The Proper Care and Teaching of Children - October 09, 2020
Who has the credentials to properly educate children? What do citizens owe their state for the provision of public education? How do diverse educational settings create inequity for some students?
These questions (and many, many more) have been bandied about in the Education Wars for years, but are having a new moment in the spotlight thanks to Covidtide. The status of many brick-and-mortar schools and co-ops is up in the air. And while school boards, administrators, teachers and parents scramble for logistical solutions, the ugly political tribalism underneath current public discourse creates more division. We are asking the wrong questions and have forgotten the answers to the right ones.
Though the world has very different ideas about the responsibilities and rights of the parent and the power and obligations of the state, Lutheran parents are sure in the directives for our vocation, unchanged for thousands of years:
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).
Who are the primary educators of the child? The same people through whom God provides every other temporal need for the child: the parents. What is the substance of this education? The life of faith. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). These are the only questions that matter. In the Lutheran church, the education of our children starts the same way: Bring the babies to the font! Hear and confess the promises of God they receive in this Sacrament. Remind them of it every day.
When formal instruction is to begin, there are many educational settings and ideologies to choose from. Public, charter, private, homeschool, now “enhanced” with Covidtide features such as “delayed or unpredictably intermittent in-person instruction” and “this parent you used to be friends with now hates you because you differ on mask-wearing in outdoor spaces.” Lurking beneath the (probably? hopefully) temporary Covid challenges, is a new heightened awareness about the curricular quality and content implemented in most public schools.
Each setting has its own benefits, obstacles, expense and educational philosophy. As we navigate continuing education in Coronaschool, we must prioritize those institutions that recognize parents as the primary educators. Any other educative authority must operate in loco parentis, in place of the parent. Lutheran parents must reject any institutions that devalue or usurp the vocation of parenthood and deny the truth of God’s Word.
Katie Winterstein is a wife, mother and former teacher at Immanuel Lutheran School, Alexandria, Va.
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Have you read the Synod’s latest Free to Be Faithful newsletter? Click here to read more about the impact of recent Supreme Court cases, public discourse and how COVID-19 restrictions are impacting LCMS military members.
“There are many things you could be anxious and worried about – race relations, politics, pandemics and so much more. Only when we sit at the feet of Jesus, focus on Him and hear His Word can we get the right perspective.” – Rev. Roy Askins
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