As we reluctantly feel summer drawing to an end, another season begins, heralded by office supplies and clothing advertisements. Back to School shopping has already begun; we greet its arrival with a mixture of anticipation and regret. Returning students anticipate seeing friends again, wearing new clothes, comparing backpacks and notebook covers, and finding out who their teacher and classmates are. Parents are relieved for the structure the school year provides, considering the summer requires more planning, from day care challenges for young children to choosing summer camps for children of any age. A touch of regret follows as the cooling temperatures signal winter is closing in, and because it’s time to put the nose to the grindstone, to get to work on academic success.
Academics have been critical since the beginning of mankind. Before writing systems were developed, oral traditions used poetic devices such as stories, songs and rituals for passing knowledge from generation to generation. Different educational avenues have been used in the United States since it was colonized. In 1635 Boston hired a schoolmaster and established Harvard College the next year. Throughout the colonies, locally funded private and public institutions were opened, primarily to insure basic literacy that would maintain religious and cultural knowledge. The basic building blocks were, and still are, the 3Rs: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Without these basic skills, a person is hard pressed to function or interact successfully with society.
Since educational institutions were primarily founded by religious denominations, they were taught from that perspective, and provided at a fee or given as charity, until the mid-1800s when national education reformers established free education for all grammar age children. Since being established in the 1600s, attending grammar school had become cost prohibitive except for the more well-to-do families. As for postsecondary, of the initial 9 Colonial Colleges established between 1636 and 1769, all by religious organizations, 7 are the Ivy League Universities: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn State, Columbia, Brown, and Dartmouth (Cornell was not established until 1865). Today these institutions, as opposed to grammar and secondary schools, remain cost prohibitive except for the more well-to-do families, or those falling below a certain income threshold, or those determined to obtain one of those highly valued diplomas at a substantial cost.
While it has always been the parent’s responsibility to provide religious education, it most certainly was easier when Christian religions were welcome in academia. Understanding that our country was founded by those fleeing religious persecution, there is not a prescribed national religion, rather religious beliefs are rightly determined by the individual. Through the centuries, other religions have joined the founding Christians. Despite controversial discussions about whether or not we are a Christian Nation, our social heritage is Christian-based, and statistical surveys still show roughly 75% of Americans claim some form of Christianity as their faith. However, the further the debate goes, it appears the less this rich heritage is valued in public education. Which means that today’s Christian parents need to emphasis spiritual and moral beliefs even more so than in past generations.
The best place to start the renewed emphasis is with the 3Rs: reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Read the ABCs of Salvation. Acknowledge sin – Romans 3:23 ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’ Believe – Acts 16:31 ‘They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”’ Confess – 1 John 3:9 ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ Encourage them to ‘Rite the Word on their hearts – II Corinthians 3:3 ‘You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’ Teach your children key biblical ‘rithmetic – The 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17 encapsulated): ‘You shall have no other gods before me; You shall not worship false gods; You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God; Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy; Honor your father and your mother; You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not lie; You shall not covet what belongs to another.’ Jesus summed them up in these 2 Commandments (Matthews 22:37-40): ‘Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’ If you will share these simple, basic, biblical truths with your children, they will have the building blocks to choose Christ for themselves.