What Christians Should Be Doing to Improve Education in Public Schools
Whew! If that title isn’t confrontational, I’m not sure what is!
The decision about how to education our children is a spicy one in christian circles. Typically, there are 3 camps:
- Those who homeschool.
- Those who send their kids to private Christian schools.
- Those who send their kids to public school.
While there are pros and cons on each side of each choice that could be debated in for a good long while, this is not what this post it about. This post is about what all Christians (despite where their children go to school) can and should be doing regarding the issue of under-performing public schools.
Nicole Baker Fulgham is the founder of The Expectations Project, and organization that mobilizes people of faith to support public school reform. Within the past year, she as published a book called, “Educating All God’s Children”, a call to Christians to wake-up and get involved in helping low-income schools.
Probably not surprising to most of us, the present Christian community has been fairly unconcerned when it comes to the issue of public education. It’s easier to turn our eyes away, to take our children out, or to get involved with a different worthy cause than it is to invest ourselves in this issue of social justice. While Nicole acknowledges and applauds the African-American churches who are involved in urban education, she also recognizes that while a few are doing something, that many more are needed to help make a difference.
Nicole writes with a real kindness and gracious, “give these readers the benefit of the doubt” attitude. But she also really challenges the reader to think about the link between education, poverty, and the kingdom of God, and how Christians should be participating in this area of society. She also addresses the common areas of excuse-making, which I felt was particularly challenging to myself personally, and also to the suburban church communities that I have been a part of over the past many years.
While I don’t want to give away everything about the book, I do want to share a couple of the ways in which we can get involved:
1. Teach in the public schools. This is a big one, and one that may make the biggest difference (in my opinion). Teaching in the areas of poverty (whether that be in the city or in the rural areas) can be tough. Lack of support, professional development, supplies, etc. can create discouraging environments which make it difficult to thrive in. However, teachers can make a huge difference in the lives of these students.
2. Support public school teachers. Give them encouragement. Remind them of the Kingdom of God work that they are doing. Pick up extra supplies for them for their classrooms. Offer your assistance to them.
3. Start a church-school partnership. This is the trickiest, but one that can be incredibly influential and helpful (or can be damaging, if done poorly). Many schools are reluctant to let churches help for many reasons. Of course there’s the whole evangelizing thing, but maybe just as frustrating to the schools is that “church people” tend to say they are going to volunteer, but then don’t really follow through. We tend to like to see “results” and if we don’t see them, we get bored and move on to the next project. Nicole gives a bunch of other advice about this precious and sensitive idea, and if your church is interested in doing this kind of thing, please do take a look at this chapter in particular for some real wisdom.
Personally, one reason that I love the idea of supporting public schools (both your own and one that is need of support) is because they are the hub of communities. Where you live determines your school, so to reach a neighborhood, why wouldn’t you want to be involved in the public schools? Many christians I know complain about people on welfare, women getting abortions, etc., but many of these issues stem from cycles of poverty, and quality education is a significant avenue to end these horrible cycles.
I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this book from your local library or from an online bookseller. I guarantee you will learn something new, and you very well might be encouraged to get involved, in some way.
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