What Does Your Kid Sing in the Bathroom?

In the pages of Christianity Today, Andrea Palpant Dilley makes the case for private Christian schooling.  Her best argument?  Thanks to her new Christian school, Dilley’s daughter now sings “Holy, Holy, Holy” while going to the bathroom.

Dilley’s being humorous, of course, but her main point is this: despite legitimate arguments among evangelical Christians over the proper type of schooling, a good Christian school can push young people in healthy Christian directions.  A good school can help turn their souls and minds to the beauties and challenges of living a faith-filled life.  Does a Christian school guarantee that each kid will grow up to be a good Christian?  No.  But it gives young people a different set of mental furniture with which to fill their young heads.  Instead of singing the Ninja Turtles theme song, Dilley’s daughter sings “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

As I’ve reviewed in some of my academic publications, the decision to send children to private Christian schools is not a simple one.  Many Christian schools have been accused of being nothing more than “segregation academies.”  In practice, though, the racial politics of private schooling includes complicated decisions about where to send our children.

We have a few academic studies of these sorts of schooling decisions.  One 1991 study from Stanford wondered why parents chose Christian schools.[1]  Not surprisingly, the question turns out to be remarkably complex.  School founders and parents offered a mélange of explanations for their choice of a private Christian school, from bad discipline at public schools to creationist belief.  Similarly, a 1984 study from Philadelphia found that parents had many reasons for choosing private Christian schools.[2]  Again, parents listed public-school factors ranging from “secular humanism” to drug use and poor discipline.

Moreover, as Dilley notes, some Christian parents insist their children should remain in public schools in order to provide needed moral backbone in struggling schools.  Fair enough, Dilley acknowledges.  But for her daughter, the “Christian-school bubble” was the right choice.  Though the family had to scrape together money for tuition, Dilley’s daughter is able to attend a school that includes authentic diversity.  More important to Dilley, a Christian school also lets Dilley’s daughter learn the rich heritage and faith of evangelical Christianity.


[1] Peter Stephen Lewis, “Private Education and the Subcultures of Dissent: Alternative/Free Schools (1965-1975) and Christian Fundamentalist Schools (1965-1990),” PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 1991.

[2] Martha E. MacCullough, “Factors Which Led Christian School Parents to LeavePublic   School,” Ed.D. dissertation, TempleUniversity, 1984.

Leave a comment


  1. It all comes down to the Christian curriculum used in the private Christian school. Strict Fundamentalism curriculum would be something I would stay far away from. More progressive evangelicalism is something I would likely agree with. You can’t just say “Christian” private schools as if there is only one type.

  2. We chose a Catholic school, and not merely a Catholic school but a Catholic school run by parents, since even the diocesan Catholic schools were “not Catholic enough” for us. : )

    The reasoning is basically this: The New Testament speaks often of the dichotomy between the spirit and the flesh. The world is of the flesh, the Church is (or should be) of the spirit. What this means, in short, is that Christians walk “by faith, not by sight”. Ultimately, we base our behavior on what we believe has been revealed to us via the spirit, not on what we see and hear while walking about in the flesh in “the world”.

    It’s a challenge of long standing to know how to be immersed in the world of the flesh while still maintaining faith in the things of the spirit. Things of the spirit, by definition, are invisible. We don’t see or hear them as we go about our daily business, but can only think of them. Often we get so distracted that we forget to think of them and therefore lose our spiritual perspective; we become “un-recollected”, so to speak. A weekend retreat is precisely for the purpose of recollecting ourselves by immersing ourselves in a spiritual environment.

    The idea of sending our kids to a Catholic school — and not merely Catholic but seriously Catholic — is to avoid having them spend their childhoods immersed in the world. They spend their time among teachers and peers who come from families who take their faith as seriously as we do. The result is a community of people who treat the faith as a given. This makes it easier for them to maintain the spiritual, as opposed to the worldly or fleshly, perspective as they’re growing up.

    Of course I realize as I write this, that non-Christians will interpret this as brainwashing: basically isolating our kids from competing points of view so as to mold their opinions, etc. That’s fine. All I have to say is that there is no one who doesn’t do this, except maybe those who are indifferent to how their kids are raised. Liberal parents make sure their kids are exposed to the secular liberal environment, and try to shield them from “hateful” and sometimes from religious viewpoints, by protesting against prayer and teaching anything like biblical morality in school. Are they afraid their kids will be Christianized against their, the parents’, wishes? Well, Christians are equally afraid their kids will become secularized. Nobody who cares about their kids is indifferent to the influences they are exposed to.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: