Saturday, October 21, 2006

education & the kingdom of God

On the way back from a work-related visit yesterday to a Christian school in Esteli, my coworkers and I got into a conversation about sustainable development and education here in Nicaragua. Some preliminary thoughts I’ve been having on the subject:

Long-term development practitioners focus on investing in people and communities who WANT to be invested in, who WANT to change. Therefore, starting new schools in places where there is no existing school but no community commitment to education is unlikely. However, what about the parents without the means to pay for their child’s education in a Christian school? What about the public schools? What kind of involvement should Christians have in the improvement of public schools and the education of students in that system? Does the burden of providing education in communities where no school exists fall on the government or the church?

One root question in all of this seems to boil down to the purpose of education. Is the purpose simply to learn to read, write, do math, think critically, and become a productive member of society? Or does it also include social and moral formation? In both public and private schools, there is academic, social, and moral formation. Most certainly the social and moral aspects of learning found a public school are not always congruent with a biblical worldview. But does that mean that Christians should withdraw from this aspect of society?

Absolutely, the quality of Nicaraguan education can and will be improved through the development of privately financed Christian schools (in this way not abdicating personal responsibility and blaming the government for everything). But it will also be improved if Christians enter the public square and speak out about these issues, or seek public office to address them, in a salt-of-the-earth kind of way.

Private schools need to be privately sustained, and not every family can afford a private school education (Christian or not). Simultaneously, education is a right and necessity of every child. Clearly, it is in society’s best social and economic interests to provide a high-quality education to as many of its children as possible. That means education is a public burden, one that tax dollars should be prioritized to support.

I hope that Christians do not limit their efforts to the formation and improvement of Christian schools but recognize the call to "do justice" and advocate in favor of the transformation of the government’s response to and role in the national education needs of its citizens as a way of bringing the Kingdom of God ever closer in this country.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Interesting thoughts; furthermore, where does homeschooling fit in to your thoughts here? (BTW do not assume I am a proponent of homeschooling by the mere mention of it).

I am still developing my opinions & arguments for the public vs. private school debate, but I already have quite a soapbox about it.

In a nutshell, there is an alarming air of superiority amongst the homeschooling people I come into contact with, like, "Only I am qualified enough to teach my children about the world..." Oh really? I suppose you have a degree in education then. As a former public school teacher, I am really shocked at the bad reputation we have (teachers do the best they can with what they're burdened with), and at the same time, I am not so sure I want my daughter roaming the halls of the public schools I taught in.

I think the key for parents is teaching their children how to respond/react when they see/hear something they shouldn't at school, not try to block them from the sin that is there. Sin is everywhere and the sooner kids know how to recognize & deal with it, the better.

One Christian mom I know (who didn't go to college) said to me, "I was a public school kid, I know the state of education in public schools, and I don't want my kids experiencing that." (She said this to me, knowing I was a public school teacher. Um, thanks.)

I was telling another Christian mom about some wonderful teenagers in our church who live for Jesus in a VERY secular world and do it really well, and I said, "Kids are surprisingly able to evangelize their worlds if they're willing; their sphere of influence is great." And the mom actually responded, "Yes, but should we really put that on our children to do that?" My jaw about fell to the floor.

There is a ton more I can say about it; like I said, I have quite a soapbox but not many solutions.

Good post Pammie!!