    I went to public schools, and I LOVED school. I had great teachers and learning was such an adventure. I can’t bear the idea of sending Mercy to sit in the kind of uninspired test-driven environment that I have seen. Maybe things will change, maybe some magnet schools, etc. will be different, I don’t know. I do know that for me the issues are not who she will sit next to in class and whether they are like us, but rather that she and Aaron will be in an environment where learning is the adventure that it should be (and this is what every child in our community deserves!).

    I should talk to Tom and hear more form his experience, perhaps…

  8. Tom,

    Where I grew up, public schools were the norm for everyone I knew. I was shocked when I moved to SoCal and talked with folks in Pasadena who simply shuddered at the very thought of putting their child in a public school (and these were church people) unless they lived somewhere like San Marino. I hadn’t realized how deep the abandonment of public education had become…

    Maybe that’s another book that needs to be written…Janet?

  9. We both obviously grew up in places where people believed in public education.

    Progressive Christian adults are sometimes willing to live in inner city communities for the sake of ministry and love of neighbor and deal with everything that entails. I’m moved by your family’s committment and by the committment of others in your larger Christian community.

    But it’s one thing to make that kind of committment for yourself. It’s harder to make that kind of committment on behalf of your kids.

    All of us are struggling to figure out that tension.

    Our daughter Rebecca went to Pasadena public schools and attended John Muir High, supposedly one of the worst high schools in California. She’s finishing up at Stanford next year.

    We were aware of the test driven monotony at current inner city public schools, thought that’s certainly not the worst of it :^)

    We wanted Rebecca to live and share our values, but we also wanted her to get a decent education in a tough environment.

    Our solution was to send her to public schools but invest the kind of personal time in her education that ‘home schoolers’ are willing to put in.

    That means getting to know the teachers and the school, figuring out the best teachers and classes, spending big time supplementing your kid’s education at home and exposing them to all that a place like LA (or any big city) has to offer.

    Though we respect the decisions of home schoolers, we didn’t want our kids to grow up with a potential social deficit and a divide between them and their urban poor friends who went to public school. We didn’t feel confident enough in our own intelligence, faith and experience that we could give our own kids an education at home that would prepare them for the real world.

    Again, it’s all about your hopes for your kids and how you define education.

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