Recovering from Public School Education
- Cindy Puhek Contributing Writer
- 2007 1 Oct
I have an infirmity in my spiritual life, and I have spent 20 years trying to regain my health. During my years of public school education, my soul became infected with the disease of worldly philosophies. Yet, if anyone could have graduated from the public classrooms unscathed, it was I. I was set up for success.
I truly loved the Lord and was more Biblically literate than most. I had a stable family with parents who cared about my emotional, spiritual, and physical welfare. I escaped the moral morass that keeps parents awake at night praying that God will preserve their children's souls. My high school years could be projected on a screen for all to see, and there is very little of which I would be ashamed. I took advantage of opportunities offered me in school and had a long list of awards and accolades by the time I graduated. The light of Christ shone through me enough that my classmates voted me "Most Likely to Become a Nun." I was also valedictorian of my high school class and suffered persecution for wanting to state the name of Jesus in my graduation speech.
So why is it that I feel ensnared by my education? It wasn't because I lost my Christian testimony or fell into deep sin or worldly behavior. Instead, I succumbed to a more subtle malady. The worldly philosophies and values that were taught day after day by my teachers, textbooks, and classmates sank deeply into my heart and mind, influencing my entire outlook on life. It has taken the Lord 20 years to begin to teach me to think biblically.
Kevin Swanson, in his book Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child, makes the following argument in favor of sheltering children: "The acid test determining whether a child is ready to be subjected to an environment hostile to his own worldview and faith is found here: the child must be prepared to confront the world, to wrestle with principalities and powers, to cast down imaginations that oppose the knowledge of God, and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ . . . If [a child] is not prepared to cast down the imaginations of egalitarianism, God-eliminating evolution, materialist socialism, relativism, environmentalism, atheism, pluralism, or sexual 'freedom,' then he should not be subjected to a steady diet of it. Many children cannot even define these terms, let alone cast them down." (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Pulishers, 2006)
Kevin was referring to the passage in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 which tells believers to take every thought captive and cast down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. This sums up well the problems I encountered in my education. I was not prepared for the daily spiritual warfare to which I was exposed. As a result, I was spoiled "through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" (Col. 2:8). Thankfully, God in His mercy continues to renew my mind and straighten out my thinking.
I graduated from high school as a feminist. If you had asked me if I was a feminist, I would have denied it. I did not hate men or think that men and women were equal in every way; after all, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. But I did not have any idea of the roles God ordained for men and women. I wanted a career more than almost anything else in life, and I was taught that this was what I should work toward in school. I wanted to be a successful businesswoman in some field. I longed to leave home every day, wear pretty suits, and make lots of money.
I looked down on those who invested their lives in running a home and raising a family. When I was still a student, my sister got married, and some talented homemakers hosted a very lovely bridal tea for her. I remember sneering inside that those women did not have anything more important to do than make chocolate-covered cherries. Needless to say, I did not spend much time learning the skills I would need to run a home. I was too busy pursuing career skills the world told me were more valuable.
Even though I had read and studied Bible passages like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2:4-5, I inwardly interpreted them through such a thick screen of cultural thought that the truth of what God was really saying did not dawn on me for a long time. I did not know that God created a woman to find her calling and fulfillment through her home (Titus 2:5). I knew nothing about being a helpmeet to my husband (Genesis 2:18), and in my early years of marriage I often thought he was supposed to be a helpmeet to me. Thankfully, I knew that if I was going to have children, I needed to raise them, and this meant staying home with them. But I have a journal full of my distress over giving up my career. I poured out my heart to God on how difficult it was to lay aside all the praise of men I had received and the fulfillment I felt through my work. God is very compassionate, and once I laid my career on His altar, He has helped me find wonderful joy and riches in my calling as a helpmeet, mommy, and homeschooler. But it was a very painful process, and I wasted many years of my life chasing vain things the world calls important because I was taught to do this every day, year after year in school.
Parallel to my desire for a career outside my home, I also had no desire for children. I was not against having children; I was just very ambivalent about being a parent. I felt that children interrupted many things I thought were important. Kids not only made the pursuit of a career difficult, they also made travel and worldly experiences more challenging. I was not completely selfish in my desire not to have kids—I knew it would be more difficult to serve the Lord in the church if I was "stuck" at home raising babies. I did not realize what Psalm 127:3 meant when it says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Thankfully, in this area too, God has reeducated me to show me that children are extremely important to His kingdom. I could have no greater ministry than to raise my kids to know, love, and serve God. I now have four children, and I am so grateful that God got through to me before my fertile years were completely wasted.
In school I also gained a lot of practice compartmentalizing God. He was not allowed in my classes, so I learned to study my subjects without Him. I learned to avoid controversy and persecution by teachers and classmates by not mentioning the name of Jesus during class discussions. Not only were Christians persecuted for mentioning God, we were made to feel that we were disrespecting the rules of civility by bringing religion into an inappropriate setting. Now, as an adult, I still find it hard to bring Jesus into areas that might make people uncomfortable. I pray for boldness and for a desire to share the gospel. These days, I use a Christ-focused curriculum with my kids in our homeschool, because otherwise I wouldn't know how to integrate Jesus into math, science, English, or history. I need the curriculum authors to teach me how to put God back in His proper place in education. Hopefully I'll get better at this the longer I school my children.
I never believed in evolution, even as a student, but I was too busy studying to pass my evolution-laced biology class to learn apologetics that would refute gradualism. The stands I took against evolution, both in my own mind and in the classroom, were weak at best. As an adult, I found the constant hammering of evolutionary teaching had affected me. I was in an aquarium a few years back admiring the beautiful, colorful fish. I wanted to worship God for the beauty of His creation, but I felt like a fool. The mocking voices I had heard all through my formative years rang in my ears: "Do you really believe God created the world in seven days?" Thankfully, that day standing in front of the fish, something inside me broke and God helped me worship Him as the Creator of the universe, perhaps for the first time.
I have a fear of going against the norm that was reinforced by my classmates while I was young. Most young scholars fear being singled out, whether for good reasons or bad, because it sets them up for ridicule by the other geniuses in training. The practice I received in blending into the crowd has made it difficult for me to follow my Savior as an adult. The trail of following Christ is often a solitary one. Christians not only have to travel opposite the ways of the world, but Jesus often calls us to do things differently from our fellow Christians. My tendency for conformity made the decision to homeschool a difficult one. We homeschoolers definitely go against the norm, and I was very insecure as the other mothers of preschoolers I knew chose to place their kids in public school. I am ashamed of how much I struggled with the decision to homeschool when I hear the stories of the pioneer homeschoolers, who were so convinced that God had called them to homeschool that they were willing to go to jail for that conviction. God is slowly building me a backbone and teaching me to follow Him even if none go with me.
My reeducation continues. I still have rude awakenings in which God opens my eyes and shows me that I'm doing things the world's way instead of His way without even realizing it. I'm still learning how to make sure the decisions I make in life are based on biblical truth rather than the values of our post-Christian culture.
My hope is that my children, being raised in an environment where God can be a part of all we do, will be ready, even before they are grown, to shine as lights "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation" (Phil. 3:15). I want them to avoid spending their young adult years with cultural blinders that the Lord has to slowly and painfully remove.
Cindy Puhek resides in Colorado Springs and has been homeschooling for five years. She earned a BS and MA in chemisty and taught college and high school science classes before realizing that God's highest calling for her was to make a home for her husband of 12 years and four children.