Last fall, as I talked with a friend about the possibility of enrolling her daughter at RCLS, I listened as she weighed her desire for a Christian education for her kids against the financial sacrifice it would require and against a conflicting wish to stay engaged with the public system. You see, she recounted, she went to public school and her faith is intact. I couldn’t argue with her there, for I know her to be someone who thinks about how to live out her faith in business and relationship––someone who does all that she does for the glory of God. She navigated a public-school system and turned out fine, she joked. “But,” she concluded as she continued to think aloud, “the world is upside down now.”
I nodded in agreement, fully aware of what she meant. We live in what many cultural commentators and philosophers deem a “postmodern” age—an era in which the partner ideologies of relativism and individualism together form the lens through which we are to make sense of the world. While Western thought once embraced the idea that truth and reality have universal application––consider the idea of “inalienable rights,” for example––in the postmodern age, truth is assumed to be malleable and individually understood. One’s experiences, gender, social class, culture, and other individualities are granted the power to define what is loosely deemed “truth.” Writer and commentator Jill Carattini explains that the world of belief-systems is a “complicated playground of stories, storytellers, and allegiances” (2019). Inevitably, the outcome of these conflicting stories is cultural chaos, as the age of “alternative truths” and the decline of civility surely demonstrates. The world is upside down, indeed.
The thing is, immersed in a culture, it’s not always easy to articulate what is upside down about it. Our children, impressionable as they are, are fed a steady diet of messages rooted in the individualistic and relativistic ideas that dominate cultural discourse. The maxims of the age are touted as sage advice, words of wisdom meant to point a child in the way she should go:
“Follow your heart.”
“Do what makes you happy.”
“What’s true for you is not true for me.”
To be sure, it can’t be all bad to encourage a child to follow his “heart,” by which many might develop a particular passion or ability. There is immeasurable value in embracing differences and respecting diverse experiences, but taken as life philosophies, each of these maxims encourages what C.S. Lewis might deem “incessant autobiography.” Void of any hint of service or sacrifice, community or caring, such maxims eschew the eternal for the temporal, yet they seem reasonable because the ideologies that underlie them “permeat[e] our surroundings” and “subconsciously mol[d] our understanding” (Carattini, 2019). But there is hope. The dominant culture “shapes our world in ways we seldom even realize and often cannot realize,” argues Caratinni, “until something outside of our culture comes along and introduces us, and the scales fall from our eyes.”
Enter: A Christian Education
It is only within the context of Scripture that the errors of our cultural context come into full view. As I consider the messages that RCLS students hear in chapel, in the classroom, and on the playground, trite maxims such as “do what makes you happy” appear downright foolish. In the place of such rhetoric, RCLS students hear:
“Everyone needs grace, so you can forgive and be forgiven.”
“Have faith in Jesus, and you can be confident that He has a plan and purpose for your life.”
“To live well is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
Grace. Faith. Learning for Life. No culture or era ever gets it all right, but these...these are words that transcend time and place, words that rightly order the chaos. Indeed, when children are immersed in them for the better part of their childhoods, these are words capable of setting our students free from the tyranny of the self and the temporality of alternative “truths”––capable, even, of turning the world right-side up again.
The Value of a Christian Education
When my husband and I determined to put our kids in a Christian school, we had many reasons for doing so. Small class sizes are an inherent aspect of a private education, and we recognized the great value of giving our children more focused attention from their teachers. Also, Christian schools seem to prioritize foundational learning, academically and otherwise, and the power of positive peer influence cannot be underestimated. Let’s face it: kids who are rooted in a transcendent value system are generally going to exert positive peer pressure on one another. They aren’t perfect––everyone needs grace, right?––but it is critically helpful, we have found, to raise kids surrounded by families who share your world view. Certainly, these aspects of a Christian education were exceedingly important to us in our decision to enroll our kids in a Christian school.
But, ultimately, it was the chaos that got us—the chaos of a world turned upside on its head. We wanted to raise kids who could reason through the maxims—kids who could think and act and embrace the “foolishness of God [as] wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25 NIV). This foolishness is a truth, after all—it is The Truth—that offers life and learning for those who love Him.
A Christian Education: A Child’s Point of View
In an effort to see RCLS from a student’s point of view, we recently asked the students in one of RCLS’s third-grade classrooms to write, in paragraph-form, of course, what it is they love about their school. It was sheer delight to walk into my office one day to find the outcome of this assignment--a small stack of essays, some entitled “Why I Love RCLS” and a few dubbed more succinctly, “Awesome RCLS.”
As I read through the essays, I noted the many aspects of school life that might expect to win the favor of a child: “nice” friends, “awesome” teachers, a playground that is “super-duper awesome,” and most popularly, “very good lunches like pizza and French toast.” Apparently, the love of a child is won through all-things-awesome and, at least in part, through his stomach.
I love such responses. They are honest and endearing, but I wonder if you might be surprised to learn what aspect of RCLS is most appreciated by these third-grade students?
“I love our school because we can do things that other people can’t…we can learn about GOD!” notes Rosy.
“I like RCLS because it helps us learn about God,” remarks Deja.
“I love that I can learn about Jesus and talk about him,” Anders declares.
“I like coming to RCLS because they let us go to chapel and learn about God,” writes Evan.
Again and again, these students, less than a decade old, name “the opportunity to learn about God” as one of the aspects of their school that they most love. “I like going to a Christian school,” considers Bjorn, “because I like to learn about Jesus.”
This is what matters to a third grader?
Awesome. That is a world that is turning—not upside down—but right-side up, just as it should be.
“Let the little children come to me,” Jesus said (Mark 10:14 NIV).
So...we gratefully, joyfully do.
As a Lutheran school, RCLS is accredited by the National Lutheran School Accreditation program, which ensures academic excellence and theological integrity. Driven by a commitment to the Gospel and focused on a mission of healing to students and families, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod schools educate more than 200,000 students in the U.S. and across the world. More than 310 of those students are at RCLS, and we do love them! If you would like a partner in raising kids who can reason through the maxims and who will love and serve their neighbors, please visit us at RCLS. There is a place for your family here.
Carattini, J. (2019, Feb. 20). Another Story. A Slice of Infinity, RZIM. Retrieved from https://archive.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/another-story-2/