Christianity and Public Education (Part 2)

    For years, Denise, an elementary school music teacher, felt she was denying her faith when she taught her students Christmas songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman," but never any Christmas carols about Jesus, which she thought the law prevented her from doing. Then she discovered she was wrong -- the law does allow public school students to sing religious Christmas carols. So she decided to teach her students "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Silent Night," and more. In fact, Denise began class by announcing that they were going to learn some Christmas songs about Jesus Christ. She was surprised when some of the children in the class gasped, as if she had used a swear word. They didn't know who Jesus was, they said, and thought the words "Jesus Christ" were curse words. Well, that day Denise had to become a history teacher before she could be a music teacher. A good education not only means that students can learn about Christianity, it means they can learn how the Christian religion has had a positive impact on the world. But is education like that really possible in today's public schools? In his new article, "Integrating Faith and the Public Schools Without Mixing Church and State," author Eric Buehrer says that teaching students about Christianity and its positive influence on American culture is not only possible, it's legal, and a legitimate academic pursuit for public schools. For example, Buehrer points out that in 1995 the California State Board of Education published a handbook on teaching about religion in the schools. In it they state: "School personnel are obliged to help students develop an informal understanding and appreciation of the role of religion in the lives of Americans and people of other nations." The handbook continues, "Study about religion in America is fundamental to understanding and appreciating the American heritage. America is a land of many races, cultures, languages, and religions. Students should learn about the contributions of religion to America." You see, history is not merely the recording of events; it is the understanding of what motivated the people behind those events. Even a liberal state like Massachusetts recognizes the academic legitimacy of teaching students about Christianity. In their social studies standards for grades 5 through 8, students are encouraged to "understand the power of ideas behind important events." And, as an example, the Department of Education suggests they discuss how the ideas of Moses and Jesus could motivate entire nations to action. What an open door for helping students understand the impact of biblical truth on the lives of people and their cultures! But this is only one small example. Teachers should have no doubt that teaching students about the importance of Christianity is academically appropriate. You can help teachers in your church, and in your children's and grandchildren's schools, to have the confidence to do this by reminding them that education about the role of Christianity is legal, and it's logical. Contact us here at BreakPoint and we'll send you a copy of Eric Buehrer's article, "Integrating Faith and the Public Schools Without Mixing Church and State," along with some other materials that will help you make the case. Students need to be taught the historical and social importance of the Christian faith, and strange as it may seem, school officials from California to Massachusetts agree.


Chuck Colson


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