A couple years ago, I received the following email from one of our parents:

My daughter has just finished another semester. We know she is getting a very good education, and we are pleased with her performance. She is learning how to study and prepare, to be a success when she attends college. It is never too early to create good study skills and habits.

However, I am curious about the state accreditation. I am sure the process is a long, drawn-out procedure, but to be honest, I am a little nervous. Am I correct in saying, if a student does not attend a state accredited high school, the only way for them to be accepted to a state college or university, is based solely on their ACT scores?

I am also interested in the accreditation status because there is a grant program available for schools. Perhaps you have heard of the Box Tops program. This program has probably existed for 20 years. Many of the foods we use come with Box Tops, and once collected, the boxtops are sent in, and the school receives money. I would be happy to assist with this program, but the school MUST be state accredited to receive the funds. I have saved these coupons for three years and hopefully will be able to benefit from them.

I have not heard of any specific details indicating a consorted effort to continue their pursuit of accreditation. Would you please be specific and give me some concrete details about this matter?

Rather than email back, I thought a conversation might be more helpful, so I picked up the phone and called. We had a pleasant discussion about her concerns and our philosophy concerning accreditation. Indeed, I said, there are no specific details because there are no specific plans to pursue state authorization or endorsement. Curricularly speaking, we actually exceed the state’s academic requirements; financially speaking, we don’t want money with strings attached.

Simply put, with regard to accreditation, we don’t need or want it.

Douglas Wilson, in his books, Repairing the Ruins and The Case for Classical Christian Education, elaborates on what I mean:

We have been told, both directly and subliminally, that state accreditation is to education what the FDA stamp of approval is to food quality, i.e. the guarantee of rigorous scrutiny by knowledgeable experts. But the reason we are having all this debate over education in the first place is that the whole country pretty much agrees that our state-certified and accredited schools are usually pretty poor.

Nevertheless, parents still have a deep faith that accreditation means something because it ought to mean something. And so they come to inquire about possible enrollment at a private school, and one of their first questions concerns whether or not the school is accredited – even though the reason they have come to apply is that they are thoroughly unhappy with the school they are leaving, which has been accredited for a hundred years.

In revisiting some of Wilson’s thoughts, I noticed another of his answers that fleshed out more of my perspective on the question of school choice – a hot topic here in Oklahoma. For me, “school choice” has little to do with charter schools and vouchers, but simply local (read: parental) control with no government (city, state, or federal) involved. Again, Wilson writes in The Case for Classical Christian Education:

At the root, the problem with charter schools and vouchers is not difficult to understand. I’ve written elsewhere that the theological case against such programs should actually be grounded in the prohibition against stealing. When the government taxes us in order to perform the duties assigned to the civil government by God, Christians clearly can have no consistent ethical objection (Romans 13:1-7). But if the government adopts responsibilities that God never assigned and begins massive redistribution of wealth accordingly, this creates an ethical problem…

…Parents who want charter schools and vouchers are asking, in effect, for others to pay higher taxes to fund their children’s education – and the whole thing becomes simply ‘food stamps for the brain.’ A citizenry may be taxed in order to fund those activities that God requires of the civil magistrate, but secularist education is not one of these activities…If conservative Christian parents join this parade by seeking a piece of the action, we are demonstrating that we do not understand how our nation has drifted into its current idolatrous statism. As I put it elsewhere, ‘until we learn to fight statism by refusing to accept benefits, our hypocrisy will be evident.’

While I don’t agree with everything Wilson says or writes, it’s been helpful revisiting his (and others’) books that address these ideas in a way that goes beyond (for now) my instincts and common sense. Much to ponder and process as we continue to shape the future of education.

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