To the chagrin of many Christians, I wasn’t homeschooled as child. That’s right, I attended public school; from kindergarten until college, my education was handled by the local school district. This never bothered me (after all, I was hardly the only Christian in my class). So I was rather surprised, and a little amused, when I later heard the myths and stereotypes some Christians associate with public schools.

We all know the stories of atheist professors and religious persecution, but how much of it is really true? Well, based on my experience, here are five myths you shouldn’t believe about public schools.   

1. No One says the Pledge of Allegiance.

I can still remember how each day of my school years began. Students would line up outside or in the quad, and after the bell rang we’d head straight to our first period class. Once seated, announcements would play out over a crackling intercom and conclude with someone saying, “Please stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.” Then the whole class would stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s how our mornings went in elementary school, in middle school, in high school (which, for those of you wondering, wasn't that long ago).

As far as I can tell, the system hasn’t changed. Some conservative Christians hear rumors that public schools have basically become liberal brainwashing camps, complete with an end-of-year flag burning, but that isn’t true. Sure, I can remember a bunch of students stopped saying the pledge in high school, but it was more because they were moody teenagers and less about a corrupt school system encouraging them to rebel. Public schools may not be the birthplace of patriots, but last I looked, the Pledge of Allegiance was alive and well.    

2. Evolution is Glorified, While Creationism is Mocked 

All students in public school will inevitably learn about evolution, it’s a basic part of the science curriculum. This can worry Christian parents, who fear their child’s faith will be ridiculed or challenged once the lessons begin. That wasn’t my experience. In all my science classes the teacher would respectfully acknowledge creationism, but explain that, since this was a public school, our focus would be on evolution. After a week or two of Darwinian Theory we’d move on to sedimentary rock formations, and that would be it.

I never felt pressured to reject my beliefs, evolution was just one more thing I had to study after I finished reading Moby Dick for English. You see, the school wasn’t forcing us to accept evolution, they were just trying to teach us what it was. Even if Christians don’t believe in evolution, it’s still important to learn what it is before we start debating it.

3. All Religious Expression is Banned

“The Separation of Church and State means we’re forced to leave God out of our classrooms.” 

I’ve heard Christians say this more than once about public schools. The purveying idea is that once you set foot on school property you have to become spiritually neutral. You can’t pray, you can’t read your Bible, and you can’t wear clothing with religious symbols on them. As it turns out, I did all these things. The truth is most schools have no problem with a student practicing their religion, just as long as they’re not doing it when they’re supposed to be studying algebra.              

A good example would be my Junior year of high school, when a group of Christian students asked the administration if they could start a Bible study. You’d think this would cause an uproar of religious intolerance, but the administration actually agreed on the condition it met before or after school like the other student led clubs. Christians don’t have to leave their faith at the school door, they just have to play by the same rules as everyone else.        

4. Christians are Bullied

Given recent movies starring Kevin Sorbo, most Christians probably assume public schools are teeming with atheists just waiting to rain down persecution on any Christian bold enough to share their faith. Well, not exactly. Over the years, I met both teachers and classmates who came from a variety of religious backgrounds including atheism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism. Did we sometimes argue about faith? Sure, but when you operate in such a diverse crowd, you quickly learn that no one is going to respect your beliefs if you don’t respect theirs in turn.

For the teachers, this meant embracing a “live and let live” attitude toward religion. I can clearly remember one teacher discussing her atheism when it was relevant to the lesson, but that was all. Once, when asked, a professor gave his Christian testimony, and our Political Science teacher actually encouraged students to share their faith in class. The only people who got in trouble for their religious beliefs were the ones who used them like a club, and that went for the atheists as much as the Christians. Essentially, we all just followed Luke 6:31, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” 

5. There is Pressure to Change Your Worldview

Like any myth, this one has a bit of truth to it. The transition into public education can be a little jarring for Christian children. I can still remember how shocked I was when another kid used God’s name in vain, and didn’t get in trouble! Parents can’t control who their child becomes friends with, and in a public school, that means dealing with peer pressure and different lifestyles. However, this doesn’t mean they’ll stand alone.

As I wrote earlier, I wasn’t the only Christian in my school. There were a number of other students, and even teachers, who shared my faith in Christ. I could always turn to them for advice or support if I needed it, and most of the time I didn’t. Added to this were my parents and siblings, who were a constant presence in my life outside of class. It’s true a public school can effect a child’s worldview, but in my opinion, the role of a family is much stronger.                            

Ryan Duncan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com.

Publication date: August 8, 2014