Education is not Information, and no Christian should ever believe it to be so. Proverbs, and Scripture wholistically, links wisdom to a fear of the Lord (cf. Prov 1:7), which is far more than mere information (James 2:19). Additionally, love is not merely knowledge of a thing, but a quality that no poet could perfectly capture, even Paul in that great passage in Corinthians. In a sense, the greatest that could be said is, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), even though—at the same time—he does not leave the guilty unpunished (Ex 34:7). Genuine education is not merely the passing along of information from one who knows more to one who knows less. When considering education for our children, the comparisons are often made that private is necessary over public because of safety, or facilities, or tools at one’s disposal (like Smart Boards, for instance), as if quality is essentially the same as quantity (we have more stuff, and better stuff). “Better” in such situations is not usually considered carefully. In the mix comes the Homeschoolers, who are not an amorphous blob—not a singular movement with shared cultural attributes or motivations.
The worst of public and private education is not like the best. It is a logical fallacy to make a part stand for the whole, unless the whole really is reflected by a part. In my experience, once in a while, there is a rare district made valuable by the stars aligning—gifted teachers with gifted administrators with gifted parental involvement. Other times, the rarity is singular: one teacher in one class fighting uphill for every step of achievement, with rocks thrown downhill from those neanderthals who managed to make it to the top quite in spite of their own (all too apparent) shortcomings in mental and heart acuity. Such teachers inspire us, as they do their students, who never forget that moment when another dimension of humanity was revealed to them, beyond mere possibility—a dimension when time slows like a perfect summer day in Willoughby, and to which you would give anything to go back, or at least to escape the endlessly dark and cold intellectual and emotional winter that is the modern classroom. Kevin Williamson says, especially about the worst,
Contrary to all of the sanctimony surrounding them, the government schools are in fact the single most destructive institution in American public life, and they are the bedrock of the Left’s power, providing billions of dollars in campaign contributions and millions of man-hours for Democratic campaigns. But they do more than that: They are the real-life version of those nightmarish incubator pods from The Matrix, and home-schooling is a red pill. We entrust our children to the state for twelve or thirteen years, during which time they are subjected to a daily regimen that is, like the school buildings themselves, more than a little reminiscent of the penitentiary: “bells and cells,” as one of my teachers used to call it. They are instructed in obedience and compliance, as though the most important skill in life were the ability to sit quietly and follow instructions; those children who are more energetic than the authorities care for are given psychiatric diagnoses and very often put on psychiatric drugs: Since the 1980s, the rate of antidepressant prescription for children has increased five-fold, while the rate of antipsychotic prescription has increased six-fold. Locking children up for the largest part of the day, in a dreary room with 20 to 30 other children all born within nine or ten months of each other, is a model that make sense — that is something other than insane — only if you think of children as batches — if you believe, as our president and those who share his views believe, that the children are the government schools’ product rather than their customers.
The first is that two different things are meant by “education.” We have education in the true, Arnoldian sense of the word, the improvement of one’s mind (and possibly even one’s soul) through the study of “the best which has been thought and said in the world,” which is the goal of a classical liberal education; we also have the Bismarckian sense of education, the conception that commands the attentions of politicians, which understands the schools as factories producing the human widgets that the state requires for its own purposes, economic competitiveness and military preparedness at the top of the list. (A deep problem with state-run systems of education is that they almost always mistake their customers for their products.)