Christian schools have better outcomes for both academics and character than their publicly funded counterparts. Some brush this off by saying that private school kids simply have better parents. It’s nothing the school does, the idea goes, but it’s that the kind of people who put their children in Christian school have more money, more dedication, and more time than those who don’t.
That has some truth to it, but it’s not the whole truth. When researchers erase student differences such as parents’ income and education level, kids still do much better in Christian schools than in public schools. This is true academically, socially, morally, civically, and relationally, according to every single study ever done on this subject. Key for Christian parents is the fact that Christian schools that are strongly committed to conveying the faith are highly effective at doing so compared to public schools (which actually tend to kill children’s faith), other private schools, and even compared to homeschooling.
The principal of a Catholic school in New York recently wrote about these dynamics at her school, saying that the ability to integrate faith into every aspect is the key to her school’s success. While she singles out Catholic schools because she runs one, what she writes below is true of all Christian schools. Her argument discusses no theological differences but contrasts secular schooling to Christian schooling as a whole.
The conventional wisdom holds that public schools ought to be values-neutral. But fact is, no school is truly values-neutral. Educators working toward this goal tend to veer towards relativism — forgetting that relativism is itself a value.
Teachers and administrators make decisions about what is and isn’t learned and how content is presented. These decisions form children. And strong values form strong cultures.
…[Catholic schools] have done this by challenging modern beliefs about what should and should not be taught in schools. Catholic schools profess that truth is objective and that one goal of education is the search for objective truths. This informs students about the merits of civic engagement, commitment to family and devotion to Almighty God.
…But Catholic schools don’t seek order for its own sake, a way to keep kids in line. Rather, because of our belief in free will, Catholic schools seek to form students with the habits of virtue that help them choose to do good. To that end, Catholic schools emphasize that freedom comes with responsibility, with actions consequences. This approach forms the habits of virtue that serve students well beyond graduation.
This is the close of Lutheran Schools Week and National School Choice Week. These are moments to consider what the goal of education is and ought to be, and to help families choose an education that reflects their deepest commitments. We are such a choice, and we welcome all who seek it.