They better be because the myth that continues to be pushed on us about education will inevitably fall apart at some point. The myth I refer to is that putting a child into a broken system of education with no moral foundation will prepare them to live in the “real” world. I have read this recently in four different articles. Two were touting the benefits of today’s public education system, and two were discouraging private, faith-based education and how our children would benefit less from being educated in a healthier environment because they would be sheltered and hence unprepared for the “real” world. Well, the good news is all of these articles do get one thing right: environment matters—in fact, it matters a lot. The problem is that the suggested connection in this position is flawed—fatally flawed. Why is it that when we look outside of this very narrow discussion, we see the exact opposite position taken? Here are a few examples: We know that children raised in abusive families are more likely to be abusive. We know that children raised in poverty are more likely to stay in poverty. We know that those raised around drugs, alcohol, gang influence, bad language, illegal behavior, sexual promiscuity, etc,—are all at higher risks of suffering the same in their lives. We even develop early intervention programs aimed at getting children out of these situations. We knowthat children raised in broken homes are more likely to struggle in relationships and have a myriad of issues. We all know this. But somehow miraculously, when we enter the school building, it is different. What works in every other part of life regarding how our surrounding environment and social constructs affect us, reverses and now has the opposite effect. It’s as if something as constant as gravity—just changes. I will be the first to say, we all know kids who grow up in terrible situations and turn out to be great individuals. But they are the exception to the rule. Growing up in more dysfunctional or unhealthy environments in no way consistently prepares anyone for functioning later in life in a broken world. Why is the myth constantly being repeated? It could be fear that if families realize the unhealthiness in the system that there will be a mass exodus. It could be fear that if things such as vouchers or tax breaks for private, faith-based education is approved, monies will dry up for the public system. It might all be political, or people just trying to keep their jobs, or others don’t want to have to make healthy changes in the system. Whatever the reason isn’t really the point. The point is that it is a myth and a very dangerous one. The environment in which our children are being educated is of utmost importance, but for different reasons. Our children, between the ages of six and eighteen, spend two-thirds of their lives, the overwhelming majority of their waking hours, in school and school-related activities. If we are going to weave the truth of God into our children’s lives and provide a solid moral foundation for dealing with a broken and difficult world, then we cannot ignore the environment in which much of their youth and young adult lives take place. If we want our children to have a moral foundation that goes well beyond memorizing character qualities, we have to acknowledge that the environment in which they are being educated academically has a significant effect on who they become. Interestingly, I have had the unique experience over the last three weeks to get inside views of local proms from teachers, parents, and most important—students. In all cases what stood out to all populations was the depravity. Alcohol, drugs, and blatant promiscuity were a key part of the narrative—before, during, and after prom. This is not to say that everyone was engaged in this, but enough very publicly were that there was a constant awareness to all involved at the event. Prom is a “snapshot” of the environment in which our children are being educated! School is not a time when we are to hope that our children will navigate a healthy path and steer clear of unhealthy things. It is a time when things will be “impressed” upon them. What they grow up and develop in—they will seek in life. A child raised in a healthy, morally grounded environment is consistently the most well equipped to handle the “real” world.
Keith McCurdy works with children, families, and individuals in the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas in hopes of helping to rebuild the American family. For more information and ideas, take a look at his website and blog at theradicalparent.com.
This article originally appeared in The Renewanation Review® magazine. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here by permission of Renewanation. For more information regarding Renewanation, visit renewanation.org.