According to the National Center for Education Statistics, minority students, when added together, make up a new majority in K-12 schools. The shift is largely fueled by growth in the number of Hispanic children. Since 93 percent of America’s students—including students with a tradition of faith—are enrolled in public schools, the educational success or failure of these schools directly impacts America’s churches. As our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers, we should care deeply that all this year’s kindergarteners, the future class of 2027, will graduate with a solid educational foundation. If we expect the next generation of church leaders to be literate, and biblically literate, then we should unwaveringly support student success in our public schools.
Carlos Campo writes these words in a column for Christianity Today. What’s troubling about this is not the concern for children; I share Campo’s concern. What’s troubling is his equation of acting justly and loving mercy with staying—and that means not parents but children staying—in failing public schools.
Still processing this, but some random thoughts.
As Christians, we must certainly “seek the good of the city,” and that means helping students and the community as a whole succeed. But I ask several questions.
1. Jeremiah wrote to a people who had a rich culture, a rich common tradition, who were serious about ensuring their children were ready for the return. They were not encouraging an exile mentality, but a return mentality.
2. What is student success? Campo seems content with the primarily utilitarian approach of public education—which continues apace with the advance of the Common Core.
3. Education is about more than literacy, more than functionality, more than productivity.
4. What is encouraging student success? Does it mean sending your kids in? Or does it mean leading a tutorial for public-school kids? Encouraging student success is not the same as sending your children into someone else’s care, who will necessarily shape their hearts through more one-on-one time than they have at home, not knowing what that system will produce.
If we sent our kids to public school, would they be okay? Probably. Is ‘okay’ good enough?