Lutheran Education

  Our Large Catechism addresses the education of our children under the Fourth Commandment: “For all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents. For where a father is unable alone to educate his child, he employs a schoolmaster to instruct him(141).”  We confess that the first, the preferable, way to educate children is for the father to do it. If he, in conjunction with his wife is unable to do it, then he should employ a schoolmaster.  Lutheran education should be seen as flowing not from the state or church, but from the home. What every Lutheran pastor and church, even those with day schools, should be doing is admonishing parents to take personal responsibility for the education of their children. Lutheran homeschoolers have done just this, and the fact that our synod doesn’t mention and promote this is telling. 

This is because of how we have been schooled in America. In 1833 the last state officially disestablished (i.e. stopped paying for) the church. In the 1830s the first state-run school was opened.  In other words, the nineteenth century saw the disestablishment of the church and the establishment of out-of-the home education.  The “established” school is a problem.  Schools and teachers have gained far more prestige and authority than they deserve. For decades it was a debate in America whether teaching could legitimately be called a profession. Now who dare gainsay it?

 Professional education has become an official religion of the United States.  Our coins would be truthful if they said “In Professional Educators We Trust” rather than “In God We Trust.” The tenets of this religion is that teachers are never paid enough; all property owners must pay for the education the state wants, and by no means are tax dollars to be used to pay someone to educate his own children.  Furthermore, the school year now determines the ebb and flow of daily life even as the Church Year used to. Everyone in the community knows when the first day of school, spring break, and the last day of school is.  Read nineteenth century literature and earlier, and you will find authors dating things relative to the commonly accepted Church Year.

Lutherans who confess that the authority and responsibility for education are entrusted by God to the home not the state or the church ought to be at the forefront in encouraging parents to homeschool. Right now, as we all know, the movement is dominated by Reformed theology. It doesn’t have to be this way. But no district or synodical leader, to my knowledge, has dared to champion home schooling for fear, I suspect, of offending the Lutheran school system. This is wrong-headed.  I do not see large numbers of confessional Lutheran mothers, fathers, or pastors coming out of a Lutheran school system where 30 to 75 percent of the students are not Lutheran. Sound Lutherans are not raised in an adversarial environment any more than sound vegetables are raised in an adverse environment.

Doubtless someone will object: I would be all for homeschooling if it weren’t for the socialization aspect.  How will the children get socialized if they are educated in the home?”  Two points: Home school children are not socialized like every other child in the educational system, and that in my mind is a plus. The one thing noted by their teachers about all of my home schooled children (4 thus far) who have gone on to public high school is that they are leaders in the classroom.  Second, why would parents want anyone other then themselves socializing their children? The dictionary defines socialize as “to make social; make fit for life in companionship with others.” You do not make children “fit for life in companionship with others” by throwing them into a group of their peers! That’s called peer pressure. In my experience it is not the school or the teacher who does the socializing in schools. It’s the class clown, loud mouth, show-off, or troublemaker.  By the way, the word “socialize” came into English between 1820 and 1830, right when the public school system was being established. 

 Still many Lutherans will say, “I could never teach my own children.” Here we have arrived at the problem that Lutheran and public educators not only fail to address but exacerbate. “Professional educators” implicitly or explicitly say, “Of course you can’t. You should trust us to educate your children.  “What Lutheran educators should say is, “Why do you think God gave them to you if not to educate them?”

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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One Response to Lutheran Education

  1. Jenn Wolf says:

    Pastor Harris, I’m sure I’ve been to your blog before but I’m out of touch these days because we turned off our internet at home in Sept. It was nice b/c I wasn’t checking Looper mail every 10 minutes but made house hunting hard this spring so I’m back online and trying not to spend too much time online. Anyway, as a Confessional Lutheran Homeschooling Mother, I agree with your comments wholeheartedly. I was a “professional educator” before I had children. I worked hard for a masters in teaching, taught in public and was teaching in a Lutheran day school when I got pregnant with my first child. I’d only known one or two homeschoolers at the time but I knew then that I’d be homeschooling all our kids all the way through – even if (as it looks like we might) we were able to live near an excellent day school. Even in a strong school (the one we’re moving near to is classical leaning, as am I) the kids are still giving the best part of their day to a stranger, spending the most formative moments of their life with predominantly peers (to whom they most frequently would turn for advice first). I’m greedy about time with my kids, my husband is jealous about time with our kids. We’re hoping to be pregnant with number four and after having spent most of this past week-end with my entire family (all four of us siblings, our spouses and children and our mother). My sister that has wholeheartedly embraced popular culture, public school kids, daycare, fast life, and divorced, had the most obnoxious of the 10 kids. My brother, who’s Catholic, and his wife also homeschool and, while more a part of our modern culture than we are, have great kids. The other sister’s kids are too young to tell yet (2 and less than a year). However, this other sister plans on sending her kids to public school (or some weird Boulder eco school) because she sees my brother and I as religious freaks.
    Which is exactly why I don’t send my kids to school! I don’t want that mentality to be their predominant influence. I don’t want them learning “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” as what they take home from school. I like that my 6yo can ask real questions about Jesus and what He’s done for us on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. My 6yo knows that there are people who don’t believe in the Jesus who died for our sins and he prays for them to come to repentance. my 7yo niece thinks that Jesus is that cute baby on Christmas and why she gets presents, but she knows Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!

    Sorry this is so long, perhaps I’ve been away from my own blog too long, I’m writing a commentary (and poorly at that) on yours! 🙂
    Blessings in Christ
    Keep up the homeschooling!
    Jenn in Vegas

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