Friday, February 8, 2013

Christian Schools, Failing Schools and Elite Schools

Militant atheists are just that – they are militant and they are atheists. I saw one castigating a pastor who claimed that God didn’t intervene in a school shooting because the schools have kicked God out.
The atheist regarded this thinking as moronic, but I think we should stop and take a second look. I’ve taught in many places – Christian schools, elite schools, and failing New York City schools.

Interestingly, the elite schools weren’t so different from the failing schools. Admittedly, some of the failing schools were more like obstacle courses where the goal was to survive until the end of the day. The teachers roamed the halls fearfully with tear-filled eyes. Turning one’s back on the class to write on the blackboard was a very dangerous undertaking. It invited flying projectiles and other things that could jeopardize survival.

While it is true that in the elite schools you didn’t have to worry about projectiles, knives, or sometimes even fists, there were still egregious disciplinary problems. Some people say, “Well, boys will be boys,” but I think that boys can be boys on the streets and not bring their disrespect and disregard for authority and their classmates into school.

Admittedly, I am making some broad generalizations, so I’ll be specific and tell you about a Christian secondary school (7-12) where I have spent my last three January vacations serving as a volunteer teacher. While it is a large school – over 800 students - it is also very personal and even warm.

Of course, we pray together and talk a lot about what is most central to our lives — our Savior — and perhaps this is why the atmosphere is entirely different from any other school I’ve ever experienced. Students and teachers greet me in the hallway with…“Welcome back, Mr. Mann.” Discipline has never been an issue, at least a real one, in any of the classes where I have taught. Once I tell the students that I don’t allow any side conversations in class, it’s a done-deal. No projectiles, although I’ve heard tell of some, and no disrespect. I looked forward to going to class in the morning, and I’ve never waited anxiously for the final buzzer.
In one class, I talked about the students’ responsibility to stick up for the welfare of others. During this talk, a teacher at the school and I sensed that some of the students were fired up to do just that – to be guardians of righteousness.

No one becomes a heroin addict overnight. It happens in incremental stages, perhaps starting with marijuana. Likewise, no student becomes a shooter overnight. It might begin with legitimizing disrespect for others. It might be helped along by “values-clarification” exercises, which communicate to the students that there are no objective rights and wrongs - just individual orientations and needs that require expression and satisfaction. From there, they learn that, before all else, they must be true to themselves - their own dispositions and tastes.

Everything can and is expressed in such schools – whatever is required to be true to self! Unfortunately, killing is true for some young adults, so much so that they gladly advertise their proclivities and intentions on Facebook.

Perhaps we – Western civilization – need to wake up and smell the coffee. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves how we’ve gotten into our present mess.  Perhaps we need to take another look at where we came from and what made our schools so successful in the past.  Perhaps the pastor had a good point.

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