Book Review: Excused Absence

Book Review: Excused Absence By Doug Wilson

My son and his family live in a conservative suburb of Milwaukee County. The public schools have a decent reputation for a good education and the buildings are top-of-line facilities. What could go wrong?

My son and daughter-in-law decided to try the local school for their oldest son. He spent two years in the local elementary school-kindergarten and 1st grade.

While he was in kindergarten one of the other elementary schools in the suburb caused a bit of a stir by announcing they wanted to have the kids who attend there to dress up as the opposite gender. In other words, cross dress for a day.

When challenged as to the agenda behind the idea, the administration replied that it was for the purpose of “school spirit.” What cross-dressing has to do with school spirit is beyond me, but it is an interesting choice of words to describe the event.

I think Doug Wilson, a man who can turn a phrase pretty well, might say something like this about “school spirit.”

There is indeed a school spirit that has authority in the government schools and it is the spirit that hates God or treats God as irrelevant: I drew this imaginary quote from what Wilson actually says in Chapter 8, With All Your Mind in Excused Absence:

“Christian Education is mandatory if we walk in obedience to the greatest commandment. “Jesus said unto to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37, KJV). We cannot dismiss the imperative  given to us in this text.

Wilson goes on to write; “Our children come into this world not knowing how to do anything with their minds, and God places on them the mandate of loving Him with all their minds. How and when are they going to learn this lesson?”

Wilson continues: “The world is a fallen and sinful place, so this task is daunting. How can our children learn to love God if men and women who do not love God teach them? Will our children learn to love God with their minds if the people responsible for training their minds have no idea what this passage means? And even if some teachers at the government schools happen to be Christians, how will our children learn to love God with all their minds when those teachers who do love God are prohibited from teaching them anything about Him when school is in session?”

The obvious answer to Wilson’s questions are our kids will not learn anything about loving God with all their minds if they are cooped up in a government school for six-seven hours a day, five days a week for months at a time.

What will inform their minds is the spirit of the age that we could call the  “school spirit” the administrator of the school spoke of.  By placing our children under that spirit’s authority for that amount of time we should not be surprised that when they get older they reject God or ignore Him. This is why Wilson makes it matter of obedience to pull children out of the government schools and move them to home schooling or a good Christian school.

My one and only quibble with Wilson is that you cannot find a direct command in Scripture that demands that Christian children not attend a government school-a fact that some, if not many might use to justify using the government schools. The argument would go something like this; that which is not prohibited, is permitted.

The argument is valid in the sense no direct command exists and Wilson has to use inferences from both Testaments to make his point. The fact that he does it very well has convinced me that my quibbling is just that-quibbling that misses the much larger and critical point.

All people are worshippers whether they understand that or not. We will either worship the true God in heaven or will worship something else entirely. Romans 1:18-32 is crystal clear on that truth.

By turning over our children to a government school that is openly or covertly hostile to the worship of the true God we open our children’s minds to the worship of multiple false gods that rule the spirit of this age.

I believe that this is Wilson’s main point as he supports his argument and reinforces the idea that it’s a bad plan to have younger children under the kind of influence that rejects the God of the Bible.

Some might read this brief review of the book and immediately jump to the exceptions such as, what is a single mom who works supposed to do with her young children? It’s not right to put her under an implied command that she cannot possibly fulfill.

Fair enough and Wilson does deal with questions like that toward the end of the book. Most the answers revolve around what it means to function within a covenant community. I suggest reading the book to explore those answers more.

I did not need convincing as to the validity of Wilson’s arguments and I’m happy to say that my three grand children will not be part of the government schools while they are young and extremely vulnerable to the “school spirit” that rules the roost in the government schools.

So, what does Wilson’s book have to do with biblical counseling?

Over the years as a counselor I’ve had to counsel a number of male teens while my female associate counseled young teen women.

The commonality in counseling both genders might be boiled down to Proverbs 1:7:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

By turning over our children to the government school system we place them under a system that does not fear the Lord and thus receive the wisdom the fear produces. Instead, we give our children every opportunity to be educated as fools who will despise wisdom (personification of God) and hate His instruction.

My counseling of teens has taught me that much parenting hangs on Proverbs 1:7. If the government schools are involved, it will be far more likely the teen will adopt a worldview that ignores God entirely or treats Him are irrelevant.

My counsel to parents is simple; why run that risk if you have a choice? Instead, carefully consider the arguments Wilson makes in Excused Absence.

The Proactive Parent

Two weeks ago, in one of my sermons in the series on parenting, I noted the need for a parent to be proactive.  My point was simple, yet not so simple; if you are going to be raising your children as a Christian you must “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).  That means you must have a plan.

The command, “bring up,” is a present imperative.   It is not something you relegate to others, but rather; as the parent you take upon yourself.  It is your responsibility.  To shift that blame to others is simply to show that you had no real plan or goal in your parenting.

I came across an article a few weeks ago that I thought was helpful toward this need to be proactive.  It is a secular piece but it is a good one.  It speaks to how one couple began to examine their goal, which was to eat dinner with their children — something that was not actually happening despite good intentions.

To resolve this they began to ask “Five Whys” and the end result was consistent dinners!  They began by identifying the problem, not eating with the kids.  Then they began to ask why.  Here are the Five Whys:

  • Why that [the problem] was true.
  • Why are we getting home so late?
  • Why had we ignored all those tasks?
  • Why were we arriving at work right before our first meetings, rather than earlier in the day?
  • Why were we leaving the house later than we planned?

The key was the first question.  Then all they had to do was be honest and ask the next four questions.

Now to you, the parent.  What are the areas that you are seeing deficiencies in the training and disciplining your children?  Write each problem down and then, over coffee or whatever, start to ask the whys.  You will quickly begin to see where things need to be adjusted and just as quickly you will be able to develop a plan.  Try it!

You can read the whole article here.