NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Ed Gamble, executive director of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools, is completely supportive of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. But he sees some flaws in the education reform law in terms of helping parents raise children as God intended.
“First of all, I love the title,” he said. “How could anything be more biblical than ‘no child left behind’? Go read Deuteronomy 6, verses 4 and following, where God says to His people, ‘Impress these things on your children.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Impress these things on some of your children’ or ‘Impress these things on your wealthiest children’ or ‘Impress these things on your smartest children.’ He says, ‘children,’ and I assume He means all the children.”
Gamble noted that No Child Left Behind doesn’t just attempt to throw more money at the nation’s educational problems. The federal government has contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to education reform since the 1960s, but basically test scores have remained stagnant, he said.
“The axiom here is that spending money doesn’t solve problems. Spending money strategically and wisely can help address problems, and I think this law attempts to address that in four important ways that I think are critical to making money be spent more wisely,” Gamble told Baptist Press.
First, the law demands accountability.
“If federal money is going to come to your school or school district or state, it’s going to come because you’re demonstrating that you’re getting the job done,” Gamble said. “In other words, the focus is on whether the kids are learning, not whether they’re graduating.”
Second, the law puts money behind methods that work.
The nation can spend the same amount of time and money on two different methods, he said, but the one to put the money on is the one that shows success.
Third, the law expects expanded involvement from parents. This, Gamble said, could ultimately be the most important principle of the four.
“Whose kids are they anyway? From a biblical standpoint, whose responsibility is it to see that they’re educated?” he asked. “Whether we’re talking about table manners or not stealing or duty to God or ABC’s or algebra, the issue is parental responsibility has been systematically over the last 30 or 40 years usurped by schools — including private and Christian schools, I think, who follow the lead of the public schools.”
For years, educators seemed to tell parents they were the professionals and parents just needed to leave the business of educating to the educators, Gamble said. Therefore, parents have become accustomed to dropping their children off at school and expecting the teachers to educate them fully.
“Educating my children is my own business,” he said. “No teacher will stand before God one day and give an account for the Gamble children. I will.”
Parental involvement is crucial, and even in Christian schools that involvement is lacking, Gamble said. Research shows a significant correlation between student achievement and parental involvement.
“I don’t mean just that they come up and pop popcorn at the school play, I mean that they sit down with their children and go over assignments and look interested and read stories to their kids and take an interest in the tests that the children bring home and are involved in the classroom,” Gamble said.
The fourth point noted by Gamble is that the law gives state and local school boards greater control over what to do with the federal money, instead of mandating what should be done from Washington.
“Any one of those things by themselves would be a help, and some of them by themselves have been tried before, but the combination of all four of them … makes this law a little different, and therefore I have a little more hope that it is workable,” he said.
On the other hand, the greatest flaw in No Child Left Behind is that it fails to address moral and spiritual issues, Gamble told Baptist Press.
“Our culture — and as a result our government-funded schools — are without a central truth, a moral truth,” he said.
King Solomon said the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and education must begin with the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4, “I am the Lord, your God,” Gamble said. What follows is that parents are to teach God’s words to their children when they get up, when they lie down, when they sit down to have a meal and when they’re walking down the road together, he said.
“In other words, it’s pretty much a 24/7 proposition,” Gamble noted. “He didn’t say, ‘Let anyone educate your children whether they’re Christians or not, and then make sure they get two hours of Bible instruction a week.'”
The reason America’s culture is in its present state, Gamble said, stems from a lack of Christians in public roles, making decisions based on God’s Word.
“The church today behaves socially, emotionally and spiritually, but it doesn’t behave academically,” he said. “Name all the things where Southern Baptist churches are addressing the training of the Christian mind. And yet, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your mind….”
The fallen leaders of Enron, for example, were well-educated in the eyes of the world, with MBA degrees from Harvard, Princeton and other well-thought-of schools. But, Gamble asked, “What does it gain a man if he gets a No Child Left Behind education that is not rooted in godly principles?”
Gamble emphasized that he applauds President Bush and believes the law is highly laudable, but he would like it to contain an option for parents to send their children to Christian schools if their public schools are not getting the job done.
“I think we need a Southern Baptist No Child Left Behind,” Gamble said. “Now this is radical, but I think Southern Baptists need to rise up all across this country and say, ‘Why don’t we do our own version of No Child Left Behind? Why don’t we take our own kids and see to it that they get educated? Why don’t we ensure that every single kid gets a Christian education — not just an education, a true Kingdom education that prepares them to serve in the Kingdom?'”