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Letters to the Editor #18 (Public Schools, Gossip)

Not surprisingly, this was a busy week for letters to the editor. I say it is not surprising because of the article I wrote on Monday concerning public schools and their teachers. The majority of the letters today (and, indeed, almost all of the letters I received this week) concern that article. I’m grateful that so many people took time to write kind, thoughtful responses.

Comments on A La Carte (March 22)

I am a long-time reader and enjoy your site. I just want to encourage you to refrain from prolifigating the Christian-celebrity gossip that fills too much of the Christian blogosphere. There was no reason to link to more info about Tullian Tchividjian’s affairs. Neither you, nor the vast majority of your readers are part of his church(es), and there are many more edifying things for us to be reading about. I hope you hear this as a loving encouragement. Keep up the great blog!
—Doug H, Tampa, FL

Tim: I linked to the recent news about Tchividjian with some hesitation, but with the belief that it is important information for those who have read his books and been impacted by his ministry. I consider it news, not gossip, because his greatest impact was within the very Christian community that tends to read my site. I, myself, have promoted his books in the past, so feel that I need to also share this.

Comments on Stop Slandering Public School Teachers

As a classical Christian teacher, I am obviously biased when I say I think Christian education is the best option, but I do believe God, through his common grace, gives teachers incredible gifts to educate students. I don’t believe the majority have a problem or critique with teachers per se, but with the curriculum brought on by public schools. That I can understand, for being able to teach how Christ is center across all the disciplines is a real eye opener that can not happen in a public school curriculum.
—Dustin C, Kent Island, MD

***

As the wife of a public high school teacher with two children in the public school system, I applaud this article. In our Christian community, the “homeschooling” model has overshadowed every other option in a way that makes those of us in the public system feel like we are betraying our faith. As a teacher and football coach, my husband is passionate about his job and the children he impacts every day; he does not hesitate to share his faith in the classroom, and he shows the love of Christ to so many kids who are ignored or neglected. While we agree that the public system won’t work for every family in every situation, it is working for us and we need our Christian brothers and sisters to stop vilifying our efforts and making us feel like traitors.
—Laura H, Markham, ON

Tim: The discussion about education would certainly be much easier if we were all able to speak about one another with grace and respect. But as soon as we get children involved and share what we believe is best for our children, it is difficult to not be seen as passing judgment on others.

***

I’m not really sure what you are trying to communicate here. You say you have encountered hundreds of negative statements about public schools and public school teachers, but that you have had a good experience with both. That’s awesome that you have, but I’m pretty sure that it is fallacious to use that anecdotal evidence to make your case (even while acknowledging that your evidence is anecdotal). No doubt, there are great public schools and great public teachers (I live blocks away from a teacher training institute - so I know many great future teachers). Nevertheless, there are terrible ones too. So maybe some of those hundreds of statements that you have heard are true. The fact is, even with good teachers, it is getting tougher and tougher to make the case for public education for Christians. I still think it can be a great option for some, but more caution than ever is needed; and not because all teachers are evil, but because the wider culture increasingly is, and public ed is lockstep with that culture.
—Gordon J, Chadron, NE

***

Thanks for addressing the issue of slander in recent articles. As a homeschooler, I am concerned about the tone of the rhetoric I sometimes hear. But the issue of slander extends beyond schooling choices with grave repercussions. I was raised on a steady diet of evangelical black-and-white perspectives buttressed with the type of rhetorical strategies you’ve been critical of (see 7 Rules for Online Engagement), but in high school and college came to see that the intersections of social issues, public policy, and science with faith can be complicated and nuanced. At that time I concluded that Christian leaders either suffered from a competency problem (they lacked the ability to engage with a disciplinary canon, understand key concepts, and/or quote appropriately); or an integrity problem (they purposefully misrepresented other authors). Neither of these problems elicited much confidence in Christians’ ability to teach me about God. Many people I know have left the faith permanently due to this issue of slander, and it’s only by the grace of God that I’ve remained a Christian. I understand that facts and ideas can be messy, and sometimes challenge our precious beliefs in ways that are hard to reconcile. But perhaps instead of oversimplifying or misrepresenting others to make ourselves more comfortable, we might benefit from developing strategies to live with some tension. Doing so would recognize that we might not have everything figured out yet, that no truth will contradict a God of Truth, and that we love others enough to bear honest witness about them. Thanks for encouraging us to use our words more carefully.
—Brooklyn W, Hutchinson, KS

***

Tim, thank you so much for writing “Stop Slandering Public School Teachers.” I am a public inner-city high school teacher myself. For many of us Christian teachers in public schools, teaching in our public schools has become part of our mission field. And I see all my students as gifts that God has given me, even those who dislike teachers, live lifestyles or other faiths and which I might not approve, or simply come from a place far different than me. Teachers would be quick to tell some Christians who have forgotten this a simple truth: that all children deserve to be loved and taught. While I do not begrudge any parent any decision to not send their children to public schools, I am sometimes shocked by how many businesses, interest groups, trade groups, and the like want to work with me and my kids, but that so many churches avoid the public school as if a secret Devil Hand was going to come out and grab their kids. Instead, I would encourage churches to look for hands-on ways in which they can support their public schools because there are Ministry opportunities there and opportunities for the grace of God to work. Here in the US, many of our public schools are becoming clusters of child poverty, desperately in need of loving people to come and help the educators with problems that are surpassing their training.
—Jason P, Nashville, TN

Tim: I’d encourage every Christian woman to check out Moms in Touch and consider praying for schools, their teachers, and their students.

***

I don’t think I’ve ever been engaged in or heard anyone slandering public teachers. Just the system they have to work inside of. It sounds as though the Challies’ have had a great experience with their teachers and administrators. PTL!! The admins and teachers have been gracious and honoring of their convictions and beliefs. On the other hand there are public schools who cannot or will not discipline rowdy and unruly children for fear of retaliation from parents or admins. We read stories every day where a child who does not wish to participate in a sex-ed program, or evolution curriculum, who is then in turn mocked and slandered. There are definitely excellent teachers teaching in the public school system. But after helping to home-school our children and having teachers and educators look down on us and treat us like backward thinking citizens it is hard to remain silent when this system gets praised.
—Barry S, Lincoln, NE

***

Tim, thank you for your thoughtful article regarding slandering public school teachers. I work full time as a first grade teacher in a public school here in California. I can testify that I know many compassionate, highly skilled teachers who labor to see each student grow. I have seen the name of Christ maligned by some Christian families who adopt a hostile, often uninformed approach to an issue in the classroom. Would they approach a fellow church member like that? Maintain an attitude of humility and respect and ask open-ended questions, and the vast majority of teachers view you as a partner, not an adversary. It’s also important to remember that the extreme anecdotes one might hear on Christian talk radio or some blogs are usually the exception, not the norm. As a teacher and parent, I echo your prior articles - know your context; make a prayerful, informed decision year by year; and partner with your teachers!
—Andy K, Sacramento, CA

***

Tim, Thanks for the good word about public school teachers. I am one. I spent 22 years as a pastor and a home-schooler. I now teach at a public middle school. I have found I’m surrounded by unbelieving teachers who genuinely care about their students, work hard to cooperate with parents, and have no agenda to secularize their pupils. They have felt the distrust and disdain of believers who have wrongly judged them. It’s sad. Thanks for bringing attention to it. Slander of any kind is more representative of our Enemy than our Savior.
—Jim A, Wheatland, CA

***

You are very fortunate to have had the experiences you have had with public education in your area. Our experiences were the entire range; outstanding to criminal neglect. Those situations that I could influence and improve I did. Those that I couldn’t were publicized appropriately and I moved on. What scares me, frankly, are the reports I am told by the 3 public school teachers in my family. I have no reason to not believe what they tell me but the verbal and emotional abuse that some teachers and administrators throw at other teachers, especially those who are “openly” Christian, is astonishing. So to circle back, I think your experience is extraordinary. What we need to do as Christian parents and grandparents is to create and sustain full engagement with the staff at our children’s school and do what we need to do in both encouragement and correction.
—Keith W, Royal Oak, MI

Tim: This is merely a sampling of the many letters I received. I am grateful for each and every person who took the time to get in touch.

Comments on The Privilege of a Pastor’s Wife

I am a pastor’s wife, and I appreciated your article. It got me thinking about what I consider privileges of being married to a pastor, in addition to those you posted. I just wanted to share a few: I have a husband who is able and regularly does open the Scriptures to me and my children and who is able to answer spiritual questions that we have; because of the nature of his job, our family life is necessarily oriented around the church; we get to host visiting missionaries and pastors, in addition to guests and members at our church, and hear stories of what the Lords is doing in hearts all around the world; because of his position, we are sometimes able to minister to people when others are not able to access them (“clergy” privilege). I hear so many stories of hard pastoral experiences in churches, and I just wanted to share some encouragements that I have had over the years. Thank you again for your encouragements!
—Mary F, Chester, PA


In lieu of a comments section, I accept and encourage letters to the editor.
If you would like to write a letter to the editor, you can do so here.