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Classical Christian schools don’t need government help

The Supreme Court is playing catch-up to a movement that was already growing


Classical Christian schools don’t need government help

Much of what passes for legal analysis is little more than hyperventilating, so the knee-jerk responses were as embarrassing as they were predictable.

Author and frequent cable news commentator Wajahat Ali opined, “Private Islamic schools and Jewish schools should open up all over Maine. The state has to fund you now so take advantage of it. Move your communities there as well. Let’s see what the Supreme Court says.” As it happens, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations and the Council of Islamic Schools joined forces to file an amicus brief in support of the high court’s ruling in Carson. It’s safe to say that the justices who ruled in favor of Carson, as well as the vast majority of Americans, are not threatened by the existence of Jewish and Islamic schools.

Then there was, of course, the oh-so-clever person who responded to Ali and thought they could prove a point by suggesting that the Church of Satan open up a school and start collecting public funds. Of course, if you’re paying attention, the devil already seems to have his ugly mitts elbow-deep in the public coffers. In the last few years, the U.S. education system has been overtaken by violence, watered-down Marxism, and esoteric sex cults—and that’s when the schools stay open in defiance of the panic over a disease that poses less danger to kids than the flu. C.S. Lewis once argued for religious schooling by saying, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” America’s schools are so bad we’d be exceedingly grateful if they were still capable of managing the “clever” part.

Regardless, the idea that the Supreme Court will be responsible for an explosion in religious education is laughable. That’s because, much to Wajahat Ali’s horror and my delight, I’m happy to report that it was already happening.

There’s little doubt that the revival of classical education is being fueled by churches and religious parents who recognize that the removal of morality goes hand in hand with the decline of culture.

Nearly 18 years ago, as a new Lutheran convert, I joined the board of our parish school and was part of the transition when the school adopted a classical education curriculum. At the time, our approach to education was a novelty, but today, not only is my own church’s school thriving—we’ve doubled the size of the school building and have about five times the number of students than when I started on the board—it seems every week I hear of a new Christian school starting up or a church revamping its existing school to meet the increased demand for alternatives to public education.

There’s little doubt that the revival of classical education is being fueled by churches and religious parents who recognize that the removal of morality goes hand in hand with the decline of culture. As a result, organizations such as the Association of Classical Christian Schools and Classic Learning Test thrive and provide valuable resources to these nascent schools. And there’s been a massive increase in demand for educational materials related to classical education.

In higher education, religious and faith-friendly schools such as Hillsdale College and the University of Dallas are starting programs to help produce teachers and administrators trained to work at classical Christian schools. This isn’t happening a moment too soon. From my experience hearing from educators across the country, only a shortage of available teachers and administrators for Christian and classical schools is restraining already explosive growth.

Precisely because I would like to see this boom in Christian and classical education continue indefinitely, I would encourage the people behind these efforts not to put too much faith in what the Carson ruling might portend. As public schools fail and parents exit the system en masse, there will be more attempts at creating school choice programs that use tax dollars to fund private schools. Even if these programs are well-intentioned, once a school becomes largely dependent on public money, school administrators may find themselves one election away from the state attempting to control how and what they teach.

While it’s nice that the Supreme Court is reaffirming the Constitution’s promises of freedom of religion rather than freedom from religion, the fact is that churches have never needed the state’s money or permission to build schools. Deciding to build a school is a risk for churches and religious communities with limited resources. Still, in surveying the toxic educational wasteland created by secular progressivism, both obligation and opportunity present themselves. The need for classical Christian schools is clear. If you’re considering founding such a school, be fruitful and multiply.

Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.

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