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Hard to E$cape Public School

In a post earlier today, I said traditional Christians are going to have to start thinking hard now about taking their kids out of the public schools [1], to protect them from being indoctrinated in this destructive gender ideology. A reader writes to explain why that is so difficult. I’ve slightly edited this to protect his privacy:

I saw the end of your post earlier re: getting churches to help finance private Christian ed, etc. My wife and I live in Fairfax County, VA, near Washington DC. For quick background, I work for the government in DC, and do some teaching in an area college. We have one income (mine), my wife does occasional substitute teaching, we live in a townhouse vs. single family home (which run about 600K+ in our area), and, for now, we send our 2 kids to neighborhood public elementary school.

Just to add to the economic side of the issue — here’s the breakdown of our private Christian school options per year in/near our town. The first one, Ad Fontes, is classical Christian. These figures were per year, AY2014-2015.

Ad Fontes
$8500 K-6
$9050 7-8
$9750 9-12

Trinity Christian
$10930 K-5
$11765 6-8
$13500 9-12

Fairfax Christian
$16000 K-4
$20500 5-8
$26500 9-12

Oak Hill
— doesn’t post their tuition on the website

Practically, then, here’s what it looks like in our neighborhood, if one wants a Christian education option —

1. Leave the neighborhood and the area (move)
2. Find cheaper private school alternative outside immediate locale, which means a very long back-and-forth commute
3. Second mortgage to pay for local private Christian
4. Wife to work
5. Homeschool

I am not surprised by this. That’s why I mentioned in the earlier post that churches and others ought to start brainstorming now to see if they can come up with a model of Christian education that’s more affordable for working people, or some way to subsidize, as a ministry, some scholarships. On the “model” point, our kids have been and will be again this fall in Sequitur [2], a hybrid classroom/homeschool program in Baton Rouge, one that follows the classical model. The tuition is much, much better than local Christian schools — but given that instruction is only half a day, it would be very hard for two working parents to take this option. Still, Sequitur makes it possible for lots of us who can’t really afford tuition at an established Christian school, or who for whatever reason don’t want to put our kids into them (e.g., Episcopal High in Baton Rouge has gotten on board the Love Wins bandwagon), to give our kids a quality Christian education.

On the earlier thread, a teacher commented:

My head is literally spinning with how I am going to handle this as a devout christian teacher in a public school. I had naively thought I would have time to think through what my options might be, especially since I am in an inner city school district and much of this transgender ideology is not as thoroughly accepted by the communities we serve. But I can see the train light in the tunnel now and its coming at a tremendous speed. I am wondering how other Christians in public schools plan to deal with this. While I would like to think I can just go about my business as long as I dont rock the boat, it seems inevitable that there will come a rubicon point were we are instructed by the state that in order to maintain our licensure we must agree to promote this ideology. I’m sure there will be plenty of posts telling me I’m just a reactionary, but I dont think that will be of much comfort when I have to explain to my children why I no longer have a job.

There will be good, qualified, experienced Christians who cannot in good conscience work in the public schools under these conditions. Why can we not benefit from their talents while giving them a job?
I hear off and on from readers with master’s degrees or PhDs in the humanities who have abandoned university careers because they actually love the humanities, and can’t face the misery of teaching in ideologically corrupted universities, where humanities courses are saturated with corrosive postmodernism, and/or consumed by gender and race obsessions. Some of these people have taken jobs in classical Christian schools, so they can do what they love: teach literature and humanities in the traditional way. There are committed, educated Christians who want jobs teaching the children of faithful orthodox Christians. We need to find a way to employ them with a reasonable salary, and to make it possible for as many children of our community as we can to get into those schools.

I believe this is mostly a matter of imagination and determination, not resources. We can do this! We must do this. This is part of the Benedict Option.

That said, I think lots of Christian parents are going to have to make some hard calls now and in the years to come about moving for the sake of educating their children, and raising them in a peer environment where they are more likely to absorb the faith, or at the very least not have their faith leached out of them. Radical times call for radical measures.

UPDATE: Brian Daigle, the headmaster of Sequitur Classical Academy [2]in Baton Rouge, created these charts, saying, “A great education gets results, without making Christian parents bankrupt. Check out Sequitur’s results below.” People, we can do this! It’s not easy, but it can be done:

13179337_10101888856823060_363759240457183400_n [3]

13151572_10101888856957790_7132482744485727770_n [4]

93 Comments (Open | Close)

93 Comments To "Hard to E$cape Public School"

#1 Comment By Joanna On May 11, 2016 @ 6:19 pm

Quality classical home (or alternative) schooling on a budget? Look no furthere [5]

#2 Comment By Rebecca On May 11, 2016 @ 6:28 pm

Again, everyone concerned about finances should look into the on-line courses I linked above. The most expensive of those options is Logos at about $2,200. Their per-course cost is about $600; CLRC’s most expensive courses are half that; St Raphael’s tuition is under $1,000 for any level. Things are being done, there are solutions, and yes, there is room for more to be done and more problems to be solved.

#3 Comment By Pburg On May 11, 2016 @ 6:31 pm

I live in the same metropolitan area as your correspondent. I stay at home and my husband’s salary is about half as much, we paid one-third of what he paid on housing, our local catholic school is cheaper and probably better quality than his options. Our parish is thriving and offers an excellent liturgy. The question is whether his family is willing to live in a gentrified area. Some people aren’t willing to sacrifice their suburban lifestyle for community life within a more urbanized infrastructure.

#4 Comment By Charles Curtis On May 11, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

Contra CS Ford, the only way to have truly effective educational and health systems is by way of pooling resources. We do this by way of taxation, generally. There is no reason that vouchers could not be issued to parents to send their kids wherever they might choose. Why not agitate for that?

The hospital and university are institutions created by the Church, after all, and currently 1 in 6 patients in this country receive care in Catholic hospitals, often on the Church’s and wider community’s (i.e., the government’s) dime. I don’t know the percentage of students that are educated by the Church, but it is high. Many, many poorer students receive educations subsidized by the Church.

That’s to say the university is inherently a monastic institution in it’s logic, basically a guild system. European universities required celibacy of professors until the 19th Century, even in Protestant countries. Our current crisis in higher education is largely due to the increasing loss of this “medieval” guild ethic, where universities are becoming businesses, hedge funds even, where taechers and students are exploited for profit above all else.

Any successful school requires teachers to sacrifice themselves for the sake of other people’s children. This is – I say – essentially Christological. Monastics make for ideal teachers, in this sense.

This is merely to say that the community at large must sacrifice of itself to educate itself – this is an institutional task, one that by it’s logic falls essentially upon the Church, and yes, the government.

In the absence of a large number of monastics (such as we had even recently, before this catastrophic mythopoetic collapse of the Faith) other routes to achieving Christian schools need to be attempted, and Gracie’s suggestion that we enter into “barter” relationships to support teachers is interesting.

I say that if the Catholic bishops were wise (hah, Saint Ambrose wither hast thou gone?) they’d create a sort of “Americorp” for Catholic schools, asking recent Catholic university graduates to give 2 to 4 years of their time in schools in exchange for room and board and maybe tuition aid. That would be a good, partial solution.. One that might lead to higher vocations to religious life it were structured properly.

How’s that for an idea?

#5 Comment By sjb On May 11, 2016 @ 6:38 pm

Rod, the LCMS has some good school options including classical education. Church members got a tuition discount when my children went to school and there were further reductions up to free for members who needed them. Full tuition cost was required if you are not a church member. I believe the Trinity school your friend listed is LCMS.

Another resources is the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education (Advancing and promoting classical education within the context of confessional Lutheranism) [6] This website lists the Lutheran schools that offer a classical education. Plus it has a curriculum and support for homeschools. I believe they also have a curriculum for homeschooling special needs children. Last, but not least, These are Lutheran websites that offer online classical education courses for homeschoolers:

#6 Comment By sjb On May 11, 2016 @ 6:46 pm

Oops. I goobered on my post. I believe the CCLE has a classical education for special needs kids who are homeschooled. It’s a classical education too – how cool is that? And the last two links for online courses for homeschool families are not Lutheran. Apologies. :/

#7 Comment By SusanMcN On May 11, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

With my volunteer work at my children’s Catholic school, I know very well that at least 90% go toward salaries–and these are salaries that are about 65% of market rate in the area public schools. Inexpensive Catholic school tuition of the past rested on the backs of the religious who staffed them. That being said, I’m quite proud that we have a sliding scale tuition based on income, sibling discounts, and significant tuition assistance–at least for those in the bottom 1/3 of earners.

I think as you contemplate the Benedict Option as it relates to education, we have got to stop approaching these issues from the perspective of individual families. I would claim that it is impossible for any BenOp family to successfully educate their children on their own without intentionally crafted support systems–whether they are homeschool co-ops or sliding scale tuitions (rich families pay for poor families). The BenOp is going to hurt–at least at first–for those of us who choose it. That’s the whole point. It all comes down to what sacrifices are we willing to make to preserve our Christian communities?

#8 Comment By David J. Whiye On May 11, 2016 @ 7:01 pm

Inexpensive Catholic school tuition of the past rested on the backs of the religious who staffed them

Not only that, but there was a time when public schools could depend on the services of bright, dedicated women who could be paid next to nothing because there were fewer career opportunities open to talented women who wanted a career. Those days are thankfully behind us, but it did mean that school boards could staff their schools with deficated, talented teachers without having to spend a lot on salaried. It’s not only Catholic schools that have seen labor costs rise.

#9 Comment By a commenter On May 11, 2016 @ 7:02 pm

I agree with Gracie. We need a mechanism whereby orthodox Christians can find each other and support each other. I can tutor your child in my subject, you can tutor my child in yours. No money changes hands. The government has no control over what we do in private, noneconomic activity.

I also agree with the commenter who pointed out that faithful Catholics will likely have more than the standard 2 kids. The more kids they have, the more expensive life will get, and the harder it will be for them to afford even reasonable tuition at Catholic school. From the school’s side, if they lower tuition to accommodate larger families, they’ll reduce their ability to pay their staff. There’s no obvious way to square the circle.

#10 Comment By RyMa On May 11, 2016 @ 7:45 pm

If the federal government is willing to throw all it’s might behind overturning the North Carolina law, how long until it seeks to destroy the tax exempt status of all organizations associated with churches that hold to a traditional Chrstian understanding of sex, gender and marriage? I had an excellent Christian education in high school. I do know, however, regardless of fund raising efforts and cost cutting measures, the school is hurting. The dedicated Christians who run the school would attempt to keep the school afloat and stay true to their beliefs regardless of federal policy, however adding the burden of taxation would probably mean that the school would undergo massive changes. Add social stigma and take away amenities and sports teams and public schools look like a much better option to any parents who take account of social norms.

Given how fast things are changing, how long until this happens? A year? 5 at most?

#11 Comment By culchan On May 11, 2016 @ 8:04 pm

It simply boggles the mind that people are still lining up around the block to send their kids to Catholic schools. What would it take, what evil has to be done to children (and covered up), to make people NOT want to entrust their kids to this institution, 8 hours a day, 200 days a year?

[NFR: Um, because the overwhelming majority of Catholic kids were not molested by priests? — RD]

#12 Comment By Pastor Brian On May 11, 2016 @ 8:11 pm

I am a pastor and a homeschooling parent with 9&10 year old daughters. I make $62k per year. My wife works a part time job outside of the home, but we do not depend on her income. We moved to this small town in South Dakota 12 years ago. I have to buy my health insurance on the open market. I just turned 47 in April. We don’t have the ability to contribute to our IRA’s right now. Our newest car is an ’05 Chevy Trailblazer with 130k miles on it. Surprisingly, the cost of living here is roughly equivalent to the Cincinnati area, where we moved from.

So I’m neck deep in the issues right now.

We’ve been doing Classical Conversations (www.classicalconversations.com) for the last two years. Before that our kids were in area Christian schools. We weren’t satisfied with them. This past year I became a tutor for our local community’s Foundations program, which is roughly equivalent to the grammar phase. This year I am adding Essentials tutoring, which is basically English grammar (lots of diagraming sentences) and basic English composition.

Our tutoring groups meet each Monday from 9-12. My class had 8 kids in it, and there were 3 other Foundations classes. There are two Essentials classes, and we have Challenge A and B, which are roughly the early and later Logic phases of the Trivium.

The Foundations classes meet to go over the week’s new material, and to review older material. Then families go home and repeat what was modeled on Monday morning.

I decided to give myself wholeheartedly to my local CC community. This program, or something like it, is an excellent BenOp foundation. Parents can do this.

I would also note that in Colonial America, especially in the South, Presbyterian pastors often served as tutors for the older children, particularly the boys, from the congregation. This was apparently a practice carried over from Scotland. John Knox, the father of the Church of Scotland insisted that the Church make arrangements for the common people to learn to read, so they could read their Bibles. Often this duty fell to the parish minister.

Perhaps it’s time to resurrect that practice.

#13 Comment By Wally On May 11, 2016 @ 8:47 pm

Check out the National Association of University Model Schools (NAUMS) at [11] These Christian schools are located in many different States and focus on excellence in education, strong community, and a combination classroom environment-home study. They are also designed to be very cost-effective. One of my children graduated from a NAUMS school, and he thoroughly thrived spiritually, academically, and socially.

#14 Comment By FL Transplant On May 11, 2016 @ 9:19 pm

The reason public education is affordable for families is that everyone pays, not just the parents. My youngest graduated from high school in 2000; since then I have continued to pay over $4K every year in real estate taxes to my local school district despite not having any kids in school. I’m paying to subsidize those with kids.

Why not advocate the same for your notional BenOp community? Why not ask everyone to help defray the costs of providing the private, religious education desired? That’s what traditionally happened within the Catholic parochial system, after all. The parish–funded by all members, not just those with school-aged children–massively subsidized the schools to keep the costs low for those who did have kids attending.

It would almost be a loyalty test for your community–are you committed enough to dedicate a significant portion of your worldly goods to the community for the greater purpose even though you receive no direct benefit? If nothing else it would likely screen out those who wanted the benefits of living in your community but were unwilling to contribute.

(To date you haven’t talked about this danger in anything I’ve read from you; you might want to add it into your already too-long a list of items to discuss in your book. Where I live there’s a blossoming “ElderVillage” movement, where people form voluntary associations to help each other age in place. One area where all to date have foundered is dealing with free-loaders. No one resents helping the elderly widow who’s unable to drive and can’t maintain her home without a lot of help, without any payback; at the same time there seems to always be a large proportion of people joining who want free yard care while they’re off on a month-long trip to AUS/NZ in the summer, or their sidewalk and driveway shoveled when they’re snow birding in FL/skiing in CO. And yet those people are always too busy to volunteer any time to help others.)

#15 Comment By Marie On May 11, 2016 @ 9:40 pm

@Charles Curtis

Check out the ACE program through Notre Dame.

@a commenter

One way to square it is by having the whole community support the school(s) through something like a tithing program (a la wichita catholic schools and a few others). Trouble is those require convincing a lot of people that Christian education is essential for the whole community. Good news there is, once you can do that, people tend to actually tithe and they continue to tithe even after their children are gone (and into thier higher earning years), because they “get it” and have seen clear, obvious benefits.

Honestly, all catholic education (and maybe all Christian education?) should be paid for on a sliding scale accounting for income and family size. But no one is asking me;-)

Your next best option for big and average-income families, Imo, are the alternative education methods that people have mentioned (some of which would allow one parent to work at least part time and still sort of homeschool).

#16 Comment By David J. White On May 11, 2016 @ 9:46 pm

It simply boggles the mind that people are still lining up around the block to send their kids to Catholic schools. What would it take, what evil has to be done to children (and covered up), to make people NOT want to entrust their kids to this institution, 8 hours a day, 200 days a year?

[NFR: Um, because the overwhelming majority of Catholic kids were not molested by priests? — RD]

Seriously. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years and was an altar boy for quite a few of those years, and not only was I never approached inappropriately by a priest, I never knew anyone who was. Now, granted, it’s possible that someone I knew did suffer that but I didn’t hear about it. But the likelihood of that happening to any particular child have always been extremely small. We probably had a far greater change of being hit by a car while crossing the street on the way to or from school.

I don’t notice people refusing to participate in college football because of Jerry Sandusky.

#17 Comment By Walter in Buffalo On May 11, 2016 @ 9:47 pm

There’s a well-regarded Christian school up here (suburbs of Buffalo) that many of our friends send there children to. It’s not prohibitively expensive, comparatively speaking, for most (though it would be for us). The principal of the school was at our church one Sunday to make a brief presentation (the school has a long relationship with our nearly 200-year-old Baptist church). During her presentation, she got to the “many people wonder how to pay for this…” part — where my wife and I both thought was the segue to the listing of options for aid/scholarships, etc. BUT NO! She said “You probably have a mortgage and a car. If you can afford to pay for those nice things, surely something as important as your child’s education…”

Let me tell you, that left an impression.

This past Friday, I was at a friend’s house for his birthday party (louisiana crawfish boil, FTW). While our young kids played, we were talking with some of the older high school-aged kids/young adults there. One of them happens to currently attend that same school I just mentioned. He mentioned in passing a number of expulsions that had just happened. “What for?” I asked. One girl was caught dealing weed and consuming some recreational baked goods, the other three kids were kicked out for sexual activity — they had been active as a group, recorded their activities and were sharing the results at school.

My point here is to avoid the delusion that a good school will do anything to shield your children from the sea of evil we all swim in daily. Too often, I think, good, Christian parents fool themselves into thinking that a consumer choice, like which school your child attends, has anything to do with their formation as mature, Christian adults.

While your Christian private school may have preferable policies to and more believing teachers and administrators than your local public school, the kids there –and their families, don’t necessarily hold to such standards. And its the fellow students/classmates/friends who will carry infinitely more influence.

Right as our oldest child was getting to school age, dear friends of ours had an experience that made a huge impact on us. They have two daughters – beautiful, bright, and faithful – they had grown up in a strong, Christian home, etc. etc. etc. Everything you could want or ask for – parents who’d done everything right, and children who were well-taught (nice public school), knew who they were and, more importantly “whose” they were.

Then they left home and went to college. Goodbye to all that, one within a couple years, the other within a semester.

Now whatever decisions and choices those parents might have made or not made if they had to do things over — put all that aside. There is no easy answer for why their daughters have gone astray.

But there is this: they didn’t know them as well as they thought they did.

We have been homeschooling our three kids since the beginning. We didn’t come from homeschooling backgrounds (public education, both of us), and never planned to do it. But watching things around us fall apart, with increasing velocity… we just don’t think there’s a for us choice here.

Homeschooling isn’t easy — though that’s easy for me to say, since I don’t bear much of that burden myself. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by a pretty tight little community of fellow-homeschoolers and we and our children have many supportive friends. But, the sacrifice is real – and I’m not speaking of money as much as time. But I think that time is necessary to know your children well and be able to guide them wisely as they get older.

[NFR: This is a great comment, and what you say is true. An orthodox Catholic friend of mine in a heavily Catholic city doesn’t want to send his kids to the local Catholic schools because he says there is not much Catholic about the ethos of those schools, in particular the character of the student body. I’ve had friends who teach at other Christian schools complain that the problem is less the kids there than the parents, who think that if they write a tuition check they can outsource the formation of their kids to the school. — RD]

#18 Comment By Sam M On May 11, 2016 @ 9:49 pm

I guess the question is, what’s a reasonable amount? If school is 180 days at 7 hours a day, that 1,260 hours a year someone is watching your kid. At $8500 a year you are paying less that $7 an hour. Is it possible to do it much cheaper than that?

Yes. Move to a parish that strongly supports Catholic education through subsidies. Where I live, in Elk County, PA, Catholic school tuition is about $3000 K-8, a little more than $4000 for high school. How? Huge parish subsidies, and huge community donations. And more than half the students still get financial aid.

About 20-25 percent of local kids use the schools.

It’s not a mystery. The teachers accept lower wages. The parents forget about fancy facilities. And people with money give it to the school.

#19 Comment By David J. White On May 11, 2016 @ 9:50 pm

I want to second those who suggest making use of what online resources are available in various subjects. Two friends of mine have taught in Carmenta Online Latin School. The Paideia Institute has online language programs at various levels. And Khan Academy has online courses in a variety of subjects. Maybe taking this sort of a la carte approach to supplementing what parents and others in their circle of friends and acquaintances can teach is one way to fill in the gaps.

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 11, 2016 @ 10:01 pm

The only way to provide affordable religious schools is to have a pool of qualified teachers who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to staff the schools.

#21 Comment By culchan On May 11, 2016 @ 10:20 pm

[NFR: Um, because the overwhelming majority of Catholic kids were not molested by priests – RD]

Um, that’s cold comfort to parents of kids who were, and will be. And it begs the question of what risk you’re trying to avoid by putting a child in an institution that has a deep history and structure of sheltering rapists.

[NFR: [12] Man, you’re not going to get to the right of me on this one. I’m the guy who left the Catholic Church over this. And I would put my kids in Catholic school. — RD]

#22 Comment By John On May 11, 2016 @ 10:25 pm

Where I live the curriculum of the public schools is so bad that – not being able to afford private schools – I would be homeschooling my kids if I were a transgendered atheist. In math, fractions are no longer taught in primary school, and the multiplication table is not expected to be memorised. Since I can remember the multiplication table my kids can’t fail to come out ahead by homeschooling. The workbooks for the Singapore math curriculum are only $40 or so for a year’s work. I was never any good at calculus, especially integral calculus, but until the kids get to that point they will be fine at home.

#23 Comment By Pastor Brian On May 11, 2016 @ 10:59 pm

@Siarlys: “The only way to provide affordable religious schools is to have a pool of qualified teachers who have taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to staff the schools.”

So that’s two things we agree on. Teaching, especially teaching for both intellectual and spiritual formation, is a holy calling, like the ministry. And we should recruit such teachers like pastors and missionaries were recruited in days gone by. We should invite them to lay down their lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus and the good of his sheep.

#24 Comment By Gregory On May 11, 2016 @ 11:00 pm

This question of sending children to private school is one of great importance to me. I have taught at several public high schools and an expensive, private Catholic high school in a large metropolitan area, so I have some personal experience with the differences between public and private secondary education (plus, I attended a relatively cheap private Catholic high school).

What I have observed is that students in the Catholic school system are generally outwardly respectful and cooperative. They also achieve more in the classroom, largely because they have a markedly different work ethic, instilled in them at home. Like with any group, the students display a range in terms of their degree of devotion to Catholicism. Some are devout, others not.

What I have observed at the public schools is that students are generally disrespectful and uncooperative. They generally don’t complete work. There are many brilliant and decent students in public schools, but they are often overshadowed by a critical mass of misbehaving students, typically boys. The system lacks the capability to discipline these boys effectively. As you’ve mentioned, we lack a common set of values that we can use to discuss what sort of values are worth upholding, let alone what sort of discipline would be appropriate when those values are violated.

I’ve noticed that drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in both systems, although there are groups of students in both systems who actively resist that culture (larger groups than you might assume, actually). I would assume that other forms of inappropriate behavior occur at similar rates as well (I know cheating is also widespread).

My wife and I have a young daughter, and we are going to struggle to pay tuition at a local private school. We know that enrolling her in a private school won’t automatically raise her to be virtuous. However, we’re going to sacrifice just to increase the odds that she also won’t be educated in a culture that is apathetic at best and hostile at worst to our values. We don’t think that the school will raise our daughter, but we also want to place her in an environment that at least doesn’t condone misbehavior by remaining silent about it.

[NFR: An older friend of mine told me his wife, a lifelong public schoolteacher, retired earlier than she had planned because she could not stand dealing with kids and their parents in her school. It was the usual story: kids who act up chronically and don’t do their homework, and when the teacher tries to discipline them, the parent (singular in most cases) comes to school to sass the teacher, and even calls the school board member complaining that the mean old teacher is picking on her baby. The teacher in question comes from a family — a black family — that valued education immensely, because it was the key to getting out of poverty (Wendell Pierce tells the same story about his family in the book I collaborated on with him). But she got out of teaching, even though she had lots of poor and working class kids, because relatively few kids in that school had any interest in learning, and their parents didn’t either. — RD]

#25 Comment By Gregory On May 11, 2016 @ 11:04 pm

P.S. The pay at Catholic schools in this area is insanely low, often as much as 40 percent lower than public schools, despite students who often pay astronomical tuition rates. That low pay causes many teachers (often the ones who are primary earners in their families) to seek employment elsewhere. The pay at parochial schools is even worse. I have absolutely no idea what solution exists for that one.

#26 Comment By Chris On May 11, 2016 @ 11:37 pm

People who are interested in this should read THE BEAUTIFUL TREE by James Tooley. He has discovered and researched private schools in developing world slums. He is interested in the feasibility of low cost private schools in the US.

#27 Comment By a commenter On May 12, 2016 @ 12:17 am

“What would it take, what evil has to be done to children (and covered up), to make people NOT want to entrust their kids to this institution, 8 hours a day, 200 days a year?”

Oh good grief. Catholic schools know that if they put a toe out of line they can be sued for every penny they have. Seriously, the security for kids in parish buildings is very tight. The priest doesn’t come into the school. The parents don’t come into the school. The teachers are never alone with the kids. You can hardly even get a class list to invite other kids to birthday parties. It’s like Fort Knox there.

#28 Comment By MRG On May 12, 2016 @ 2:26 am

What about utilizing community volunteers with specialized knowledge on a volunteer or contract basis?

Hubby and I both have advanced degrees and specialized skills, but neither wants to be a full-time educator. Hubby is a math genius (yes, literally a genius), with the kind of knowledge that could greatly benefit AP homeschooling kids who finished their entire curriculum (and their parents’ knowledge) before starting high school. A little flexible scheduling and hubby would happily volunteer his time for a semester or two to help a group of AP homeschoolers.

IMO, this is what the Ben Op should look like, individuals with particular skills donating them (or offering them at very reduced rates) to the community for the benefit of the community.

#29 Comment By midtown On May 12, 2016 @ 5:57 am

Thank you for your post, Rod. You make some good points but some commenters have asked a question that overrides all else: what if the (most likely) federal government decides it cannot tolerate schools that do not fall into line on LGBT or whatever else?

I don’t know how it might turn out, but it seems to me that the Benedict Option is great but is only one side of the coin. It’s defense. But we will also have to play offense. I think orthodox Christians will have to engage in shareholder activism against bullying corporations. They will have to sue the feds, as NC is. There may have to be a Convention of the States or at least force recognition of the 10th Amendment. We will have to strongly protect the right to be left alone.

#30 Comment By Joy Pullmann On May 12, 2016 @ 8:13 am

Rod, my husband and I are starting a Christian classical school in Indiana. One thing we’ve been thinking about on the money issue is making the case to grandparents, to Boomers with their major spending power, that they should help subsidize their grandkids’ education. Stop buying trinkets and consumer goods like trips to Disney World and keep those little grandbabies intellectually and morally vibrant. It’s a family legacy.

My husband grew up as a pastor’s son in a family with six children. They lived under the poverty line for years because of a small parish. Yet every single one of those six kids got a parochial (Lutheran) education. His parents considered it so important that they did whatever it took to make it happen. They ate casseroles. They visited family for vacation. They took out a loan to pay tuition each fall, which they then paid back over the course of the school year (apparently there was no payment plan). Their kids naturally had no college funds, so they all put themselves through college. That’s still possible if people are willing to go where they can get scholarships or to just check the college box by attending the local state university.

So whenever I hear people whine about how much private education costs I have very little sympathy. The usually have nice cars, enormous houses, and have made other lifestyle decisions like living in expensive locales and eating out regularly. Americans are freaking rich. We just have our priorities out of wack.

#31 Comment By Suburbanp On May 12, 2016 @ 9:37 am

Why have we given up on vouchers? Competition in the schools would not just help Chrisitan families looking for an alternative (and paying religious education out of pocket of course) but families with failing school districts as well.

#32 Comment By Potato On May 12, 2016 @ 10:57 am

Prof. Woland says,

The Benedict Option will become the refuge of those living in smaller cities/communities or those who are in the top 20% in income in the country.

His post runs the numbers, and he’s on solid ground here it seems to me. Also, the “top 20%” thing only works if you don’t have too big a family. Some people are critical of “Bob” who has a relatively high income, but the guy also has 6 kids, and I assure you he isn’t driving around in a Tesla. If Rod is worried about the educational costs of three, just double that. Many many of the families I grew up with in my old Catholic community had six, seven, eight or even more children. Even the heavily subsidized parochial school fees of those days could be a burden, and that’s elementary school. But as has been pointed out, those days are long gone.

This raises yet another issue, for Roman Catholics at least (and, I believe, some evangelicals): we are supposed to be “open to life,” which usually means, larger families. It would be more convenient to ignore this factor in talking about the Benedict Option, but big Catholic families do not have that luxury. They may well be put to a choice between their faith and BenOp.

Then we have this school discussion, which really is a lot more of the same and underlines it. The numbers seem inescapable.

Even at that we’re assuming that all the children in this Benedict community will be middle-of-the-road normal. No one blind, no one deaf, no developmental or other challenges. I’m accused of “implicit radical egalitarianism” for pointing this out, but an awful lot of kids don’t fit that mold, and it seems to me that that is an important fact, especially for these kids and their families.

So what do we have left here? Perhaps Benedict Option communities may function as a sort of city on the hill, an aspirational model for people who could never participate, but so far as I can see all this is definitely for the well-off, and probably people who are in a position to move somewhere and then stay put regardless of economics. (Many people in the income bracket we’re talking about move around quite a bit, at the behest of corporate employers or other economic factors, and high mobility will be the death of such communities from what I can tell.) I think that some Orthodox Jewish communities make this work, as do the Amish; inquiries into how they do it (and if it actually does work) might be a way around some of these problems.

There is nothing at all wrong with any of this. People of faith who are in the top 20% economically, who can reliably stay put geographically while not compromising their financial situation, and who don’t have too many children (or any children with special needs), should certainly be encouraged to form faith communities if that is what they want. It is somewhat disingenuous, however, to talk as though this is a solution to anything except the problems of this rather restricted group.

[NFR: Shorter y’all: “It won’t work, so it’s not worth trying. Just lay back and accept your fates.” — RD]

#33 Comment By Diane On May 12, 2016 @ 11:39 am

About 10 years ago, I realized which way the wind was blowing in our country, and I felt a great deal of pressure from my church (ELCA) to conform. I left instead. I wondered if any denomination could withstand the coming onslaught and began exploring the old Amish communities and other successful non-conforming groups. One of the things I took away is that I had to take a hard look at which of my values were actually those of the secular community, such as a college education and a white-collar career. One does not have to go to college to be educated; success is not determined by the type of job one holds. If the worst happens (conservative Christians are barred from certain employment because of their membership in a “hate group”), I imagine that there will still be people (regardless of their beliefs) needed to work in the lowest of low jobs, dealing with garbage, sewage, etc. I know that’s not what I want to do, nor what is fair, but I do not derive my value from my job but through my relationship with Christ. I do share the concern that one day children will not be allowed to stay in conservative Christian (“abusive”) homes.

#34 Comment By mrscracker On May 12, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

Potato :
“I think that some Orthodox Jewish communities make this work, as do the Amish; inquiries into how they do it (and if it actually does work) might be a way around some of these problems.”
I think that’s a very practical suggestion, not a disparagement of the idea as a whole.
And from what I know about conservative Mennonite & Amish communities, they do make it work.

#35 Comment By shelley On May 12, 2016 @ 12:31 pm


#36 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On May 12, 2016 @ 1:37 pm

I don’t know how much relevant is for the US, but since you have some Italian readers, I have made a calculation of how much it would cost setting up and running a no-profit high school (9th to 13th grade – in Italy high school is 5 years) in the Milan area with 250 pupils (the minimum to have a full panel of teachers)

The yearly tuition and fees would be $8000. If one is lucky enough to get the building and the area for free in exchange for renovations, this will go down to $7400.

Of course, with some volunteering in different areas, this cost can be brought down a little bit, let’s say to about $6500-$6800.

#37 Comment By Potato On May 12, 2016 @ 3:12 pm

I ran over and checked shelley’s link


It’s well worth a look! This is the Alleluia Community in Georgia. Very BenOp, and very impressive.

As for the school fees issue, this is how it works according to what they have posted:

1. Full community members pay 10% of gross income to the community; members in the process of joining, 5%. They tithe in other words.

2. As for the school, if you do not have children in the school, you pay another 6% (full members) or 3% (joining members) on account of the school. These are tax deductible in that case.

3. If you do have children in the school, you pay 6%, non-deductible. Over and above that, you pay $1200 per year per child, as tuition, also non-deductible (of course).

This system involves the entire community in supporting the school, as some here have suggested, and keeps the fees for families with children down to something reasonable.

As for special needs kids, parents are told to get detailed diagnosis done elsewhere, but that the school will cooperate in formulating and implementing an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Just how far the school is prepared to go with this is unclear. I get the feeling that “reasonable” accommodations would work, but that comprehensive caretaking for a completely disabled child might not.

You have to give them credit for making the effort here, though. Our local parochial schools, which have far more financial resources through the diocese, simply wash their hands of this whole matter and refuse to deal with it. As I noted above, that approach probably won’t fly in a close community like this one.

The school does initial and random drug testing of the students. Realistic.

The community itself mostly resides in a particular area (“Faith Village”) and seems to be ecumenical, with heavy Roman Catholic influence. All this is in Augusta, Georgia, a big enough urban area to support a variety of occupations, I would think, and the existence of the school would obviate the necessity of homeschooling, thus freeing both parents to work if necessary. The kids had better be pretty well behaved; reading in between the lines, very little nonsense will be tolerated.

All this seems appropriately wily and innovative. It would be interesting to learn how it works out in practice.

#38 Comment By mrscracker On May 12, 2016 @ 4:47 pm

I’m repeating from an earlier comment, but a local Catholic parish, St. Mary on the Hill, in Augusta operates in a similar way as far as tithing/stewardship. Any family who participates can qualify for free tuition. Income level is not a factor, just participation. The financial portion of the tithe is 8% of annual income.

#39 Comment By Gregory On May 12, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

[NFR: An older friend of mine told me his wife, a lifelong public schoolteacher, retired earlier than she had planned because she could not stand dealing with kids and their parents in her school. It was the usual story: kids who act up chronically and don’t do their homework, and when the teacher tries to discipline them, the parent (singular in most cases) comes to school to sass the teacher, and even calls the school board member complaining that the mean old teacher is picking on her baby. The teacher in question comes from a family — a black family — that valued education immensely, because it was the key to getting out of poverty (Wendell Pierce tells the same story about his family in the book I collaborated on with him). But she got out of teaching, even though she had lots of poor and working class kids, because relatively few kids in that school had any interest in learning, and their parents didn’t either. — RD]

For what it’s worth, I have taught in affluent public schools. The malaise your friend encountered isn’t limited to the lower classes.

#40 Comment By Anon Public Teacher On May 12, 2016 @ 11:15 pm

Please read John Taylor Gatto. Public education was always and everywhere against the family and the child since the 1900s. This is simply the latest iteration of a long anti-family modality of control.

#41 Comment By Nathan On May 12, 2016 @ 11:24 pm

Here’s a good, affordable online school: [14] (Christian classical)

Tuition, fees and books ~ 2200-2400.00

#42 Comment By Peterk On May 15, 2016 @ 11:29 am

What few realize is that most if not all private schools offer tuition assistance which can greatly lower the cost. What you show is the list price

#43 Comment By CD On May 21, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

I have worked with public, private and faith-based schools for the past several years. Guess what? There are not too many differences in most of them. Most Christian schools have fallen into the “state must accrediate your school to survive.” So, the crappy math is all the majority schools. Most Christian schools taken those will take the low salary, so I have a number of (silent!) LBGT/trans teachers in Conservative Christian schools. Black public schools leaders will not have such BS, so in my public school visits in inner city areas, there have been no LBGT teachers. Public and faith-based school teachers come from the same colleges, so a lot of them think alot. Forget a PH.D. in a private school, unless you are a boarding school. A Ph.D. will make more money substitute teaching in a public school system. Student rspect is largely due to parenting. Parenting is the most absent in private schools, where kids are subjected to after-school and before-school care to pay the kids’ tuition. Public schools can have better parenting, as they don’t have to pay a ton of funds. If you have four kids, a Christian school will cost $30,000 – $60,000 a year. That’s the average salary for an American worker. Either two parents are working, or someone is working 100+ hours a week to put their kids through school. Public school parents can work an 8-5 day, and have free time with their kids. Don’t ask grandparents to pay. The Boomer generation is helping their Greatest Generation parents live out the last days, while try to still save up their retirement, and helping their Millenial children pay down their whopping college bills.