Dr. Simonds was clear that he did not advocate making the public schools into Christian schools, but rather that he was advocating a return to the traditional values of our Western culture, along with a return to academic excellence. To this proposal, I have a series of questions and responses.
First, where does the Bible tell us to fight to reestablish Western culture or traditional values? Obviously, the Bible is silent when it comes to any such mission. If II Cor. 10:4-5 contains our marching orders, and we agree it does, then we must note that every thought is to be brought into submission to Christ. We are commanded to bring nothing into submission to Western culture. In the Great Commission, we were not commanded to go into all the earth and make Aristotelian-Platonic-Judeo-Christians, baptizing them in the name of art, music and literature.
So, again, if we go into the public schools, and fight for certain "core values" do we do so as Christians, or as plain and ordinary Decent Folks? And what are these core values? Do they include the greatest commandment, i.e. that we love the true God with everything we have? If so, then we are fighting for tax-subsidized Christian schools. If not, then we have abandoned the core of our core values. I believe this dilemma illustrates a central problem in our debate; some of our definitions are not the same. I would argue that "core values" are those which are at the core of Biblical revelation. Dr. Simonds appears to be arguing that Christians should understand "core values" as those which Christians share with decent non-Christians.
Secondly, even if the reintroduction of traditional values were our mission, how is it possible to fight for the fruit without fighting for the tree? The Western culture which Dr. Simonds rightly wants to protect did not arise in our midst ex nihilo. It was the result of an explicit affirmation of Christianity proper. I have no problem with Dr. Simonds' desire to protect our great heritage; we part company on the appropriate means to that end. The tree is the Lord Jesus Christ, and not a traditional morality which is consistent in a general way with Christian morality.
Thirdly, how is it possible to think that such a civilizing of the public school kids is a precursor to evangelism? I am afraid that Dr. Simonds has it backwards. Evangelism results in civilization, and not the other way around. Dr. Simonds' words are worth studying closely. "...children will be evangelized by this process of morally civilizing the human spirit to a receptive plane of moral consciousness capable of receiving the incredible experience of 'faith' -- producing the new birth in Christ Jesus." But moral instruction of this kind will not prepare the ground for saving faith. Even if successful, it is more likely to produce self-righteous moralism than a realization of sinfulness, and need for a Savior. The Bible teaches that sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins. Civilizing "improvements" do not prepare a corpse for life any more than make-up applied by an undertaker prepares a man for the resurrection.
And now for some brief scattershot: Dr. Simonds concedes that the current moral tone in the public schools is horrendous, but this is not what makes them dangerous. I would object just as strongly to officially agnostic public schools which maintained high standards of discipline. We must never forget that prostitutes are closer to the kingdom of God than theologians; this is because prostitutes know they have a problem. It is easier to be misled by a false Savior before he has fallen on his face. In the same way, it was easier to be misled by public education before the fruit of the lie became so evident, as it has in the last few years. Public education in America in the past had high standards of discipline, etc. Consequently, more Christians were deceived at that time than are deceived now. The public schools then were more of a threat to the Christian faith.
My colleague appears to agree with David Hume that one cannot derive ought from is. In his second response, he acknowledges that statistics "do not prove something right or wrong, but they point out where we are." Nevertheless, Dr. Simonds appears to be trying to make some point with such statistics; they keep coming up. In his last response, he says, "However, ninety percent of our church children still go to public schools." I am quite prepared to grant the figure. But this simply means that we have persuaded a tithe, and have a lot of work before us.
Dr. Simonds says this: "Let us say our public schools are immoral -- not parents...who send their children there." But if the schools are immoral, then does no responsibility fall on parents who continue to send their kids? And if our goal is to turn things around, is it right to expose our children to such immorality in the meantime?
And lastly, congratulating the reader on his sight of land, I would argue that to say Christian parents are morally obligated to provide a Christian education for their children is not necessarily to perpetuate a "spirit of condemnation." I have argued my case without a legalistic spirit; my desire is to help parents with their awesome responsibilities, not to weigh them down with extraneous guilt. But to those parents who are working through this crucial issue, I say this: If these arguments are Biblical, then it is necessary to obey them. If not, then it is necessary to answer them.