Cut and run

A few months back I posted an excerpt from E.F. Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful so that I would be able to link back to it from time to time.

This is one of those times. That excerpt concludes:

… if it is taken for granted that education is a passport to privilege, then the content of education will not primarily be something to serve the people, but something to serve ourselves, the educated. The privileged minority will wish to be educated in a manner that sets them apart and will inevitably learn and teach the wrong things, that is to say, things that do set them apart. …

Bruce Shortt, of something called Exodus Mandate, believes that young Southern Baptists are not sufficiently set apart, so he's sponsoring a resolution urging all Southern Baptists to withdraw their children from public schools. Ethics Daily's Bob Allen has the story:

The call for an "exodus" from public schools continues to gain momentum in the Southern Baptist Convention, according to sponsors of a resolution being proposed at this summer's SBC annual meeting in San Antonio.

Bruce Shortt, a representative of Exodus Mandate, a Christian ministry that urges parents to remove their children from "government" schools and educate them either at home or in Christian schools, announced today plans for the fourth straight year to introduce a resolution encouraging the expansion of Christian alternatives to public education.
 
Shortt, an attorney from Houston, is co-sponsoring the resolution with Voddie Baucham, an African-American author and conference leader who worked together with Shortt in 2005 in convincing the convention to adopt a resolution on Christian education affirming that parents, and not the government, are primarily responsible for educating their children.
 
The 2007 resolution seeks to build momentum on a comment made by SBC president Frank Page shortly after his election last summer in Greensboro, N.C. Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., told Agape Press he is disturbed that many teenagers leave the church after graduating from high school and he hoped that more churches would begin offering Christian schools.
 
Bauchum said Page's call for more Christian schools reflects "an expanding debate" among Christians over public education. Seminary president Albert Mohler has called on Baptist parents to develop an "exit strategy" for their children from public schools. …
 
This year's resolution says the majority of Southern Baptist children are being discipled by "an anti-Christian government school system," that undermines values taught in church and home.

The resolution also has the support of Wiley Drake who is the SBC's "second vice president" (and not, as his name would seem to suggest, a character in a Flannery O'Connor story). Drake said:

"Southern Baptists, and Christians generally, need to plan a Christian educational future for our children."

"First, Christian parents are obligated to provide their children with a Christ-centered education. … Anyone who thinks that a few hours of youth group and church will have more influence on a child's faith and worldview than 40 to 50 hours a week of public school classes, activities and homework is simply not being honest with himself.

"Second, the open collaboration between homosexual activists and many school districts, together with the overall level of crime and violence in the public schools, make the public schools an unsafe place for our children."

Because, you know, crime and violence could never occur in a private Christian school.

I understand the idea here. Christians, St. Paul said, should not be "conformed to this world." Instead, St. Peter wrote, we are supposed to be "a peculiar people" and "a holy nation." That word "holy" means, literally, "set apart." But set apart for what? That's where Shortt, Baucham and Page, et. al., seem to lose the map. Their preoccupation with safety and purity and separateness-for-separateness' sake does not sound like the attitude of people who are called to be salt and light.

I also fear there's more to this agenda than its advocates are explicitly stating. I can't help but suspect that any group calling itself "Exodus Mandate" is planning to plunder the Egyptians. Step two of this plan, likely, would be for SBC families to argue that they are no longer obliged to pay school taxes, since their children are no longer in the public system. (And, despite Baucham's best Ward Connerly impression, I can't help but suspect that race is a massive, unspoken factor here.)

I would agree with the language of their preliminary resolution, stating that parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, except that I've seen these folks fumble the principle of subsidiarity too many times to trust them with its application here. Parents are responsible for their children's education. But so is the government and the rest of civil society. Turning this into an either/or is a dangerous kind of foolishness.

If their revolutionary zeal weren't so destructive, their confusion might be funny. For example:

"Christians and others find it increasingly difficult to avert their eyes from the metastasizing spiritual, moral and intellectual pathologies of the government school system," said Shortt, a homeschool father. "Southern Baptist churches and the SBC's institutions must get about the business of creating a new public school system — one that is 'public' in the sense that it is open to anyone, but controlled by parents and churches, not bureaucrats and politicians."

So instead of bureaucrats and politicians, parents will decide directly how these schools will be run. Well, maybe not directly — having a town-meeting every time you need to hire staff or purchase textbooks could be cumbersome and inefficient. But short of that they could ensure that parents had a say in such decisions by, say, electing representatives to a board that could oversee the schools. They could call it a "school board." This "school board" — accountable to the parents — could hire professionals to manage the day-to-day affairs of the schools. All of which would be so much better than the current system of politicians and bureaucrats.

I'll give the last word here to Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics:

"Rather than bearing false witness against public school teachers and the National Education Association, Christians need to speak up for the goal that great public schools ought to be a basic right for every child," Parham said. "We need to express gratitude for public school workers and to make sure that schools are fully funded."

"The anti-public education agenda fits nicely with the anti-women, anti-science, anti-Disney, anti-everything ideology within the SBC," Parham said. "That agenda runs counter to the best of the goodwill tradition within Baptist life that seeks the welfare of the public square."

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    [L]et me tell you why your latest comment makes conservatives look so bad….
    Heh. Reminds me of another way in which conservatives/today’s Republicans sometimes make themselves look bad.
    So, run-up to 2004, I’m working hard against the re-election of Bush. I’m being a Delegate to the county and then the state Dem convention. I happen to mention this to my family. This elicits the following “joke” from several family members on several occasions: “Huh? But you’ve got a high paying programmer job! Haven’t you started voting Republican now that you’re rich?”
    Each time I tried to respond to this with, “Why would you deliberately paint your party as one that only cares about preserving its riches?” No one would engage me on that level. They’d just start talking over me with, “It was a joke, Niki.”
    But jokes of this sort take their humor from being based on reality, or at least based on the joke-teller believing they are based on reality. Like, maybe a Bush-hating Democrat would make that joke, and I’d respond with, “D’oh! Right! Forgot about that. I’ll get it right next election!” and there’d be much knee-slapping. The humor would come from a shared conviction that that’s really how the conservative Republicans who support Bush think.
    To hear a Republican make that joke–”what are you doing voting Democrat now that you’ve got money?”–I’d have to assume the joke-teller was either secretly ashamed of his party (in a sort of uneasy cognitive-dissonance way) or else an entirely amoral creep who thought there was nothing wrong with an “I’ve got mine, screw you” attitude. In the case of my family, I’ll argue it was the former.
    (In the case of Scott, I’ll go for option three: pretending to be an amoral creep in order to get a rise out of everyone.)
    (I guess there could also be a Republican who sees the humor in the joke coming from making fun of how Democrats see Republicans, but I’m tying my brain in knots hypothesizing the history between the two that would make that make that joke make any amount of sense to either of them. It would involve the joke communicating “Isn’t that the way you Dems see us Republicans?” and “Surely you’re a Republican now” at the same time.)
    (Maybe sense of humor is just impaired? Many people who know me would say is absolutely the case.)

  • the opoponax

    nicole, if i’d heard that, i would assume that there was an unspoken understanding at play that people “with money” vote Republican, and this is something that the speaker is proud of and identifies with. i.e. “i want to be a rich Republican someday”.
    i get similar stuff from my own family a lot. basically the gist seems to be — we are (upper) middle class. you, by virtue of being from an (upper) middle class family, are also (upper) middle class. so why don’t you start acting like what you really are, and stop pretending to be poor? and they’re not talking about my finances. they’re talking about cultural values. defending public schools, mass transit, and universal health care; standing up for less fortunate people; not putting a lot of value on fancy cars, designer clothes, expensive gadgetry. in their eyes, if you are a member of a certain class, you have to act a certain way and value certain things, and if you don’t, you are “slumming”.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Huh. I never thought of it that way. I can assure you with about 97% certainty that the mindset isn’t at play with the family members who made that joke at me (not highly class-concsious, my folks, unless they’re hiding it really well), but now that you point it out, I’ve certainly run into it in my random travels.

  • gdfg

    ??? ?? ???? ??? ???

  • aizheng

    ??
    ??
    ??
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ????
    ????
    ???
    ??
    ???
    ??
    (2)??
    ??
    ??
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ????
    ???
    ???
    ??
    ???
    ??
    ??
    ??
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ????
    ????
    ???
    ??
    ???
    ??
    (3)??
    ??
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ?????
    ?????
    ???
    ????
    ????
    ???????
    ??
    ??
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ?????
    ????
    ??
    ???
    ???
    ?????
    ?????
    ???
    ???
    ?????
    ?????
    ???
    ???
    ????
    ????
    ????
    ????
    ?????
    ??????
    ????
    ??????
    ??
    ?
    ????
    ????
    ????
    ?????
    ???
    ????
    ?????
    ???
    ??????
    ??????
    ???
    ?????
    ?????
    ?????
    ???
    ???
    ???
    ?????


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X