What's Behind the Goal to Destroy Public Schools?
When the Bush administration enacted No Child Left Behind, some warned that the law was badly flawed and appeared to be a stealth attack on public schools. No one following the debate would deny that one of the major goals of the Christian Right is to destroy our public schools because they do not conform the values of the Christian Right. Well, that is clearly true. The Christian Right has a very different set of values than most Americans. Their goal for children is to mold them into automatons that know their place. Because in their eyes, any disobedience and questioning of Biblical authority is wrong.
Unsurprisingly, Reconstructionists seek to abolish public schools, which they see as a critical component in the promotion of a secular world view. It is this secular world view with which they declare themselves to be at war. "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of the public schools," writes Gary North, "there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic."
It is also not surprising to find out that public schools do a better job of educating children than Conservative Christian schools. Conservative Christians do not wish their children to be educated in modes that teach them to be critical thinkers and so have thrown away everything we have learned about how children and people best learn.
This push to destroy our public schools has accelerated under the destructive Bush administration. NPR's All Things Considered had a story Saturday afternoon that discussed the push to have Southern Baptists pull out of public schools, because those schools were a bad influence on Baptist youth.
[Next month Southern Baptists will be voting on developing] a proposal to exit the public schools in favor for faith-centered schooling. Roger Merant wants to take the movement one step further.
Merant: "It is time for Southern Baptists to develop an exit strategy out of the public schools because the public schools are no longer allowed to train our children in the ways that the scriptures command that we train them. And that is in the ways of the Lord and not in the ways of the world."
He's concerned that public schools are not good for children [- things like] tolerance of homosexuality are signs that public schools are bad for Southern Baptist children. He's particularly concerned about the results of a recent evangelical study.
Merant: "Evangelical Christianity is losing about 88% of its children - at the age of 18, they are leaving the church and they are not coming back or at least they are showing no signs of coming back. And if that is even remotely true, then we have serious problem."
Reporter: "Do you blame that on the schools?"
Merant: "No, I think the blame falls directly on the leadership of the Southern Baptist convention, that we have failed to sound the alarm."
Merant says it's not just the public schools, but also movies, popular music and other cultural influences that pull children away from the Biblical Christian perspective.
This is the third year in a row Southern Baptists are being asked to consider this resolution.
And each year, Jim West, a Baptist minister from Petris, Tenn, has submitted his own alternate resolution. It calls upon Baptists to affirm the public education system and encourage its members to participate actively in the life of the society.
West: "Baptists have always had a vested interest in being involved in the life of society, because Baptists are, as all Christians are, called to be a light unto the world."
West's resolution hasn't passed either, but that view has strong support - support that has keep the exit resolution being brought to the floor for a vote. Because Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local churches, any resolutions passed by the convention are not binding, but even so, many moderate and even conservative Baptists are concerned that it would pass a negative message to the millions of Baptists who work everyday in the public schools.
But Roger Merant isn't concerned if the resolution is passed this year or not. He thinks it is more important for Southern Baptists to begin to reconsider their relationship to the public schools.
Merant: "If you pass a resolution, so what? It's ultimately changing the hearts and minds of Southern Baptists and we need to think about it. You know, just like if you pull your kid out of a public school, but nothing else in your life changes - there is still a good chance you're going to lose your kid."
[Ed: errors in the transcription are mine.]
How do you create a country that values diversity and democracy if there is no place where people can come together and learn from each other? In 1991, Southern Poverty Law Center realized that in order to create a society that was less bigoted, one that lived up to the ideals of our Constitution and our country, and one that practiced the principles of real Christianity, one must find ways to help children understand and learn empathy. To address this need, they developed a program called Teaching Tolerance which provides teachers the resources that can be used to promote our values. With the growing numbers of people indoctrinating their children with the values of bigotry, hatred and racism, I fear for the future of our country.