Monday, April 26, 2010

John Frame on Christians teaching in Public Schools

John Frame is a man who regularly spurs me to think about common subjects in different ways which I find valuable (whether I end up agreeing with him or not).

I just read a relatively recent (2002) short essay by him about Christian Education. After bluntly stating Christians shouldn't send their children to American public schools (due to the godlessness of the worldview promoted by the same and the lost opportunity to fulfill Deuteronomy 6), he does grant a particular value in having Christian teachers in public schools. He says some things worth contemplating-

I grant that there are Christian teachers in the public school system, and I am grateful for them. They are front-line missionaries. It is true that their lips must often be closed; that is also true in other circumstances where there are enemies of the gospel, such as in Muslim countries. But they do have occasional opportunities to speak to their colleagues and students about Jesus, and these are not to be despised. Such people should understand their role. Their work is not to educate Christian kids. They should be honest and direct their Christian friends to send their children elsewhere. In the public school setting they can never hope to teach Christian young people as it should be done, at least while keeping their jobs. Their job is to perform a service for their government employer, and in that situation to present, as much as possible, a witness of word and life. There are subtle ways, too, in which they can present a witness, even in class. They can, for example, present internal critiques of secular philosophies, showing that they degenerate into nonsense under analysis. As such, they will be providing a good intellectual service for their students, while calling the whole secularist ideology into question. And imagine the student discovering outside of class that this teacher, a skeptic of all types of thinking in the classroom, is really a Christian!


Shelley said...

Hi Tony. Dennis showed me this, and I really appreciate you saying something about it. To be honest, I've always felt on the outside in a church with a wonderful Christian school and many home school families, and then me being a public school teacher (former :) ). In my classroom, I had several opportunities to discuss my church in class and tell the students I was praying for them and their families. For me, it was more of the subtle ways of showing my faith, such as not yelling at the students and berating them constantly when they acted up. We had several teachers who would get together and pray for the non-Christian teachers and for all the students. I was constantly challenged with students from difficult family situations, from parents in the federal penitentiary to families from government housing, and forced to look inward as to whether or not I was just looking down on them or really trying to help them. It is a mission field in my opinion if you choose to be bold and not just go with the flow and say nothing. My goal going forward is to one day Lord willing teach in a Christian school like Heritage, but I feel blessed to have had the job I did in the school that I did. I think the Lord put me there (as hard is that was for me to come to grips with) and I learned a lot from the teachers, students and parents. It is a lost world and needs great influences. Teachers influence the lives of the children they teach, in any school setting, but especially the public school where there are so many needs physically and spiritually. Lord willing, maybe Norah can go to Heritage. Anyways, thanks for your thoughts. That is how I always felt! Have a great week Tony!

Anonymous said...

Secret agent teacher! Especially when it comes to the the natural sciences.

Reepicheep said...

Great comment Shelley. Praise God for your ministry as a teacher in such a setting! I have no question you were used by God to be a blessing to families and a light for the gospel. This is a wonderful mission field for Christian teachers.

Rick Calohan said...

I use to have the booklet and probably a copy of the sermon text lying around somewhere by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, in short here is something to consider.

“Of course, one of the most important concepts to remember is that God gave the job of rearing godly children to parents, not to the state or the National Education Association. . . . The ones who will eventually pay the heaviest price are the children who are left to be trained solely by a false and empty humanistic education system which not only fails to educate, but fails to prepare them to become the moral leaders God intended them to be!”

While I applaud Shelly and Anonymous for the roles they have played in the lives of children who may never hear the Gospel in their homes, sadly they and other public school teachers can not just come out and say, today class lets take a look a John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Therefore, class, the notion of any other gods is not only superfluous but also impossible.

The kids do not have Christmas and Easter break the have winter and spring break. In fact, it is no longer BC or AD but BCE and CE. You cannot offer a prayer aloud to start or end a class; you cannot acknowledge a deity unless its mythology, you cannot say that God intended marriage to be a sacred union between a man and wife to procreate the species. You cannot say that abortion is murder, and everything else that is being taught at the Horace Mann School of Humanistic Progressivisms throughout the nation.

I know most that send their kids to public schools do so out of convenience or they feel that their school district is a good one and therefore my kids will get a decent education. Besides my kids, friends go to that school and my kids want to be with their friends and whatever other excuse we use to coexist. On the other hand, it could be economics; it simply does not cost you directly such as tuition to pay for your children.

Now with the exception of one school year (5th grade) I went to public schools from 1972-1985. Early on up until 4th grade, I remember reciting the pledge of allegiance, which by the way was originally a socialist pledge that was paraphrased. I believe most if not all of my teachers where Christians if not professing at least nominally so. The schools up until busing had a community environment, and they only alternative would be if you went to the local parochial school of which majority in my neighborhood were/are Roman Catholic.

Remembering how my former church had the opportunity to make a Christian school with the resources it had, but instead in order to reach out to the community and receive public funding favored a charter school. The church had always had a community center, the chapel was always there with first and second-generation Italian immigrants, but by the third generation, those children and grandchildren moved either north of the river or into Johnson County, or out of the area altogether. Therefore, the church was only stabilized by funds with the proviso that it continue to serve the needs of the community. The long and short of it was the community center and charter school eventually overshadowed the church, which was the foundation and thus the church in due time.
When I went back to school late in life that was the goal to become a teacher, but God had other plans for me, so as His Divine Providence guides me as it has throughout my life, the main reason why I moved to Olathe, was to be closer to Redeemer and to be closer to Westminster/Heritage Christian Academy for our children therefore by his Divine Providence I pray that regardless of how decent the Olathe School District is or how many Christian teachers it may have, I rather my children be in a Christian School where they will learn their chief goal in life to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Woody Woodward said...

Removing Christian teachers from the public school system we would be removing hope from a child who may see Jesus in no one but that teacher. A Godly teacher, living out his or her testimony is a powerful witness to a child seeking truth and love and acceptance.

Jeff said...

Rick - While you're right that I can't come right out in my class and quote John 1:1, I do have opportunities to plant seeds in my students' minds. I teach music. Talking about the voice, I often talk about how it was "designed" to sing. From this, I've had students ask what I mean by "designed", and I've been able to tell them "Mr. C's opinions & beliefs". My students know not to use God's name improperly in my room. I've invited students to our youth group. I've invited students & parents to our church. THere are plenty of opportunities to share my faith with my students in round-about ways, but in ways that they recognize. We talk about "church music" all the time. My students know what I believe.

I also have to agree with Shelley...I think Christian teachers see their students differently. I think of my students as created in God's image, and therefore, treat them differently.

Thanks for posting this Tony!