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.