Friday, April 21, 2006

Do Baptist leaders oppose homeschooling and Christian ed?

According to their press release early this morning,

The Baptist Center for Ethics on Friday released a pastoral letter decrying the demonization of public education and calling on Baptists to "speak positively about public education and to take proactive initiatives that advance a constructive future for America's public school system."

And certainly that can be done. Whatever your views on privatization, home education, school choice, or other alternatives, still nine out of ten North Carolina families send their children to the traditional public schools. Nearly 50% of the state's budget is spent on K-12 education. If for no other reasons, we should all be concerned with improving the educational system. A lot of money and a lot of people are fully committed to it and depend on the results.

You can support "a constructive future" for the schools even if your kids aren't involved. And you can do it without tearing down other alternatives. This state's largest homeschooling organization, North Carolinians for Home Education, made the decision over fourteen years ago to focus on "the positive aspects and excellent quality of home education" instead of criticizing the public school system -- which had tried very hard just a few years before to clamp draconian regulations on the fledgling movement. NCHE's leaders at the time understood that you can take one option over another, even promote your favorite choice, without seeking to run down the others.

So why does the Center for Ethics include this statement in paragraph three of their pastoral letter?

"We believe it is wrong for Baptist leaders to urge Baptists to exit the nation's public school system for homeschools and Christian academies and to equip that cause."

The message appears to be aimed at supporters of The Exodus Mandate, but the wording of the Center for Ethics statement wields an awfully broad tar-brush. As it stands, it appears to be an unbiblical and historically un-Baptist binding of the consciences of pastors as well as their members.

I believe it will prove to be short-sighted, as well, given the number of evangelical families who are already homeschooling or sending their children to Christian schools. More than two-thirds of the 65 thousand or so children being homeschooling in North Carolina are in self-identified "religious" homeschools, and a larger number than that in the Christian academies.

Are the churches associated with this letter turning their backs on members who choose something other than the local public schools for their children, often after much prayer and soul-searching, and with continuing sacrifice after the decision? I hope not, but this letter is not a good starting point.

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