There are many things we take for granted in Australia, including institutions like our public education and healthcare systems. The same could be said about social welfare. If we go all the way back to colonisation, we can see a strength in the education system that began with the arrival of the First Fleet’s first chaplain.
As church and state gradually expanded their cooperation together, the cost of education began to outstrip the resources of the missions. The state began to take over administration, and the stories are also similar in relation to both health and welfare.
Andrew McColl is the Queensland Director of Family Voice Australia, and he recently joined us on 20Twenty to share his thoughts on how these systems have developed over the centuries. Are Christians missing out on the out chance to have some input and influence in these institutions?
The Family is Responsible
Andrew says that the difficulty for Christians comes because when we look at scripture, these responsibilities are left with the family. The family is essentially responsible for the education of the children and their health and welfare.
‘We even find the nurse and the midwife identified in Genesis 35,’ says Andrew. ‘In Australia’s history, there was probably about a 50 year period when there was debate about who would be best suited to the education of children. It was finally decided that governments were going to build and run schools.’
There was a great surge of land purchase and teacher training through the 1870s and 1980s. But what happened in the midst of all of this is the church sat on the sidelines. Rather than having positive outcomes for education, health and welfare, we’re now confronted by some things that haven’t quite worked out as hoped.
‘We’re talking about values,’ says Andrew. ‘As soon as you get into the subject of education, you immediately strike values. You strike ideology, you strike absolutes. We have to come back to what we believe about the creation of the world. Was there a God who made it in the first place?’
State Controlled Education
Christians are starting to recognise that if they don’t do something radical, these values will become completely secularised and even to the point of being anti-Christian. We have to say to ourselves, what did we do wrong? Are we content with the state controlling education? Parents are not high on the list of authority when it comes to the Education Department.
Christians standing up in this culture doesn’t require them to do anything other than what the Bible commands. ‘That is what God said concerning Abraham in Genesis 18:19. What stops the Christian family in their home, educating their children? There isn’t anything stopping them other than the family having sufficient confidence to do so. It’s not hard to get good Christian curriculum.’
Andrew believes it’s not hard to teach a child to read. There are plenty of resources available. And once a child has learnt to read, they can read to learn. It costs the taxpayer $20,000 a year in round figures to have a child in a state school. What’s the outcome of this? It has not been good, either qualitatively or quantitatively. Christians have to say to themselves, what does God want us to do with our children?
‘We have to get our confidence from Scripture,’ says Andrew. ‘In Proverbs 1:8, it says hear my son your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Fathers and mothers are competent at educating their children. It’s not hard to do, but the child needs to have at least one of those parents on the job five days a week.’
‘That means it’s much more difficult if the family is trying to maintain two incomes,’ says Andrew. ‘Especially so that if both parents are out of the house. But we have to think about this question, what is our priority? Is it bringing the dollars, which is fine, or is it raising children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord? I accept that’s a big challenge for parents today to deal with. ‘
We have to learn as parents and as adults to take responsibility, firstly for ourselves and secondly for our family members. That’s what tended to happen in the Bible when people were successful in God’s terms. ‘Rather than avoid it or abdicate that responsibility, say how am I going to manage this new task which I understand God has given me?’ says Andrew.
‘That is what leads ultimately, in my opinion, to success.’