Stop Slandering Public School Teachers

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TOvermiller's picture

I thank the Lord for the members of Faith Baptist Church who serve as teachers in the New York City public school system (and charter schools). They are salt and light, where the presence of Jesus is needed. It is a very challenging job, which cannot be understated. This article provides a good and timely warning.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | StudyGodsWord.com
Blog & Podcast | ShepherdThoughts.com

Larry Nelson's picture

 

....and unfortunately still even thrives among some groups of Christians.  Fairly recently though, the bellicose anti-public school teacher rhetoric that was once fairly common (at least I used to hear it) has dissipated.  

Now, you can actually even find some fundamentalist Schools of Education that actively recruit incoming Christian students to be future public school teachers.  Here are just two examples:   

 

Maranatha Baptist University:

"School of Education

Maranatha will equip you to be a Christian teacher, no matter where you choose to serve, whether it be in a Christian school or public school. With all courses being taught from a Christian worldview, you will be prepared to care for not only a student's education, but their emotional and spiritual welfare as well.

Marantha's degrees are regionally accredited and its programs are endorsed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for state licensure.

You will be prepared to make a difference in student's lives. Imagine yourself making the difference."

http://www.mbu.edu/academics/programs/

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Bob Jones University:

"Whether you desire to teach in a public or private school, in the United States or overseas, the elementary education program at Bob Jones University will prepare you to be an effective, innovative and Christ-centered educator."

http://www.bju.edu/academics/programs/elementary-education/

"Whether you desire to teach children in a public or private school or work in child development in the United States or overseas, the early childhood education program at Bob Jones University will equip you to be an effective, innovative and Christ-centered educator of children up to age 8."

http://www.bju.edu/academics/programs/early-childhood-education/

"Whether you desire to teach in a public or private school, in the United States or overseas, the mathematics education program at Bob Jones University will prepare you to be an effective, innovative and Christ-centered educator."

http://www.bju.edu/academics/programs/mathematics-education/

"Following Jesus Christ is what really matters. And at Bob Jones University, we’re committed to preparing you to become an effective teacher as you follow the Master Teacher. The English education program at BJU will prepare you to be an effective, innovative and Christ-centered educator, whether you teach in a public, private or Christian school."

http://www.bju.edu/academics/programs/english-education/

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I still have some Christian college catalogs from decades ago (late 70's & early 80's), and you never  used to see such mention of public schools as a future career possibility in the catalogs.

 

kirkedoyle's picture

Does BJU's current accreditation circumstances allow their graduates to teach at public schools?

 

Back on track - this is a great subject to bring up... the lack of Christian influence in education certainly must have something to do with our cultures increasing ambivalence towards the things of God.

 

TOvermiller's picture

My background is diversified: 6 years of public school in IN, followed by 6 years of homeschool, followed by 6+ years of Christian college and seminary. During that final phase, I taught in a Christian academy, and then taught 9 years in a private Christian college. I have experienced the strengths and weaknesses of each setting.

We gladly and wholeheartedly homeschool our children, but recognize that this is not possible for everyone. This being said, I am thrilled in the near future that a young man who is graduating from Bible college will be joining me as pastoral assistant. He attended public school in the NYC school system, as a member of our church, for his entire pre-college education and has a vibrant testimony for Jesus Christ. I am looking forward to serving the families and young people of our church with this shared perspective. Furthermore, a dear couple in our church leads our teen ministry, the husband being a public school teacher in the Bronx. Furthermore, our church benefits from the ministry of several other public school, Christian school and charter school teachers.

I praise God for this diversity, knowing that as a church body together we have a full perspective and a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in our community for Christ.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | StudyGodsWord.com
Blog & Podcast | ShepherdThoughts.com

Larry Nelson's picture

 

kirkedoyle wrote:

Does BJU's current accreditation circumstances allow their graduates to teach at public schools?

 

That thought occurred to me too but I didn't pursue it in my post above (because my main point was that they are showing an openness to public school teaching). 

Here's a sample disclaimer (one of several) that appears on BJU's School of Education website:

"The program is accredited by the South Carolina Department of Education, leading to initial South Carolina state licensure (licensed to teach grades 2-6 in a public school setting). Graduates from BJU’s elementary education program have been accepted into leading graduate schools and are teaching in the United States and overseas."

So their undergraduate programs in education appear to satisfy South Carolina's licensure requirements, which perhaps might be an inroad to other states.  Also, adding a regionally accredited master's degree in education to a student's resume would presumably satisfy further states.

 

DLCreed's picture

This reminds me of the Starbucks Christmas Cup controversy.  Are there people who say things about Public School teachers?  Sure?  Are they uniformly Christian?  Hardly.  Were people upset about the Starbucks Red Cups?  A few.  Do they/Did they represent everyone?  Hardly.

Who among us doesn't know a public school teacher or a dozen?  With those people in mind, do people actually here Christians condemning the calling or the whole profession?  Not in the experience of most, I dare say.  Who among us hasn't read recently about a problematic Public School teacher?  It's only on the extreme end of Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism have I ever heard someone come close to "slandering" PS teachers. 

I'm a big Challies fan.  But this time, it seems to me, that he's bought into the "let's find something to bash our brethren about" trend when it really isn't all that worthy of our outrage.  There are mighty fine teachers in every type of school and some pretty bad ones as well -- from Public to private to Christian to Home to Preschool to gradschool.  Broad brushes make for lousy paint jobs in my experience.   I've grown weary of the whole "At least I'm not like 'THOSE' Christians" fad that sweeps the internet like periodic waves of dysentary.

Bert Perry's picture

I hear a lot of criticism of the government schools, but not as much of the teachers.  And really, one thing that strikes me as well is that those who choose to minister in the government schools--along with those who love and pray for them--need to recognize that they are entering a system where someone else--specifically the government--is setting the rules.  

Personally, I could probably do OK as a math, science, or economics teacher where the ground rules of the subject are pretty cut and dried and are not easily politically manipulated.  (with the exception of hyper-Keynesianism, evolution, and climatology)

On the flip side, I can see some huge problems if I were teaching physical education, health, and the like.  What do I say when a young man says he's a girl so he can ogle the girls in the locker rooms?  It's happened in Seattle.  What do I say when people claim that homosexuality is biologically determined, or that same sex mirage is not only legal, but moral?  What do I say when my school district kowtows to Department of Justice mandates that "disparate impact" theory be honored, and my colleagues start getting beaten up by kids who should have been suspended or expelled--but cannot because of the DOJ mandate?  It's happening in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Rochester, and at least one teacher has been put on administrative leave for protesting it.

I salute teachers who try to be salt and light in such a system.  At the same time, I encourage parents who can to consider leaving it behind.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

...is how I once heard a preacher disparage (apparently universally) public school teachers.  (But as I wrote above, this was a long time ago...)

Over the years, I'm guessing that almost everyone here on SI has heard or read somebody railing against the "humanistic teachers" in public schools.  (C'mon, be honest.)   In such statements, there never seems to be any qualification or limitation made.  That is the type of careless rhetoric that I believe Challies is talking about.

Having known many Christians who either formerly taught or currently teach in public schools, I've always been somewhat offended at such statements.  Perhaps I'm more attuned to them.

On a personal note, I attended Christian school from 1st through 12th grades.  Upon graduation, my next destination was the University of Minnesota.  Any guesses on how many inflammatory warnings about "godless professors" (and the like)---professors who would (evidently collectively) be working to destroy my faith---I heard?  As it turned out, I had two professors who were outspoken Christians.  Of the rest, none (to my knowledge) were actively engaged in trying to undermine my faith.  I did have one professor who was an atheist, but that fact didn't inject itself into the class, at least to any appreciable degree.  In fact, I didn't know about his atheism until years later, when his name came up in a completely separate context.   

 

T Howard's picture

What is the mission of the public education system in the United States? To indoctrinate students in secular humanism. I don't have a problem referring to public schools as secular humanist bootcamps, because that is what they are by their own admission.

That being said, I personally know godly Christians who teach in these schools and who seek to be salt and light to their students. They will admit that in many respects their hands are tied and they are limited in what they can do. But, they do believe they are called to be salt and light in the government schools. I'm all for it, and I applaud their efforts.

When I was a student at PCC, the education department was crystal clear that PCC was teaching college students to be Christian or homeschool educators only. They completely rejected the idea that Christians should teach at government schools. Sad.

 

Lee's picture

T Howard wrote:

What is the mission of the public education system in the United States? To indoctrinate students in secular humanism. I don't have a problem referring to public schools as secular humanist bootcamps, because that is what they are by their own admission.

That being said, I personally know godly Christians who teach in these schools and who seek to be salt and light to their students. They will admit that in many respects their hands are tied and they are limited in what they can do...

Emphasis mine.

I agree with your mission observation and can relate to your personal experience with friends who teach in public schools.

My question for you and whoever is interested in responding is in reference to the Scripture principles of "no man can serve two masters"; "can two walk together except they be agreed?"; and other similar. The worldview of western secular education is poles apart from the worldview of the Christian committed to Christ and His Gospel.  I am not sure where the line of demarcation rests that allows one to contract to teach one worldview while actively espousing another. 

Salt and light is a noble purpose.  But to contractually make a living admittedly teaching (promoting) darkness while striving to be a beacon of light seems like an impossible task under any circumstances, much less in relation to Scripture imperatives that strictly address the relationship of light and darkness.

Lee

TOvermiller's picture

I am reminded of the instructions of Jesus to His disciples: "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16). I am also reminded of exemplary OT believers, like Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah, who served on pagan government administrations, while maintaining a healthy conscience before God. The principle of "not serving two masters" is important, but must be understood in conjunction with other principles as well. For Christians to serve in the public school system, the police force, the military, political offices or other government capacities may create a challenging situation. But it is possible for a Christian to do these things, so long as they do not say and do things as an individual that violate Scripture. For a Christian serving Christian in public education, these principles make an already challenging job even more challenging. However, the job is not impossible.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | StudyGodsWord.com
Blog & Podcast | ShepherdThoughts.com

Lee's picture

TOvermiller wrote:

I am reminded of the instructions of Jesus to His disciples: "Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16). I am also reminded of exemplary OT believers, like Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah, who served on pagan government administrations, while maintaining a healthy conscience before God. The principle of "not serving two masters" is important, but must be understood in conjunction with other principles as well. For Christians to serve in the public school system, the police force, the military, political offices or other government capacities may create a challenging situation. But it is possible for a Christian to do these things, so long as they do not say and do things as an individual that violate Scripture. For a Christian serving Christian in public education, these principles make an already challenging job even more challenging. However, the job is not impossible.

I appreciate what you're saying, but I don't find it as easy to consolidate the purpose/activity of a contract educator with the purpose/activities of law enforcement, political office, or even military .  There is a world of difference between writing a ticket to a law breaker (whether we agree with the law or not) and training a child/young person to order their thinking in accordance to a worldview contradictory of the Word of God.

Lee

Steve Newman's picture

I do know personally of Christian college grads interning at public schools and being blackballed and graded poorly and were unable to get a job in a public school afterward. I do admire Christians who teach in public schools. I am in schools at times as a consultant and have observed the overbearing behavior of union officials toward Christians. Is there any way to make blanket statements in this situation? No. But there are real incidents of discrimination as well.

TOvermiller's picture

Lee - I don't know that I have much more to say that will be persuasive. Your example of police officers seems simple enough, but police officers do a lot more than write speeding tickets, just as teacher do more than grade quizzes. For that matter, medical, financial, legal and other professional (even non-government) workers today face a litany of ethical and morality quandaries regarding. As a pastor in New York City, I am always learning about new ways the members of Faith Baptist Church are serving as salt and light in difficult jobs and situations, whether as public school teachers or some other profession - from Wall Street, to public school education, to hospital chaplaincy, to subway construction, to furniture sales and beyond.

Now here's a thought to consider. Paul mentions that there were people "in Caesar's house" who had good camaraderie as fellow believers both with him and the congregation at Philippi (Phil. 4:22). The "of Caesar's house" terminology means that they were government employees of some kind or another, but they were also Christian disciples. Not sure this helps, but it's something to consider.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | StudyGodsWord.com
Blog & Podcast | ShepherdThoughts.com

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Excerpt:

"Finn Laursen believes millions of American children are no longer learning right from wrong, in part because public schools have been stripped of religion. To repair that frayed moral fabric, Laursen and his colleagues want to bring the light of Jesus Christ into public school classrooms across the country — and they are training teachers to do just that.

The Christian Educators Association International, an organization that sees the nation’s public schools as “the largest single mission field in America,” aims to show Christian teachers how to live their faith — and evangelize in public schools — without running afoul of the Constitution’s prohibition on the government establishing or promoting any particular religion.

“We’re not talking about proselytizing. That would be illegal,” said Laursen, the group’s executive director. “But we’re saying you can do a lot of things. . . . It’s a mission field that you fish in differently.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/these-christian-teachers-...

 

Andrew K's picture

Let's be honest: there's very good incentive for many Christians to slander public schools and their teachers. Many Christian parents sacrifice a great deal to send their children to Christian schools. Often poorly-trained CS teachers work for low pay, and church funds are frequently used to bail out the whole mess (yes, I've both attended and taught in Christian schools, so I'm not being unfair here). The role of slandering public school systems therefore helps stakeholders feel vindicated in their various sacrificial decisions.

I'm not making a judgment here; some public schools, such as the one in the town where I lived, have a horrible reputation, and deservedly so. Nonetheless, that seemed to me to be the role of such discourse.

Bert Perry's picture

...let's make sure that in the name of not slandering government school teachers, we don't slander Christian school parents, OK?  Your comment seems to be coming close to the latter.  There is a fine line between Christian parents being of good faith but wrong and willfully slandering others to justify their decisions.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

...let's make sure that in the name of not slandering government school teachers, we don't slander Christian school parents, OK?  Your comment seems to be coming close to the latter.  There is a fine line between Christian parents being of good faith but wrong and willfully slandering others to justify their decisions.

You misunderstand me, Bert (but not intentionally, I am sure Wink ). I use the word "slander" not in any sense to imply that the passing along of rumors and information is always intentionally dishonest. Quite the contrary, I'm sure it usually is not. "Slander," properly defined, does not always imply "willful" and deliberate lying, but simply "damaging untruths." You're reading your own definition into the word. What I am offering is simply the psychological insight that we often choose to believe what fits our own preconceptions--what we want to believe that justifies our choices--and often in such cases don't check twice. I am not a stranger to these matters, and could furnish many examples. 

Furthermore, what I said applies no less to CS teachers (of which I am one) and administrators than it does to parents. Perhaps even more so. 

Andrew K's picture

Oh, just to clarify:

In Ed-talk, "stakeholders" (which I used previously) doesn't refer merely to parents but to all parties invested in the education of a child. Thus "stakeholders" here includes CS teachers, administrators, parents, the child himself... even the local church as a whole, to the degree that it sees itself interested in the success and continuation of the Christian school.