Retreating Robs World of Good Influence
Because this issue—that of homeschoolers “retreating” and depriving the world of good influence—has a great deal to do with my religious perspective, I’ll warn you now this post is steeped in LDS history. If you are not LDS, you may skip this altogether or read these important beliefs in order to understand why this history is so important to me.
That said, the biggest reason I was first interested in home schooling was because of its excellent academics. But one of my biggest concerns was the prophetic counsel to be “in the world but not of it.” I interpreted that to mean that I should send my children out in the public school system because they needed to learn about the “real world” and be a good influence on those around them. However, learning a bit of our LDS history has taught me that my idea of what the prophets have counseled is far, far from my interpretation of the counsel.
Most of what is below is compiled from an excellent series of articles written by Darla Isackson. With Darla’s permission, I have re-published the full 14 articles here.
So here’s what happened in LDS history:
- The LDS people finally escaped mob rule by settling in Salt Lake Valley.
- The LDS people set up schools, and charged a nominal fee just to cover expenses. If a person couldn’t afford it, work in lieu of money was arranged.
- Large numbers of Non-LDS preachers and families moved into Salt Lake Valley (especially after the completion of the railroad) and established free schools, funded by large congregations in the East. Their intent was to, one-by-one, reclaim those “lost Mormon souls.” These schools were called “mission schools.” Despite prophetic warnings, many LDS families sent their children to these schools, being attracted by the fact that they were free and had “expert” teachers.
- Prophets also warned about using public taxation to fund education (doing so is called “socialized education”) and spoke strongly against it, both in public and private settings.
- In order to become a state, however, Utah was forced to agree to taxation for public education, and the people (even the LDS people) supported it. Once supported by taxes, however, the LDS people lost more and more control over the curriculum. Tax supported schools were called “district schools.”
- The Edmunds-Tucker Act was passed, which essentially made it so most LDS men could no longer vote and all church-held properties (including schools), were confiscated by the State. The schools became under the majority control of non-LDS teachers and legislators.
- Parents and leaders alike were alarmed (rightly so) that they lost all control over the education of their children.
- The Prophets of the Church called for independent church schools, which were called “academies” and charged the same nominal fee they had in the early years.
- LDS Prophets and Apostles commanded the people to send their children to church schools in order to save the children from false teachings taught in public school. They warned of the problems that would result if the Saints failed to obey the counsel.
- Only about 10% of the Saints followed the commandment. Thus, most church schools—except for BYU and Ricks (now BYU-I)—were closed or sold to their respective states due to lack of funding.
- After closing the academies, God gave the LDS people a “lower law” in the same way He gave the people of Moses a “lower law” when they proved unable to keep their “higher law” (Moses 32, 34). This “lower law” in our modern LDS church is what we know now as the Seminary and Institute program.
- Since this time, modern prophets have remained silent about the LDS people’s overwhelming choice to send their children to public schools. This, I can only assume, is because they respect our agency and because “he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received” (D&C 1:33).
- Today, most active LDS youth do keep the “lower law” by attending Seminary and Institute (often as early as 5 or 6 AM) to prepare them to face an entire day in public schools.
- The Church’s current official stand on education is that parents should make the choice of how their children are educated.
I wholly support the current official stance. I do not believe people today are automatically “under condemnation” for sending their children to public schools any more than the people of Moses’ day would have been under condemnation if they obeyed their lower law.
However, just like anyone who lived in Moses’ day—if you decided to live the higher law of “turn the other cheek” instead of the lower law of “eye for an eye,” blessings would have been sure to follow. Thus, I also support the stance that the early prophets took, where they warned emphatically of the dangers of tax-supported schools (a small portion of these quotes can be found here), and encouraged people to control their children’s education (homeschooling is only one way to do this). I believe wholeheartedly that the blessings of obedience to a higher law will always be available to anyone who obeys it. In fact, learning this history was the light switch that really convinced me what our family should do—even though I still feel as overwhelmed by the task as any rational mother. I feel confident, however, when I remind myself that every law, when obeyed, is accompanied by blessings.
Even if you are not LDS, I still believe the promised blessings of controlling your child’s education are attainable for you, too, just like they are for any LDS parent. God doesn't only bless those of one religion.
So, in conclusion, if we separate our children from the world while they are in their impressionable years, are we really retreating from the “real world” experience or depriving the world of our children’s “good influence?” Or are we simply arming our children with the knowledge of truth—in religious, political, and academic areas—while they are young so that they might have a greater probability of an entire lifetime of good influence? Furthermore, is school the only place your children can be a good influence?
2011Res: To Matt: I love your crazy-good analytical skills with all our home searching data. To Brynn: today I savored your singing. You got pretty close with your copying of "Jesus Wants Me for a SunBEAM!" and "Doe a Deer" from Sound of Music. To Heidi: today I savored your portability. You are the most flexible errand baby in the Universe. Dear Mr H: today I compiled a list of homes we'll visit, in detail, because I love you and wanted to save you time.