Can America's Schools Be Fixed or Do We Abandon Them? (Part II)

Dr. Karen Gushta

Can America's Schools Be Fixed or Do We Abandon Them? (Part II)

Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series. Part I can be found here.

Students in Cambridge, Mass., now have another holiday in November to look forward to along with Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. This year, Eid al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice,” has been added to the school calendar.

Never heard of it? It’s an Islamic holy day that is celebrated 70 days after the end of Ramadan. A quick look for “Eid al-Adha” in Wikipedia shows that it is “an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to God, before God intervened to provide him with a sheep to sacrifice instead.”

Yes. You read that correctly. The followers of Mohammad believe that God asked Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael rather than Isaac. Giving students a holiday for the “Festival of Sacrifice” is yet another example of the way public schools are becoming key sites for “soft jihad,” as I’ve previously written.

Does this just add one more item to the long list of reasons why Christian parents should pull their kids out of government schools and, in effect, abandon them?

There are lots of problems with the public schools, for sure. I pointed out many of them in my book, The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. One of the book’s main claims is that the government and the educational establishment have a clear agenda — they want to control the training of our children “to make them serve the state and its purposes.” That was not said lightly; I’m not alone in my contention.

Parents and educators have been speaking out about what’s happening in the public schools for decades. In a recent Washington Times article, Robert Knight described the efforts of Alice Moore in the early 1970s to organize Kanawha County, W. Va., residents to remove textbooks that included graphic violence, profanity and overt sex from their school’s classrooms. Mrs. Moore also attacked head-on the “values clarification” movement that was replacing Christian moral values with relativism.

About a decade later, hundreds of parents traveled to seven locations across America to give testimony to the U.S. Department of Education. As Phyllis Schlafly wrote in her foreword to Child Abuse in the Classroom, parents were indignant at what was being done “in the name of education.” They testified, says Schlafly, that the public school curriculum was confusing children “about life, about standards of behavior, about moral choices, about religious loyalties and about relationships with parents and with peers.”

In the ’90s, more books came out decrying the situation in the public schools. Public Education and Indoctrination was published in 1993 along with Thomas Sowell’s Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas. In 1995 Erich Buehrer warned parents in The Public Orphanage that the public schools were advancing relativism and promoting feminism, homosexuality and globalism and “routinely scaring students with misinformation about ‘global warming.’”

Books have also been written to help parents deal with the situation. Helping Your Child Succeed in Public School, published by Focus on the Family, gives parents practical advice on how to get involved in their child’s school and help their child “grow stronger in his faith and get the necessary preparation for life.” Author Cheri Fuller cautioned that public schools vary across the country, reflecting the values of particular communities and therefore they shouldn’t be painted with a broad brush. Writing in 1993, she told her readers, “I hope you’ll be as encouraged as I am that God is working in public schools all over the nation through Christian parents, children, teachers and principals!”

Others are not so sanguine. Bruce Shortt advised his readers in The Harsh Truth About Public Schools to forsake the “failed national experiment with government schooling” and lead children “into the promised land of homeschooling and Christian schools.” Putting his words into action, in 2004 Shortt helped craft a proposal for the Southern Baptist Convention that urged church members to take their kids out of public schools.

Eric Buehrer, whose critique of the dangers of the public school curricula is just as devastating as Shortt’s, founded Gateways to Better Education in order to “help parents navigate the public schools so their children graduate with their faith and values intact.” Recently he launched an online course to aid public school teachers to instruct students on the impact of the Bible and Christianity on culture, history and values.

After decades of parental activism and reams of writing on the subject, there is no consensus within the Christian community as to what we should do about the public schools.

Peter Heck, radio talk show host, public school history teacher and author of the recently published book 78: How Christians Can Save America, points out that, other than the home, there is no greater influence on our nation’s citizens than the school. “Any hope for cultural renewal depends upon us making some dramatic and landmark changes in our schools.”

If Christians abandon the public schools, how are those changes going to be made?

Before I give some suggestions for what can be done, I want to say that I do believe that Christians should provide Christian education for their children. I believe that this is our covenantal responsibility to our children. Parents who confess that they are the spiritual children of Abraham because they have been purchased by the blood of the final sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ, have the duty to give their children training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4, NIV). Since education is never “neutral,” it makes no sense to diligently try to accomplish this in your home, and then send your children every day to a government-controlled school that is going to undermine your best efforts.

Nevertheless, even though I would encourage every parent to fall on their face before the Lord in prayer to seek His will concerning what kind of schooling is best for their children, I do not believe that the Christian community should “abandon” our public schools.

And here’s the distinction; while it might be right for the parents within a church to take their kids out of their local public schools, the members of that same church can still have a tremendous impact on these schools.

Here are just a few of the ways this can be done:

  1. Set up church prayer teams to pray for local schools and do “prayer walks” around the school campuses.
  2. Support the Christian educators who are working in the system — let them know you are praying for them.
  3. Develop a plan to reach out and “adopt” the school(s) in your church neighborhood.
  4. Become tutors and classroom aides in local schools.
  5. Start Child Evangelism Fellowship after-school Bible clubs in district schools.
  6. Get the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools materials in district schools.
  7. Put pressure on the school board and school administrators to make needed changes in school curricula and programs.
  8. Monitor the state legislature and hold legislators accountable to develop laws that replace the intrusive hand of big government with more local control.
  9. Make education an issue in the local 2012 election.
  10. Attend a Truth in Action Ministries “Faith in Action Tour” in your area and connect with other people who are seeking God’s direction for ways they can impact their communities.

“When people ask me why as a Christian I continue laboring in a public school environment that is increasingly hostile to Christianity,” writes Peter Heck, “I tell them that it is too important a task, and this is too critical a moment for us to shrink back. … [W]e ignore at our own peril the momentous battle raging in our public schools for the hearts and minds of the next generation.”

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Truth in Action Ministries (formerly Coral Ridge Ministries) and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

Publication date: November 14, 2011