The Church Should End the Achievement Gap

I’ve never been a social justice person. In fact, I’ve been upset many times about the church meddling in any affair that is not directly related to the winning of souls. Please be certain that this is still my primary concern. The church was never supposed to enter into the public arena, from my limited knowledge of the scriptures.

Yet teaching children is something that believers were told to do. In many respects, it was an assumed art. Of course, Proverbs tells us that we are to, “train up a child in the way he should go…” I grant you that the public school system in America is in no way related to the sort of schools that kids went to in Biblical times. Often those schools were simply teaching kids the Law.By the way, "simply" is a misnomer. Of course I believe learning God's law is vital.

Let me be clear: I don’t think we should be mixing Christianity and the public school system. I’m not calling for prayer in school, etc. What I’m talking about is churches realizing that a problem exists: That low-income students in the United States are not keeping up with their peers when it comes to education. That is what we mean when referring to the “Achievement Gap;” that an educational achievement gap exists between students who’s parents have and students who’s parents have not. This is unsatisfactory.

Let me be frank:

I believe the church can close the achievement gap.
I believe it should.

Stay tuned for further explanation.

12 comments:

Alicia said...

Although praying in schools wouldn't be such a bad thing. :)

Anonymous said...

Well Mr. Smith I see your point in terms of the church meddling in any affair that is not winning souls. However, if the Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, then it would by default have to interfere. It is a way of life and that way of life sets a foundation. From that foundation rules are formed and if the rules violate the BIBLE then you would have to interfere. What does it say for a Christian that follow a man made law that violates the bible? Now fortunately I dont know of any out right ,but if i did then you would almost gaurantee that there would be some meddling by the church.

I completely agree with you that our Public school systems for low-income students just cant compete. But in what areas are they not competeing? I see the explanation with not much of an insight toward a solution. The answer is way more complicated then the problem. How do we fix it? there are a number of ways i can think of but all require a revolution of some sort within the body of the church. so let me be short.

The church can either support low income schools
or the church can create one a school.
both of which can be said easily but as far as getting anywhere to accomplish anything well that remains to be tested.

Dan said...

Alicia, praying in school is definitely a good thing...unless you're in Navy A School on break and the instructor thinks you're sleeping! Talk about persecution! LOL!

Anon: I think you and I agree. I will discuss the issue in much greater detail over time. At this point, it is just a conviction of mine based on some study I've done, both in the Bible and in education research.

Most importantly, I agree that it would take a revolution within the church to change the current situation. I'm not sure it's entirely possible, but perhaps. I'm hoping it is.

Someday I hope to test it.

Nate said...

Okay, here are my thoughts...

1. Praying in public schools is NOT a good thing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about public prayer, especially about the state forcing prayer upon people. I want people to pray because they ENJOY praying, not because some politician (who, by definition, does not follow the moral code of the Bible) says to pray.

2. The Church take responsibility for failing students? Hmmmmmmm. I think this is a huge argument, so I'll break it down.

2a. Why should an institution such as the Church take responsibility for public education? I agree with a previous poster that, if instruction is the law of God, then sure, the Church can teach that. But arithmetic? pscyhology? Why are these subjects the Church's responsibility?

2b. Wich "church" do you want to take responsibility for low-income students? The Nazarene Church? The Community of Christ? Islam? Buddhist Congregation (what do they call themselves)?

2c. What does the "church" do about nonmembers? I see a WHOLE LOT of children being left behind in this scenario. Religious schools already charge outrageous prices to supposedly provide a competitive education to that of public schools. Do you think low-income students would be able to afford that? And would the education be any better?

3. Social segregation, in part, was the Church's doing in the first place. So sure, it should probably take some responsibility for low-income students. However, the problem is not directly with schools. It has more (based on actual research conducted) to do with the home environment a child live within. What will the church do about the poor housing that it helped establish? Sure, churches support poor ministries, etc., but look at history...more damage has been done in the name of "God" than any state agency could dream of doing. So what will the church (and which church do you mean) do about the social environment that students live in?

4. I think you need to define what your goals are for education? If you go back through history, it was never the state's job to provide an education. If someone wanted to learn, they were taught by their parents or they paid for a tutor. How would low-income students fair in that regard?

5. MOST IMPORTANT...how will the church fund this? An education is not free! The church, by default, depends on people be willing AND ABLE to pay into the system. So how would low-income families benefit from a system they simply can't afford to pay their portion of? The only difference with this scenario is that instead of the state paying for education through taxes, you would have the church paying for it through tithing. Is public education really an outreach ministry?

6. All education is brainwashing. :)

I like the ideas. Feel free to argue, discuss, disagree with, agree with, etc., anything I have said. You know my biases.

Nato

Dan said...

Nate, first of all, thank you for weighing in. I appreciate your support. I would like to respond to your points as they were written:

1. That's not what Alicia was talking about. As you know, students are able to pray at any given time. She wasn't suggesting that we have corporate prayer. No one is suggesting that anymore, are they?

2a. I realize that I didn't express this in the original blog post (you should see my full notes on the topic), but I didn't mean the church take responsibility for psychology, social studies, etc. My concern is to provide low-income students a foundation in math and reading. A child who can read can learn anything.

2b. Doesn't matter, really, but I was assuming Christian churches. That would be my idea of an umbrella organization. I will discuss this more in future blog posts.

2c. Money is an issue, but if the church really got behind this, I'm talking about a program where students in low-income situations don't have to pay. That's the problem with private schools right now, at least how it pertains to my scenario. As anon said, it would take a revolution.

3. I need to see your evidence that the church created the poor housing situation in this country. And you are basing this "more damage" evidence on one or two major episodes of history. Most of the Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, South Americans, and tribal people today learned how to read because of missionaries. Was that bad? You're basing your argument here, not on fact, but on your biases. I'll discuss this more later in future posts as well.

4. That boat has sailed, little brother. The state has assumed the role of educator. Perhaps the global environment has dictated it. So yes, I need to define my goals: Kids need to learn to read. Reading creates opportunities.

5. I don't know. But the rich (meaning middle class church-goers) need to pony up. As to your last question on this point: Yes.

6. I agree.

Like I said, there will be more to come. I'm glad to have had the comments I've had so far. Stand by for more information!

Jin-roh said...

The irony is that I think the church should be concerned "social justice" issues, but I am deeply concerned about those who are attempting to close the "achievement gap" for two reasons (note, I am speaking from a teacher's experience here):

1. It assumes that school can accomplish such a task, despite home-life that does not value education.

2. The goal often seems noble (get these kids to college) but is often hidden elitism. It presumes to tell people that they have not "made it" unless they get to college. This is not true. It does not get you out poverty either.

Dan said...

I appreciate your teacher's perspective. It would seem, unfortunately, that the two people here who are teachers are assuming that the achievement gap cannot be closed (note: I don't think it can be closed by 2013, which was stipulated by NCLB).

1. I agree that home life has to value education. Without it, nothing will really matter. We are our parents children, after all.
2. It may not be true that someone has "made it" when they graduate from college, but it does, according to the numbers, pay better. That in itself doesn't guarantee a way out of poverty, but it sure does help.

Besides, closing the achievement gap is a misnomer, although I chose it for a good reason. The fact is, children should be able to read. If they can't, learning will be next to impossible. It's unfortunate, but true.

Jin-roh said...

Nate, to you points in general, I think it is worth noting that literacy spread in part because of the work of the Church. Also, the entire system of universities began within Christianity for during the middle age.

Dan, to you point that going to college generally pays better. This is certainly true, but I reiterate that it is not necessary for success, even financial success.

Dan said...

I'll grant you that it doesn't equal success, but it does put more food on the table (statistically speaking) than not being educated. Those are the lines I'm thinking along.

Good points on the church's role in historical education. I think it's time to look into that again.

Nate said...

Concerning the Church and literacy during the Middle Ages...

The Church was a very elite institution during the Middle Ages, and because of that, very few people were taught to read. In fact, one of the ways the Church was able to spread its doctrine to wide reaches of the earth was because the vast majority of people could NOT read or write. Therefore, they became dependent on their priests, bishops, etc., to discern the information for them.

Yeah, the Church began the concept of what we call universities, but remember during that time, there were no STATE educational institutions. If a person wanted to be educated, they had to be affiliated with a church, and usually they had to have a lot of money. There was no financial assistance like there is today.

It is a known historical fact that literacy did not spread rapidly until the printing press in the mid-1400s. What happens when people become literate? They start challening authoritative structures. And what happens in the 1500s? The Reformation! I find it difficult to give the Church credit for spreading literacy to the degree a nonreligious invention did.

What the Church (I am referring to the Roman Catholic Church by the way, the main Church during the Middle Ages and Renaissance time periods) did do is provide unity across all of Western Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. It became a place of security, hope, and community. It was not, however, a free-for-all place of higher learning.

If the Church's mission is to help the poor (which I firmly believe it should be based on the Bible that I read), then why has it established itself as such an elite institution that automatically tends to exclude those whom it supposedly is designed to help the most?

Dan said...

Nate, I know you're a busy man, but I recommend the book, Missionary Travels. It's a book about missionaries from England who worked in the Pacific Islands. No, the big church in pre-reformation Europe did not help spread literacy, but even now, the true church is doing so in tribes all over the world that cannot read.

I understand that you value the separation of church and state. I do too. But I promise I won't be promoting a plan wherein the church invades the local school district. I don't mean to work in religious re-education. I'm saying the church could help. Accept that, and let's move on to the next topic (not that I mind having such a vivid conversation on this post!).

Bruce Wasson said...

Dan,
Thank you for your 6/3/10 post. The Rev John Stott said: "If we truly love our neighbor, we shall without a doubt tell him the good news of Jesus. But equally, if we truly love our neighbor, we shall not stop there." The solutions for closing the academic achievement gap are well understood by the educators who repeatedly create this outcome for every child. However when it comes to the importance of resolving this issue and the cost of failure to do so, it appears the Rev Stott's words and James 2:14 are still falling on mostly deaf ears. It made me glad to see by your post that another Christian "gets it". http://www.altadenaschools.net