New data showing that more than 1.2 million students in the U.S. left public schools during the pandemic can be partially attributed to parents objecting to what schools are teaching their children, says theologian and seminary president Albert Mohler.
The data by researchers at the website ReturntoLearnTracker.net was cited this month by the New York Times and shows that 1,268,000 students have left public schools since the start of the pandemic in 2020, with enrollment falling 2.5 percent in the fall of that year and never rebounding.
The states that kept their schools closed the longest, researchers say, saw the most significant losses. The Times suggested a couple of theories for the decline, including families looking for alternatives to public schools that required students to mask or waited too long to re-open.
But Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., suggested a different reason.
"Let's understand one of the reasons why is that increasingly parents – if they understand what's being taught in so many public school systems – are saying, 'That's not going to be taught to my kids,'" Mohler said on his podcast, The Briefing. "I'm certainly not denying there are other issues, including parents just fed up with remote learning or any number of other issues, but the fact is you are looking at a seismic change in the entire educational landscape when it comes to the education of children in the United States. And I think Christians understand all these headlines remind us there's a lot more at stake here than many would recognize."
As an illustration, Mohler referenced a new Oregon law that requires menstrual products to be placed in boys' restrooms.
"You look at why so many Christian [parents], or for that matter, even just conservative parents in the United States are turning increasingly to homeschooling – you look at a headline like this, and you say, 'Well, that just might be a very good reason,'" he said.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.