As I sit at my computer to pen this blog, I am greatly conflicted. Part of me wants to ignore the nagging I feel to write this.
The other part of me is angry and wants to lash out and spill all of my thoughts on the page. To make things worse, I am commenting on an article published by a revered organization—The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I grew up watching Billy Graham, reading his books, and admiring him from afar. What a tremendous man of God he was. I respect him and his organization. So, you can imagine the trepidation I am feeling right now. Who am I to comment?
Well, let me briefly tell you. I am a Bible believing Christian. I grew up in a Christian home and asked Jesus into my heart at a young age, almost fifty years ago. I am flawed and continue to grow in my relationship with Christ. I am also a 36-year veteran educator who is a product of the public school system. I worked 22 years in public schools as a teacher and administrator, and I have trained teachers across the United States for 14 years. I have a strong desire to support, encourage and equip Christian educators in the workplace, especially those who serve in our public schools. Most would agree our schools are a mission field ripe for the harvest. Ask any Christian educator serving in a public setting and they will tell you they are called to teach so that they can shine the light of Jesus to students, parents, and colleagues.
So, why am I angry?
Last week, Decision, the magazine published by the Bill Graham Association, arrived in my mailbox. To be honest, I didn’t even know I was on the mailing list. According to the website, this magazine is described as “The Evangelical Voice for Today.” The website further emphasizes that the magazine “…features hard-hitting stories about the world around us from an evangelical Christian perspective.”
Here is a picture of the September 2018 cover and accompanying article.
If you are a Christian educator, you most likely will identify with my anger.
Why would this make me angry?
Over the past 35 years I have sat back and listened to the media bash public schools. To make their point, writers cherry-pick isolated examples—usually the worst—to paint a dismal picture of public education. In addition, sweeping generalizations are made to imply these isolated situations are widespread. Keep in mind only nine schools and/or districts were mentioned in this article. There are over 100,000 public schools In the United States. Having been in MANY schools throughout this country myself, I can attest that extreme incidences which are so often cited are the exceptions, not the rule.
Headlines like this create fear in parents and patrons which, in turn, place teachers and administrators in defensive positions that simply are not necessary. In addition, Christian parents pull their students out of the public schools—out of the real world—to protect them from situations that don’t exist. Even if those situations do exist, the parents are robbed of the opportunity to help their children understand how to live Godly lives in a lost world, something Jesus commanded every believer to do.
These types of articles discourage Christian educators who are working in the public sector. Evil in the classroom? Seriously? While I am not going to deny there are some less than desirable situations in some classrooms, I am here to tell you that there are MANY classrooms across this country being taught by Christian educators. These educators shine the light of Jesus every day! When I read the title “Twisting Young Minds”, I was quite offended. I don’t want to feel that way about an organization that I greatly respect.
Statements and articles like this are polarizing. Instead of bringing Christians together, a wedge is driven between Christian organizations and Christian educators working in a lost world.
Once my anger subsided—I had to sleep on it—disappointment set in. I’m disappointed this continues to happen to educators who feel called to work in public education. It never seems to end, and after a while, you just feel beat up. I am especially disappointed because the continued criticism typically comes from Christian individuals, groups, and organizations who, in my opinion, should be supporting public schools, not chastising them.
I want to be clear. I am not advocating that we turn a blind eye to questionable policies and practices in our schools. In fact, the other articles in the magazine (Standing Firm and What Parents Can Do) were positive and proactive. I recognize that issues exist, and as Christians we must take a stand.
I’m disappointed because the focus always seems to be on what is wrong and never on the good things happening in public schools. I have seen colleagues, students, and parents come to know Jesus because of the witness of one Christian educator. Jesus was our best model of this when He shared the hope of the gospel with the woman at the well, despite the cultural expectations and darkness that surrounded Him. As a result, an entire city was changed. Is there a way to love the lost while not agreeing with their beliefs? I think so. Jesus did it, and so can we.
Bible believing Christians are the body of Christ. All Christians (i.e., individual Christians as well as Christian groups and organizations) have a responsibility to support Christian educators who are serving in the trenches every day. Christian organizations should use their influence and readership to encourage, support, and equip. I believe this can be done while also alerting the readership to legitimate concerns and threats.
So what can we do? Should we attempt to change how we characterize public schools? I believe we must. If we believe that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and if we believe that the greatest commandment is to love (Matthew 22:38-39), and if we believe we are to be servants (Mark 10:45), then we must seek ways to repair the damage that has occurred between public schools and Christian organizations.
I certainly do not have all the answers, but there are actions that can be taken to begin this process.
When headlines, articles, and news stories paint an inaccurate picture of public schools, speak up. As Christian educators we must be bold in sharing what is happening in our schools and our classrooms. We can’t continue to sit back and say nothing. Otherwise, the inaccuracies become reality.
Christian groups and organizations should just stop using scare tactics when it comes to public schools. Concerns must and should be voiced; however, concerns must be balanced with what is truly happening in the vast majority of schools. Additionally, Christian educators should be allowed to share how they are dealing with those concerns/issues in the workplace.
Provide Christian educators with tools and resources to cope with policies or procedures that conflict with foundational beliefs. We cannot have Christian educators leave our public schools! That would result in mayhem. Jesus called us to go into ALL the world (Matthew 28), and that includes our schools.
Highlight organizations like Pastor’s for Texas Children (pastorsfortexaschildren.com) and Victorious Educator Ministries (www.victoriouseducator.com). These organizations seek to partner churches with schools and equip Christian educators to live victoriously in the workplace.
PRAY, PRAY, PRAY! There is GREAT power in prayer. As a Christian community we should unite in praying for each other. We don’t need to be divisive. We must strive to be unified (I Corinthians 1).
Please hear my heart. I am not a Bible scholar. I am far from perfect. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be disappointed. I do want to resolve to do everything I can to advocate for Christian educators serving in our public schools. Will you join me?