Friday, May 04, 2007

Finally-An Education Resolution that Makes Sense

From Christian Newswire:
As the controversy over public schooling among Southern Baptists and other Christians continues to gather force, for the first time a president of the Southern Baptist Convention has publicly called upon churches to start more Christian schools and to make sure that provision is made for the children of families that would not otherwise be able to afford to attend.
Anyone that reads this blog knows that I am an avid homeschooler. However, I could not get behind the 2004 SBC education resolution. I am not certain it represented a large block of the SBC's membership's feelings on schooling issues, being utopian, unrealistic and radically extreme. You can read the entire text of the failed resolution here, but I excerpt it to show how radical it was.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention encourages all officers and members of the Southern Baptist Convention and the churches associated with it to remove their children from the government schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education, for the glory of God, the good of Christ's church, and the strength of their own commitment to Jesus, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention encourages all churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention to work energetically to counsel parents regarding their obligation to provide their children with a Christian education, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the 2004 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention encourages all churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention to provide all of their children with Christian alternatives to government school education, either through home schooling or thoroughly Christian private schools. [All emphases are mine.]
The resolution failed to take into account the number of families simply unable to afford Christian education, which was one of my primary concerns when the resolution was first made public, the gravity of urging all parents in every SBC church to just "remove" their children from the school system, the fundamentalist bent driving the resolution, as well as the number of members of SBC churches employed by school systems. Moreover, it just sets a goal that cannot and will not be reached.

Granted, all radical movements are driven by some extreme personalities. However, the 2007 resolution to be brought to San Antonio is one that I can fully support and makes a lot more sense than the 2004 resolution. You can read the entire (proposed) resolution here, but I excerpt a portion that outshines the first resolution.

Whereas, event and personality driven methods of evangelism are ineffective, unscriptural, and fail to overcome our failure to disciple our children;

Whereas, Christian educational alternatives to government schools are an effective means for evangelistic outreach and discipling, and, as Dr. Page recognizes, such alternatives are desperately needed immediately by orphans, children of single parents, and the disadvantaged;

[...]

Whereas, churches can collaborate in providing alternatives to the government school system; and

[...]

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention urges that the agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention to heed Dr. Page’s call to expand Christian education by assisting churches in the development of Christian schools and help coordinate efforts, including partnerships with churches in low income areas, to provide a Christian educational alternative to orphans, single parents, and the disadvantaged;

[...]

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention applauds the many adult members of our congregations who teach in government schools, and this resolution should be construed to encourage adult believers who are truly called to labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students to continue their missionary work in the dark and decaying government school system. [All emphases are mine.]
This is an education resolution that makes sense--and seems doable. Plus, churches working together to accomplish a perceived end is much more plausible than just "pull out," workable over the course of several years. I know many parents who want a Christian education for their children, but because of aforementioned reasons, cannot provide that for their kids. I have always been an advocate of our churches helping those who cannot provide for themselves and this is a step in the right direction, not just chastising the single mother who works two jobs whose ex-husband doesn't pay child support, that she is failing in adequately having her children educated.

Too often our churches exact a standard on those who cannot reach it and then respond with fury when they do not reach it. (I think that might be called legalism.) Yet this resolution actually offers a plausible standard and then offers ways and means to assist parents in reaching it. This seems to be a bit more in accords with New Testament Christianity. Now, if our churches will just hear and respond.

22 comments:

Les Puryear said...

Tony,

I appreciate the spirit of this resolution, however, there are a couple of itty bitty things that bother me somewhat.

1. The statement "Whereas, event and personality driven methods of evangelism are ineffective, unscriptural, and fail to overcome our failure to disciple our children" bothers me. Maybe I'm not following the author's definition of "event" evangelism. To me, VBS is event evangelism. We hold that event annually for the express purpose of leading children to Christ. It is not intended to be a "discipling" effort. Discipling comes after regeneration and must be intentional. Christian schools may be ONE aspect of discipling but I hope we're not trying to put all of our discipling eggs in one basket.

2. The call to start more Christian schools sounds like a "big church" initiative. Does a church the size of yours and mine have the resources to start a Christian school? I know God can do anything including starting a Christian school in a small church. But it seems to me that this resolution is more geared to promoting "big church" Christian schools than small churches starting them.

However, as always, I could be mistaken.

Kindest regards,

Les

Streak said...

I comment with trepidation on school issues, but I don't understand the need to call our Public schools government schools. Perhaps technically correct, it invokes a communist reeducation program rather than schools run at the community level--often employed by people from the local community. I fear that the SBC has still been drinking from the GOP "government is bad" toxic well.

Tony said...

Les,

I think your concerns are valid, and I did say the resolution made sense, and was not perfect!

I'll provide a response numerically as you have your concerns.

1. I think the statement is valid. I am not sure if you are defending VBS or using it as an example (a good one), but I believe where the resolution's authors are headed is exactly what parents have been doing for years, and that is putting all their "discipleship eggs" in one basket--the church.

Let me explain where they are coming from. I have read enough of Voddie Baucham and Bruce Shortt that I think I can speak intelligently concerning their views.

They do not disparage the work of the church in any way, but whatever discipleship and evangelism is done at church, through events like VBS, camps, and other children's events, is undone by the 38-40 hours per week kids spend in school as opposed to the three (at best) kids spend at church, seed spread on rocky soil.

They really do not point fingers at the church, but rather at parents; parents who are expecting the church to do all their discipleship for them and depending on the schools to do character development for them.

I do not think however, that Christian schools will handle this perfectly but will be better equipped at doing this than a public school.

One of the authors' statements regarding this concern is, "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."

2. This was one of my concerns also, and like I said, the resolution isn't perfect. Yes, this initiative will have to be handled on a "big church" level at its inception.

But what about churches pooling resources to start such schools? It does not seem quite so impossible then; it would just hinge on churches and Christians having the same "vision" regarding school.

The Mennonites in our community are already doing this. One great example is their school on Wolf Trap Road, which anyone in the county could attend, but their church is smaller than the one I serve. God can and indeed does anything He so chooses and Baptists CERTAINLY have more at their disposal than the Mennonites do.

I mean, we both serve the same God, but by that I mean there are two Mennonite churches in town opposed to 34 Baptist churches, and that is only counting the ones in our association, not independents.

So, it does not seem so unreasonable a resolution to me after all. Any other thoughts?

Tony said...

Streak,

I understand your trepidation for we have talked about such issues before.

I think in this case context is everything. To you it may imply a communist vision of school but to the authors of this resolution, it is a re-definition of "public," as in the comment I shared (in italics) with Les.

And even though they are run at the local governmental level, it still often precludes parental involvement.

I fear that the SBC has still been drinking from the GOP "government is bad" toxic well. I don't disagree, but in this particular case, and knowing what I have read especially from Voddie Baucham, this comes from the hearts of concerned parents, not Republican theocrats.

Streak said...

And I don't doubt their intentions here, but the language is still lacking. Who are these bureacrats and politicians who are managing the schools? From what I read, some of the worst decisions lately have been made by school board members led by local churches and parent groups.

what I object to is not just the name "government" schools, but the basic assumption that our democratic system doesn't include--somewhere--parents and people who care. This language still perpetuates the idea that "government" in our system is separate from "people."

Les Puryear said...

Tony,

I agree that small churches cooperating together could accomplish much. However, I don't see a lot of "authentic" cooperation among SBC churches, at least, not to that degree.

Could it happen? Absolutely. Unfortunately, it would take some very unselfish churches to accomplish it. It grieves my heart to say this but I don't see that many unselfish SBC churches around.

Regards,

Les

Tony said...

Guys,

Thanks for the continued conversation. Like I said, the resolution makes better sense--and my basis for comparison is the 04 resolution--but it is far from perfect.

Les,

You are probably correct and cooperation of this magnitude will never happen in the SBC, not on any level--national, state, or local. We dicker at executive committee meetings over trifles.

But hey--today's dream is tomorrow's reality, right? We have to start somewhere.

Streak,

Your argument is not precluded by the fact that the people in government also make (and have made) very bad decisions, often in the name of the kids' "best interest."

You don't seem to be completely opposed to the resolution, or even the idea of it, and if your primary concern is the language, which I will admit, may be lacking, how would you word it?

Streak said...

Tony,

I absolutely concede that the people in government positions--just as in private enterprise--just as in any organization--make bad decisions and base those decisions on some supposed best interest of someone. But that also includes those parents who have, in some cases, hijacked school boards to push their own personal agenda.

Community and cooperation are messy affairs, I agree. As for how I would word the resolution, i am not sure. I just reread the "good" version and saw this:
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention applauds the many adult members of our congregations who teach in government schools, and this resolution should be construed to encourage adult believers who are truly called to labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students to continue their missionary work in the dark and decaying government school system.

you highlighted the positive element of respecting those people who work in these public schools, but the rest of it is pretty grim. "dark and decaying government school system?"

Like I said, I know I get in trouble when I write on school issues on your blog, but this entire language acts as if there is "one" public school system run by "one" government agency. Yes, there is a Department of Education, I realize, but my reading of the situation suggests that there are schools across this country that are as different from each other as night from day. Some are effective, some are horrible. Some are giving students a better education than I received at an earlier age--some don't have up to date school books.

And I will leave it at this. I think in my heart, I object to the assumption that a Christian school is inherently better than a good public secular school experience. As I have noted before, I learned a lot of tremendous lessons interacting with a variety of kids from all sorts of backgrounds and think that has made me a lot of who I am today. I also recognize that there are many public school settings that are indeed toxic to kids and completely understand why many parents either homeschool or send their kids to Christian schools. And there I have seen both sides of that equation as well. One colleage was sent to a religious school because his mother feared he was hanging out with the wrong crowd at the PS. As he told me, the problem was that a lot of the kids at the Christian school were also sent there because they were bad actors in the public sphere. The quality of education was not better, and if you want to talk to someone more cynical about Christianity, you would have to look far.

But my nephew and niece attend a religious school and seem to be having a good experience and getting a decent education.

This long-winded response can be summed up pretty simply--I don't accept that Christians are inherently better at this any more than I accept that public school administrators are inherently better at it.

Tony said...

Streak,

Upon this we do agree, that no school choice is not without its problems.

I won't deny that there are overzealous parents pushing agendas onto school boards, rabid homeschoolers with major superiority complexes, and some Christian schools that cannot rival some public schools for quality of education.

My primary point in this post was, to me, the resolution was a significant improvement over the 2004 "pull out" resolution, which I could not support.

I saw in this the possibility of churches cooperating, the possibility that "unables" of society could be helped to give their kids a Christian education if they wanted it, plus the doablility of this resolution, a far stretch over the 04. (Might I add, a resolution is not binding in any way, but does express an official statement of the SBC after adoption.)

To be honest, I had a good public school experience, too. My primary regret was peer influence. Looking back, my friends had too much sway over my decisions.

And I get fretted with some Christian schools-even one here in Halifax County-that uses a DVD pre-packaged curriculum. Is that education? I don't think so.

I don't want to give to the PS a nameless, faceless, assignment--but, we all have the right as parents to decide what is best for our children, whether homeschooling, public, private, or whatever (and I know this is not your argument).

A mom in our homeschool group just put her son in public school-his ability to learn was beyond her capacity to teach and he needed what public school could offer. Sometimes we need to exercise this discernment.

Streak, you know you are always welcome to comment here and express your opinion.

Like I've never gotten in trouble at your blog. ;)

Streak said...

Tony, I can see the improvement over the previous resolution--which really is the point of your post. And I agree. In fact, as usual, we agree more than we disagree.

And btw, I am not sure you ever got into as much trouble at my blog as I did when I, er, crossed some of your homeschool friends. :)

Steve Sensenig said...

Nah, you didn't "cross" us, Streak. :) You just sparked some...ummm...passionate responses!! hehe

Actually, I happen to agree with your dislike of the term "government school" because I think it unnecessarily antagonizes.

However, I think that you might be underestimating the power of federal funds to control aspects of the community-run school systems.

It was my experience while our son was in public school (and my wife still works from time to time in the public school system, as well) that federal guidelines and funding have a much greater impact on decisions than we would like to think.

Decisions that would otherwise be made with the child's best interests at heart or even with the community's interests at heart are often overridden by a need to abide by federal guidelines, or else lose lots of funding from the federal government.

I also agree with you in questioning the apparent assumption that a Christian school is inherently better than a public school. I almost think that with any school (public, charter, christian, home) the "better" or "worse" characteristics vary greatly with the people involved.

In many ways, I question the overall effectiveness of any mass educational approach. It may work for some types of studies, but it seems that children always benefit from smaller-scale approaches (smaller classes, more individualized instruction, etc.).

Having said all of that, what I think might be driving this SBC resolution (I'm just guessing here) is an attempt to find a balance between "cut and run" and "provide viable options". In that regard, Tony is absolutely correct that this resolution is better than the previous one.

Unfortunately, what I fear happens is that parents still miss the responsibility that they have. So maybe the "church" programs aren't effectively discipling their kids. I'm not sure a Christian school will do any better if the parents still aren't the ones doing the discipling.

I dunno, though. It's hard to draw any generalities on this issue.

Streak said...

Steve,

I appreciate the comments. And I agree with much of what you said. No Child Left Behind is a good example of the federal government imposing on the local community schools. I have yet to meet a public school teacher who supports that legislation.

I fear that conservative Christians such as the SBC, among others, are quick to assume that the problems they see in society, children, morality, etc., are outside the church. Hence the language of evangelism and "mission" in the public schools. Personally, I think there might be ample room to look at the log in the SBC's eye first, and in conservative Christian settings to examine what they are doing that is causing problems in our society. Where are they encouraging selfish behavior? Where are they underming concerns about others?

selahV said...

Tony: I'd love to have the support of the SBC for more Christian schools. While I think public schools are indeed dominated by government watchdog rule, I don't think all public schools are dark and evil.

I am in agreement with Les on this that the SBC has a hard enough time coming together on issues of lesser importance. To take on something like a School system, curriculum, professors, ideology, theology, isms, as well as finding truly great teachers willing to work for far less than the "government, unionized" schools offer with all the wonderful benefits? well, you are right that it might take a long time. However, I am a dreamer, too. Some churches have already started schools such as these.

I'd like to hear from some public school teachers, principals and educators on this. selahV

Streak said...

Selah, are you suggesting that the "government schools" (can we stop using that term?) pay teachers really well because of unions? Or pay them well at all?

I know several public school teachers and none of them make a living wage. Add to that, they often have to buy lots of supplies on their own just to do their jobs.

Bryan Riley said...

Whatever is done we must not separate completely. We should be the Kingdom whereever we go and represent the King so well and share the good news of the Kingdom of God in a way that people see a difference between a follower of the Way and the futility of their own lives.

Providing great education is a great idea and the Church should be all about it, but we must ensure that the bases are Kingdom principles, not an imitation of the world's or a legalistic gospel.

Steve Sensenig said...

Streak, it's not a matter of whether or not the public schools (is that an ok term?) pay well. They don't. But Christian schools often pay quite a bit less. Some don't offer benefits packages at all, either. So, stated as a comparison the way it was, Selah's statement is quite accurate.

It's the difference between poor pay with benefits and REALLY poor pay without benefits ;)

Bryan, while I agree that as a general principle, we shouldn't simply separate, the problem I often have is trying to understand how we can expect our children to "be the Kingdom".

I don't argue for the position that all Christian parents should homeschool -- I definitely don't take that position. But the reasons for sending a child to public school should not, in my opinion, include that child being a light unless we are sure our child is strong enough in their own faith and mature enough spiritually to actually be a light.

Tony said...

Streak,

Well, I thought I got into pretty big trouble over the Sheryl Crow post not too long ago, but you are correct, you got hit pretty hard on a particular homeschooling post not too long ago. Thanks for conversing with Steve amiably.

I will stop using the term "government schools." Nevertheless, it does not change my opinion that there are problems inherent with public schools nor will Christian schooling options solve any of these problems.

I will maintain that this resolution was a significant improvement over the 04.

No, public schools do not pay well, ESPECIALLY in rural communities, but neither do the Christian schools either. Steve already summed up my feelings there; the difference is between poor pay with no benefits or really low pay with no benefits.

Kind of a slap in the face with "teaching as the most noble of professions." However by way of comparison, the sheriff's dept salaries were published in our local paper not too long ago and they fare even worse. $24,000/year?

Selah,

No, all public schools are not dark and evil; I think the Christian schools also have the "dark and evil" so to speak, they just don't admit it.

I don't want to see the public school system abolished; far from it. But, what I do appreciate with this resolution is the fact that the SBC is willing to put its money where its mouth is instead of just telling folks how bad they are. That was my big conclusion from this post because you rarely see a cooperative effort among churches to help the "unables" beyond world hunger.

Bryan,

Welcome to my blog and thanks for the comment. I agree in principle with what you're saying. My contention rests on putting children on the front lines. We do not see this in Scripture anywhere, not that I think children should not be salt and light, but I just do not see that as a valid Scriptural reason for sending children to public schools.

Anyway, should that be THE reason they are sent to school? Or to be educated?

I think the problem still lies with parents in that they send children out in the name of being salt and light when they really have not trained them to be salt and light. That being said, I know too many Christian parents who expect the school systems to do character development for them.

Moreover, if anyone should be salt and light in the public school systems, shouldn't it be the teachers?

Steve,

I'm glad to see you and Streak getting along.

Thanks everyone for the great discussion. Comments are still open.

Bryan Riley said...

Tony, I agree. Even Jesus wasn't put on the front lines until He was 30. From 12 - 30 he simply matured at the feet of his earthly parents (and His heavenly father of course) from what we can tell. Luke 2:52.

However, it's not just the children who get to be salt and light when the children go to public schools! Parents do too, if they carry the Kingdom wherever they go. At the same time, I have no issue with doing it differently and having the Church present an alternative for the world to see. I just worry that all too often what the "Church" puts forth is nothing but a religious and cheap imitation of the world.

Tony said...

Bryan,

Great follow-up comment.

We are agreed--in the ministry I serve, parents are rarely if ever involved in the school process. I am sure that is the norm most anywhere; it is rare to see conscientious parents consistently involved in the life of the public school. And you cannot be salt and light if you are not involved.

I just worry that all too often what the "Church" puts forth is nothing but a religious and cheap imitation of the world. Well said.

I hope that what this resolution proposes can change this perception, but upon further reflection, I envision a "baptized" public school.

I am beginning to doubt how workable this proposal really is.

Thanks for your continued interaction.

Streak said...

Heh. Yeah, you did get into it a little on the SC post, but I forgave you. :)

I agree with you, Tony, that there are numerous problems in how we educate our kids--no matter where. I would suggest that, just like our prison system, we are not sure what we are trying to accomplish. If we knew that, we would be better equipped--church school or public.

As for salt and light, after watching the SBC lately, I think they would benefit from a little more salt and light from the world. :) Perhaps we could encourage some evangelism or mission outreach from some moderate secularists to help the SBC leadership.

Tony said...

Streak,

A liberal that forgives? Careful, you're gonna start giving liberals a bad name. ;)

I haven't thought about it from that angle. What are we trying to accomplish? My wife and I lay out plans for our homeschooling so we know where we want to go, but even then, it is still difficult to go from point A to point B. Without a plan muddles the scene even more and on a much larger scale it proves even more problematic.

Your point about the SBC is well taken; hence, why I often find myself on the critical end.

selahV said...

STREAK: let me clarify the wage thing. No, I am not suggesting the government pays the teachers a big inflated salary because of the unions. I think the most underpaid people in society today are school teachers. It's a crime what they make.

I'm saying that teachers in Christian schools are paid even less than those in public schools. I know several teachers from both systems. However, I think we will be hardpressed to find the best of the best who can live on even less than what they'd be making in public systems. And then on top of trying to pay them, we will need to be open to sponsoring children who cannot afford a private school.

My grandson goes to a public highschool. He is a sophomore who just came out of the Christian school my other grandson attends. They wanted him to take a test to prove he was capable of handling all the work in the public school. He didn't have to take it because he had tested out in college level in multiple areas. He's a 4.0 student right now.

He was the only student in his grade level for three years before he left the Christian school to go public. That was the highest grade for which they had teachers.

Government won't be supporting the Christian schools. But they'll be taxing each parent who sends a child there so others can have a public school education. So it will be the Lord who makes it happen. Just as the Lord is making our Christian School happen right now. If the SBC is involved it could be a good thing. selahV