We can’t seem to go a day without someone releasing a report reminding us of how awful our public schools are. Facilities need to be repaired, text books need to be burned and rewritten and teaching philosophies revamped. Poverty, political agendas and the fracturing of the family issues have poured together to create a lethal stew of failure in the lives of our children.
With all of our money and plans, at the end of the day, our children still can’t read or do basic math.
As one would imagine, there are all kinds of responses to this crises and an ever growing list of people to blame. Local school boards tell us a lot of these problems could be solved with more money. Other experts say the entire idea of public education is outdated. With all of our digital options, we should be able to tailor a program for each child so they could focus their learning in ways that best match the needs of the child. On and on the discussions go. Nothing changes, but we keep on talking.
Of course, the church has not been without its opinions and solutions. One solution has been the establishing of Christian schools. I have nothing against Christian education. I know of several very fine Christian schools in my community. I would have been delighted for my children to have attended any of them.
However, they’ll never be enough quality Christian schools to solve the problem.
Other Christians have chosen to home school their children. Again, this is a viable option for a lot of families. Some children thrive in this environment, but again, it’s not for everybody. Single parents don’t have the option to stay home and home school their children and certainly, families where both parents work wouldn’t be able to do this. Some children, honestly, don’t do well in the home school setting. It works for some families, but it certainly doesn’t work for everybody.
The genius of public schools is they work, by and large, for everybody. Sure, there are some students who will need more attention – some will have learning challenges, others will be gifted, but overall, these type students make up a very small part of the public school population. Most of the time, an average student (and we’re all much more average than we’d like to admit) can find a fundamentally sound educational foundation for the basics of learning.
No, the average student may not know the depths of human philosophy, but they’ll know enough to read and think well during graduate school. They may understand water flows downhill, but that won’t make them good plumbers. In each case, these students will require more training.
I think that’s one of the points we miss. The goal of public schools isn’t to turn out doctors, lawyers, accountants, nurses, and bankers. The goal of public schools is to produce a student is confident in their ability to understand the world around them, live as a productive citizen and have the basic skills he or she will need for life long learning.Learning certainly doesn’t end when we graduate from high school.
Here’s another we thing miss. The goal of public schools isn’t to train workers for our local industries and corporations. We count on our school systems to produce men and women who are capable in participating in our democracy. We want people to be able to understand the issues at hand, to be able to read a candidate’s position on a given issue. We want our children to be able to think through a political debate and yes, we count on these men and women to be capable of holding political office.
If our children can’t read, they can’t be part of the democracy. Worse, if our children can’t read, we leave them vulnerable to the political misdeeds of demagogues. Our democracy will slowly, but inevitably, slide into a political and economic slavery no one will be able to undo.
So, what’s a Christian to do?
How? Anyway you can.
Serve on the school board. Join the local PTO. Volunteer to tutor, mentor, coach, serve as a teacher’s aide. Get your friends together and fix the leaky pipes and paint the peeling walls. Pray for your teachers. Pray for your administrators.
Set up an afternoon care center for children whose parents aren’t home from work. Volunteer in the library. Buy books for the library. Make your community school a symbol of how much you, your friends, and your church loves the community – especially the children of your community.
Every campus of Brentwood Baptist Church has to serve a local school. Our campus leaders are told to sit down with the principal of the school they’ve adopted and say, “We don’t have an agenda. We’re hear to serve you. How can we best do that?”
I wish I had the space to tell you some of the stories that have come out of those relationships. Stories of racial reconciliation, stories of men and women who found a new passion for life (I’m not exaggerating) because they were able to help a child pass an algebra exam. Stories of a community that has a new respect for the local church because, “That church is doing something”.
I know public schools aren’t perfect. No human institution is – including the church. That’s not reason enough not to get involved.
No, they don’t teach Christianity. We shouldn’t expect them to. That’s why it’s important for you and me to be there to show Christ to our local schools.
They’ll ask about why you’re coming to their school. The parents, teachers and students will want to know. Then, you can tell them about Jesus.
Love that child. Serve that child. Teach that child. Their future depends on it.
So does ours.