News Articles

School shootings stirring Christians to rethink education, official says

EDITORS’ NOTE: The following six stories deal with educational concerns and Christian witness in the wake of a school year marked by the tragedy at Columbine High School and other jarring outbreaks of violence in schools across the nation and in Canada.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A veteran educator believes recent public school violence is awakening people to the “line of demarcation” between secular and Christian education.
Glen Schultz, director of Christian school resources for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, sees this realization spurring intense interest in biblically based schooling.
Wherever he speaks lately, parents eagerly listen and line up to ask questions afterwards, he said.
“There’s no question that things like Columbine, Heritage and Paducah are helping parents realize there are some lines drawn in the sand,” he said of school shootings in Colorado, Georgia and Kentucky. “Parents need to be aware [of this] when making choices about their children’s education.”
While many fear for their children’s safety, the LifeWay official sees other concerns driving current movements to withdraw Christians from public schools.
They include academics, discipline, a more positive environment and smaller student-teacher ratios in Christian schools, he said.
“Do I foresee it happening?” he commented of this potential exodus. “I think so. The public school system has abandoned Scripture as the standard of truth. When you do that, all you have left is human opinion.
“People have realized we’ve left our moorings and there is no absolute truth by which our children can base their lives.”
This loss of moral values is also eroding the church, he said, citing statistics from national surveys. One shows 70 percent of teens involved in youth groups stop attending church within two years of graduation. In addition, 80 percent of college students said higher education had weakened their faith.
While the decline in older teens’ church attendance can’t solely be attributed to public education, Schultz said he thinks the secular mind-set it fosters plays a key role.
“If young people saw church as a viable part of their lives and part of their relationship with Christ, they would see how it fits with their lives,” he said.
Some Christians are taking action to reverse this trend. Several groups advocate removing children from a public system they argue can’t be reformed. Among them:
— Rescue 2010, formed last year by the Citizens for Excellence in Education (CEE). The name refers to a goal of removing 20 million children from public schools by the year 2010. Based in Costa Mesa, Calif., CEE was founded in 1983 by Bob Simonds to encourage Christians to take a stand in public schools. But Simonds lists many factors for his organization’s shift, such as public schools’ anti-Christian worldviews, teaching of evolution as fact and inferior academics. CEE’s Internet website is www.nace-cee.org.
— Exodus 2000, which uses the battle cry, “Let My Children Go” — the name of a new video produced by Jeremiah Films and written by the group’s leader, E. Ray Moore Jr. Organized in 1997 to respond to the “education crisis,” it has drawn heavy media attention and endorsements from such figures as Southern Baptist pastor-author Tim LaHaye and high-profile Presbyterian pastor D. James Kennedy. Moore lives in Columbia, S.C. Exodus 2000’s website is www.exodus2000.org.
— The Exodus Project, spearheaded by the Minnesota-based American Family Institute. Its president, Brannon Howse, co-authored a 1997 resolution outlining an “emergency” in public education. To resolve this crisis, parents must withdraw their children from the federal bureaucracy’s domination, it said. Website: www.familypolicy.com.
— The Separation of School and State Alliance in Fresno, Calif., headed by Marshall Fritz. Founded in 1994, its mission is to inform people how eliminating government involvement in kindergarten through 12th grade education can improve it. Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, atheists, business leaders and others are part of an eclectic support group. Website: www.sepschool.org.
Schultz, a former high school teacher and administrator, is particularly impressed with Simonds’ work. “After 15 years he said, ‘I’ve got to change,'” Schultz recounted. “‘I’ve been in this battle to reform and we’re losing our kids.'”
Still, Schultz fears the effort to remove Christian children from this public arena could spark debates that will erect barriers and polarize various groups.
The point is not to simply shift students from one school setting to another, he said, but to grasp the reason for emphasizing the Bible as the basis of learning.
Scripture gives parents the responsibility for educating and training their children, he said. Because of that, the only viable options he sees are Christian schools or teaching one’s children at home.
“I don’t tell all parents what to do,” Schultz said. “They have to search the Scriptures; it’s up to them. We’ll give them the resources to help. But we’re fooling ourselves to think we can overcome what’s done in six hours a day, five days a week, in one Sunday school class.
“You’re not taught neutrally,” he said of public education. “You’re taught humanistically, and that’s what you’re supposed to reflect.”
While enrollment figures for the 1999-2000 school year are not available yet, Schultz said he believes Christian schools are on the rise.
Before coming to LifeWay in October 1996, Schultz was a regional director for the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
During his seven years there, the ASCI’s Southeast region grew from 240 to 600 schools and from 50,000 to 120,000 students. Individual school enrollments rose an average of 11 percent a year from 1991-96. Home schooling is expanding at a similar rate, he said.
The situation is reflected by the rapid growth in one Christian school in a suburb of Nashville, Tenn., he said. It jumped from 330 students two years ago to 440 in 1998-99 and has already surpassed 500 for the upcoming term.
“When all the statistics are in, I think we’ll see more kids in Christian and home schools than we’ve seen in the general trend,” he said.
Of the arguments in favor of Christians remaining in public schools, the one that Schultz doesn’t buy is that children should stay to be salt and light.
It isn’t a question of “abandoning” the system, he said, but whether young Christians can be expected to fight spiritual battles before they are adults. He referred to the Old Testament Book of Numbers, where only those over age 20 were counted as part of Israel’s battle troops.
“I think it’s out of context to keep our kids in a system where they’ll develop a secular mind-set and tell them they’re salt and light. You’ve got to train them. Just because a 5-year-old is saved, it doesn’t mean you send him into spiritual battle.”

    About the Author

  • Ken Walker