I really appreciated D.L. Mayfield’s essay about educating our children and “gifted and talented” programs:

What is the right relationship to educational choice for the Christian? It’s complicated, and I often think about what Paul was trying to communicate in Galatians: it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (5:1, 13–14). Paul, a shrewd observer of humanity, anticipated that the allure of freedom can sometimes result in our selfish natures seeking the best for ourselves, meanwhile forgetting our responsibility to our neighbors.

I agree with what she has to say here, but I would offer two important caveats:

  1. Doing good for the best of others is not always synonymous with putting our children in a local public school. While I would certainly love to see a quality education available to all, the economics and ideology of scarcity and individualism are just as much at work when we insist that every child in charter, private, or homeschool is subtracting resources from those in public school. Every local situation is going to be different; for example, concerned parents in Baltimore have been unable to hold back the initiative to arm school police despite intense advocacy. Not every “poorly rated” school is an lovable underdog in need of a few more concerned parents; some places really are so corrupt, unsafe, and deprived that it does them no good to bring in a more economically diverse set of students and their parents (and it will harm those students in the process).
  2. We do have a unique responsibility to our own children. Those with disabilities, those who are simply not learning in their current environments, or those who are bullied or otherwise traumatized at school might need to learn in a different way — and that’s perfectly okay! I think that we can recognize this while still upholding the vision that D.L. sets forth — the vast majority of children will do fine if their parents are actively involved in their lives and couch their participation in vulnerable communities and their schools in terms of a Biblical obedience. But I think that if we prioritize “loving the poor” over and above the real needs of our own children, we will set ourselves — and them — up for unnecessary heartache.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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