Dr. Bruce Shortt, whose name was included in a 2004 resolution presented at the 2004 Southern Baptist Convention calling for Southern Baptists to remove their children from the public education system, and E. Roy Moore of The Exodus Mandate will propose another similar resolution at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Louisville.  The link above is a report on the proposed resolution and its rationale. 

Recently, Dr. Morris Chapman, the SBC’s executive director, issued a challenge to Southern Baptists to pool their resources and expand their involvement in Christian day school education.  Chapman suggested that churches in associations could band together and support schools, particularly in inner city areas where low income families do not have access to private Christian schools because of the tuition and fees required to attend. 

I fully and completely support the 2009 resolution, as well as the call to Southern Baptists to find ways to work together in establishing and supporting Christian schools. 

From an educational standpoint, just about any measurement system you can find, from college entrance exams to standardized test scores, shows students in both private Christian schools and those who are educated at home, exceed those in the public school system, in most cases by significant margins.  That’s far from being the only, or the most important, reason for an exodus. 

Having spent almost two decades as a Christian school instructor and administrator, I have found that most of the criticism about students being “sheltered from the real world,” or insulated from hard reality, to generally come from those who don’t really know what they are talking about.  The public school system is as much an insulation from the real world as you can find, with its mandated political correctness, its attempts to level the playing field, shelter students from failure, and the role of nanny and parent with regard to social issues it much teach thrust upon it because parents have abrogated their responsibilities.  The basic difference in a Christian school philosophy of education is that the school believes that God is the creator of the universe, and is therefore the source of all knowledge.  Education is the process of discovering what has been revealed.  Students are not sheltered from the world, but they are taught how to see it from the perspective that God is the source of all truth.  And they are not sheltered from failure, but are taught how to use it as a motivating factor for self-improvement.  The biggest difference is the fact that the school recognizes the Biblical truth that parents are responsible for the education and training of their children, and that the school is a tool at their disposal to use in carrying out that responsibility.   Christian schools focus on teaching students the academic basics and supports the parent’s views of Biblical truth, leaving the social issues and parenting to the parents.

Public education views parent involvement as a limiting factor, perferring to set it’s own agenda and then must try to convince parents to buy into it.  The school sees itself as an agent of social change, which is why its curriculum must be expanded beyond the basics, and why it often finds itself at odds with parents, lacks their involvement and cooperation, and as a result, fails to provide a quality education to its students. 

Personally, I think that church operated Christian schools may be an evangelistic opportunity.  As our culture has changed, many of the ways which churches once built relationships to lay the ground work for sharing the gospel have changed as well.  Providing an education to students may be a way to build some of those kinds of relationships once again. 

There are two priorities that Southern Baptists must consider if they are to build and operate Christian schools.  One is that schools, particularly those in the inner cities, cannot be tuition driven.  As it stands right now, only a small percentage of Christian families can afford to exercise their educational choice in selecting a private, Christian school for their children.  So churches, or groups of churches, which want to establish schools, will have to find ways to fund them besides charging tuition and fees exclusively to the parents.  Churches must consider sharing facilities with the schools as well as sharing the maintenance and utility expenses.  Churches must set up Christian education budgets aimed at providing materials and instruction for students to defray costs. 

The second priority is that alternative methods of education must also be considered.  University model schools, combining time spent at home with parents as well as instructional time in the classroom seems to be working very well and these kinds of schools are popping up all over.  Home school cooperatives, with expanded classes in higher level subject areas, and enrichment courses, are also worthy of consideration.   The “classical” model of instruction has also proven to be effective in both teaching the academic basics and encouraging students in the practice of their Christian faith. 

I hope Southern Baptists are listening.


About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

10 responses

  1. Ken Coffee says:

    Well, here is something else we can use to divide ourselves into rival factions. I respect your experience as a Christian school staffer, but I know far too many Christians who teach and work in public schools to abandon them and the schools. I raised two children in the public school system, both dynamic Christians. Once again, you are painting with too broad a brush.

  2. rick davis says:


    Your comments deserve study. Any criticism of them should come after the study, not before.

    My daughter home schools our grandaughter. The little girl reads at a fifth grade level and does jr. high math. She knocks the top out of standardized testing.

    She just turned eight years old.

    The question we need to ask is about the level of education, not whether or not good Christians can be produced in a public school setting. Homes and churches produce strong Christians. That is why Ken’s kids are such wonderful Christians (and they are wonderful Christians and very smart people, just like Ken).

    The American system of public education was a wonderful experiment. It is hostage to competing agenda items now: the length of the school year, competitive athletics, low teacher pay, lower teacher performance in many cases, a high emphasis on standardized testing instead of education, funding fights, unions, locally elected school boards in conflict with state authorities and legislatures. Japan has a 240 day school year that lasts ten to twelve hours per day. America is still tied to an agragarian system that allows the children time off to plow in the spring, tend in the summer and harvest in the autumn. Naturally, the kids spend the time playing video games. Few of them actually plow any longer.

    The issue is a crisis, while every poll before the recession started indicated education was the highest priority of American citizens. It should be the highest priority of Christians meeting in annual sessions as well.

  3. Ted E says:

    This resolution is worthy of serious consideration.

    We live in an area with very good public schools and many Christians teach in them, although they must abide by whatever government regulations are in force. My daughter teaches in a public school.

    But while writing my dissertation I realized the importance of the educational process of the child in the pre-adolescent years. I believe we as Southern Baptists need to seriously study this and get it right the first time.

    There was an era when state conventions’ support of higher education and the shaping of liberal arts institutions with a Christian emphasis may have been necessary. But those institutions really can thrive without state convention’s funding. I would opt for partnership but not ownership in that arena.

    We must be more supportive of Christian education, whether schools or home schools. Is it a cure-all? No, but in certain areas, very necessary. Does this mean we abandon the public sector? Not at all. But it does mean we protect our children. When they grow to their late teen years and beyond they will certainly be called upon to be adults in every sense of the word. But in the pre-adolescent years, parents and congregations have the obligation to guard them from the wolves.

    It is indeed a resolution worthy of serious study and consideration.

  4. Lee says:

    I’d venture a guess that when Ken’s kids went to public school, they were quite different than they are now.

    I know a number of Christians who work in public schools, and I know many of them who are quite frustrated at having to teach a curriculum that is philosophically inconsistent with their faith. In all three Christian schools where I taught and served as administrator, many of the children enrolled had parents who were either teachers or administrators in the local public school district.

    Substantial research has been done regarding the exodus of young people from the church. Barna, Lifeway, some colleges and universities, have done studies which show that anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of children raised in the church will leave it during their college years, most never to return. The philosophical groundwork for that decision is laid in the public school classroom, where there is no opportunity for Christian rebuttal to the things that are taught as fact, nor to the biases related to Christian faith that are conveyed in the classroom. Most kids spend 35 to 40 hours a week in school, and an additional 10-15 hours a week in extra-curricular activities, as opposed to 5 or 6 hours at the very most in church.

    The public school system is increasingly seeing itself as an agent of social change, and as a result, parental involvement and cooperation must take place on the school’s terms, not the parents. The curriculum has added so many components, that the basics in math, science, language arts and history, are crowded out.

  5. Jack Matthews says:

    I think the resolution probably needs to be toned down somewhat, and worded in a more positive manner. Southern Baptists have been somewhat late to the game with regard to establishing Christian day schools for the K-12 grade level, and could be a tremendous asset to that movement with the facilities their churches could offer, and the financial boost that they could bring. I would prefer seeing a resolution encouraging Southern Baptist churches to start and maintain Christian schools as a Christian education/discipleship ministry rather than as an escape hatch from the public school system.

    But I think there is good reason for parents to consider Christian or home schooling for their kids. The school my kids go to is distinctively Christian without being dogmatic fundamentalist, has a pretty good reputation of having graduates name their college choice without difficulty, and has a long list of alumni who are involved in Christian service. When they were in public school, we contended with inaccurate, revisionist history lessons, language arts focused on “expression” rather than teaching grammar, expanding vocabulary or even spelling (no papers were graded with these things in mind), and even instructors who used bad grammar and spelling, and sometimes deliberate attempts to discount Christian faith experience while extolling the virtues of other religious beliefs as “cultural lessons.” And that was in a public school for “gifted” students. The academic quality of our private, Christian school, which does not screen applicants with an admissions test, is head and shoulders above the best public school environment in the city.

    The biggest difficulty I see is that most private, Christian schools are, indeed, tuition driven, and therefore, are outside the range of affordability for most parents. The Catholic schools can educate their children for tuition and fees that are affordable, as much as two thirds lower than what we now pay, because they consider day school education a vital part of their Christian education ministry, and put money up front to support them. It’s a cooperative effort. Protestant churches are not hot on the idea of supporting a school that meets at someone else’s church, or working together to make it happen. If we did, we could have a first class school system that everyone could afford.

  6. Sam Swart says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with this resolution. This type of statement is driven more by scary anecdotes rather than real data. My experience of working the past 20 years almost exclusively with school districts as an architect is, the administrators and teachers are more often than not Christians who are active in their local congregations. One recent group of administrators I worked with organized a prayer vigil for a sick colleague. There is another urban and very diverse district I work with where the superintendent and at least half the board attend the same Baptist church. These folks are not tools of some vast conspiracy to undermine Christian values.

    I have no doubt there are groups who see the public school system as a means to indoctrinate their particular world view to young minds, but I also have been to enough school board meetings to know that vocal and active parents get heard. Schools ultimately teach what their communities allow.

    While fighting straw men can be satisfying, it is also a waste of time and diverts us from the real task at hand. If the kids are leaving the church given the first opportunity, the blame needs to be placed on the same doorstep as poor academic performance – with the parents. The SBC can blame whoever they choose – liberals, secular humanists, commies, gays, etc. but if their kids are straying, a little self examination is in order.

  7. Jack Matthews says:

    I don’t know where you live, Sam, so I can’t address your particular anectodal evidence. I know that here in Nashville, the “Baptist Capital” as it was once known, there are very likely many Southern Baptists, Church of Christ, Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Episcopalian, Catholic and other Christian instructors and administrators in the public school system, but they have little to no control over what they are required to teach in the classroom. Several years ago, the state made the switch from “achievement tests” to objective tests, partly to cover up the fact that students here were falling below national norms on national tests, and partly to make certain that the state mandated objectives were being taught in the classroom. When teacher and administrative pay raises are tied directly to their test scores, and the schools receive financial incentives for achieving a certain level, or are penalized financially when they don’t, I’ve observed two things happening. One, the administrators demand, and the teachers comply, instruction that teaches to the test, no matter what church they attend. Two, some of the finest administrators in the education business will cheat as much as they have to in order to meet the standard.

    I’d agree that spiritual training is the responsibility of parents, and that is probably the key factor in how kids turn out in the long run, including whether or not they stay in church, but we found that we spent an awful lot of time with our boys, when they were in public school, setting the record straight with history by either including facts related to Christian influence that were sanitized from the curriculum (and in some cases, which their “Christian,” church going teacher didn’t know), or teaching a Biblical principle that was contradicted by a textbook, or explaining that the inappropriate language (and I’m not just talking about a few words here and there) used in a required reading assignment did not represent appropriate speech in public. When one of my younger brothers came to live with us, and enrolled in the ninth grade, I spent an entire semester battling with his language arts teacher who flat out told me that I was practicing censorship and I needed to back off and let him make his own decisions. What he meant by that was I needed to back off and let him take over responsibility for his education. The principal, a man I had known for a decade as a deacon in the Southern Baptist church I attended at the time, essentially told me that this was one of his best teachers and that I probably was too personally involved to see it without bias. That January , we enrolled my brother in a private Christian school, and moved our church membership. We have never been disappointed in either the academic challenge nor the spiritual emphasis. It makes our job so much easier.

  8. Robert McCurry says:

    What happened to the Education Resolution?

  9. rick davis says:

    I dunno. Maybe the disfellowshipped it.

  10. Lee says:

    Apparently, it either did not make it through the resolutions committee, or didn’t get proposed. I haven’t heard.