11 Feb The Switch From Private to Public Education by Rev. Glenn Huebel
Families chose private over public education in the elementary grades for a variety of reasons, most or all of which are valid concerns. Some prefer the advantages of small class sizes and teacher-student ratios in the smaller private schools. Some are looking for Christian schools to provide a solid Biblical and moral foundation for their children in the formidable ages when character and faith are shaped. Some are looking for the spiritual, emotional, and physical safety and care afforded by smaller institutions staffed by dedicated teachers who love their vocations. Some are looking for the advantage of a better academic education. They want their children to be well grounded in the “3 R’s” well before moving on to higher grades. These reasons overlap, each one supporting the others. We’ve heard them all – and more besides.
Families who use the smaller, more focused schools for lower grades also have many and varied reasons to make the switch back to public education before the High School years. Some think that the smaller, more protected environment of private or Christian education may be more of a hindrance than a help as their children become teens. They want their children to be able to adapt to larger societies, more competition, etc. Some are looking for the large and sophisticated sports or music programs offered by public education. Some believe that public education in upper grades will provide the necessary preparation for entering a good school of higher education. Some, thinking nostalgically, want their children to have “the high school experience” which may be something shockingly different than the parents had so many years ago. These and many other reasons usually prompt the agonizing decision of when to make the switch back. Should the student remain in the specialized, safe environment through all eight grades of private education – or even through 6 grades? Some argue that this may give the student a disadvantage in the competitive sports or music programs of public schools. Some might even argue that this delay might leave the student behind academically, though this concern will be vociferously debated. Some think that class sizes and student populations are increasing exponentially from middle to high school years and that one must get on this escalator early in order to merge smoothly into the main stream. For these reasons many parents are choosing to make the switch back in 6th or even 5th grade.
Messiah Lutheran Classical Academy is designed to educate the student from grammar through high school (12th grade) using the 3 stages of classical education called the Trivium. This is a holistic approach that 1)sets a solid foundation of knowledge (grammar), 2) develops the skills of proper reasoning and evaluation of ideas (logic) and 3) propels the equipped student to the ability to think and articulate creatively and beautifully. The end result of this carefully constructed process is a young adult who will be able to live and serve well in any environment in accordance with his or her natural abilities. It is our goal to shape the hearts and minds of students to be what God in Christ has created them to be. What greater goal can be accomplished by any or even a variety of contradictory processes? We would love to build our school to the point of including the final phase of the trivium, but strong support of our entire school family is absolutely essential for this to happen.
Recognizing that the creation of an upper school will not happen without much planning and support, we still need to address the important question of when is the best time to switch back to public school. We hear and understand the arguments for pulling students in 6th grade if not earlier, but there is a vitally important point that is not included in this consideration. Pulling a student before the logic phase of the trivium is completed voids one of the chief advantages of classical education. The public school curriculum in middle school years may excel in several areas, but it is no match for classical education in the teaching of logic. How important is logic in the whole of education? I don’t think it possible to overestimate its value!
Our culture today is drowning in a sea of subjectivity and chaos. We boast that we have more knowledge at our finger-tips through technology than any generation in history, and it is true. But knowledge does not help you if you cannot rightly evaluate and organize it. Knowing “stuff” is important, but knowing how to put it together in a useful and productive way is far more important. We live in a world where arguments are framed and won on the basis of slogans and emotional appeal – or even volume of sound. Truth and error are virtually irrelevant old world concepts in this culture. Most of us know, however, that the real world does not operate on the basis of virtual reality. Believing something is true does not make it so. Believing that poll numbers define truth and that large majorities cannot be wrong is utterly foolish and ultimately destructive for society. Without the ability to filter arguments, to discern truth, and to frame thoughts in accordance with truth, our children are left defenseless against demagoguery and deception of every kind. The ancient Greek philosophers did not “make up” logic. They discovered it and put it to use in many ways, include mathematical laws which enabled them to advance civilization in many ways that would have been impossible without logic. Greek and Roman philosophers learned how to frame persuasive arguments through logical sequence. They also learned how to destroy the arguments of their opponents by exposing logical fallacies. Abraham Lincoln did not win debates on the basis of sound bites and slogans, but on the basis of clear logical argumentation. He did not submit his administrative decisions to popular opinion, but was guided step by step through logical evaluation.
Do you know what the “Square of Opposition” is? Do you know how to develop logical arguments? Do you know how to spot logical errors in the persuasive arguments of others? Perhaps not. But do you want your children to know these things before sending them out into a confused, subjective world which is “ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7)? The logic phase of the trivium is grades 7 and 8. Please include this in your consideration of “switching back.” We want your child to have the best education, and leave MLCA with the best armor for enduring the slings and arrows of our post-modern culture.
As your son or daughter enters the final, rhetoric phase of self-expression, whether here (we hope someday) or elsewhere, we want him/her to arrive there with knowledge and discernment, and all the tools necessary to stand boldly for the truth, so that he/she can continue to discover what God has created him/her to be.
We know that this can be a stressful time, and that this is a difficult decision. We honor you as parents, knowing you have the best interests of your child at heart. May God bless and guide you as you make this important decision for the future course of your child. We are here to support you in any way we can.
Pastor Glenn Huebel