Our Schools Are Their Mission Field

by damnedhippie

Ah, Clubfest. Every single club on campus is randomly assigned half of a folding table and crammed into a single room. When I say randomly, I mean randomly. Last year, the BDSM club shared a table with the Mormon club. Either the table assignments are totally random, or somebody is a smartass.

I went mostly for the free candy bars. I signed onto the mailing lists of the triathlon club, and the Indian culture club. The student missionary group that fancies its self as hip handed out free Ramen. Across the aisle from the tower of freeze-dried noodles was this un-manned booth:

The Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) is on a mission to “Encourage, Equip and Empower Educators according to Biblical Principles.” Since 1954, CEAI has been preparing future christian teachers for their mission field. And it’s not just any mission field. It’s our public schools.

Just take a look at the testimonials for the teacher camp:

Group discussions brought us together as a family of believers and  helped us gain insight about the many wonderful aspects of teaching.

I wasn’t sure if teaching was for me and now I feel called to use it to serve the Lord (sic).

I used to think I would teach until I could become a missionary overseas. God used people I met at teacher camp to show me that he has called me to the mission field of my classroom.

No prizes for guessing whether or not I think this is a good idea. We already have a problem in many public schools in which christians think that because they are the majority, they can bully, intimidate, and ostracize people who are not christians. A “professional” association raising up crops of christian teachers with a persecution complex and a mandate from Yahweh can only make things worse.

I put “professional” in scare quotes because there is nothing professional about breaking the law. Government workers, from the president down to the post officer, should not use their official capacity for the purpose of promoting a religion. The testimonials that this organization has chosen to represent its self makes it clear that they are encouraging students to dedicate their entire public school teaching careers to advancing christianity. Even if these future teachers follow the letter of the law to a t, they break the spirit of the law before they even set foot in the classroom.

The letter of the law is likely broken anyway. CEAI puts its self in direct competition with secular organizations such as the NEA and teacher unions: “Many of our Christian teachers are giving hundreds of dollars per year to associations without considering the worldview being supported. . . Members save hundreds compared to NEA annual dues.” They lament that, “only 9% of those who call themselves Christian actually have a Biblical worldview about life and their subject matter.” They explicitly help public school educators “teach Christianity”, and provide members with free bibles for the classroom. They even provide generous legal liability insurance!

I have a son in elementary school. I want his teacher to be a teacher because she is invested in our future, because he can endure the company of little ones for hours on end without popping a blood vessel, because she knows that knowing how to think and learn is critical to a happy, productive life. I do not want a teacher who is in it to win souls for his or her imaginary friend. People who are ambivalent about teaching should stay ambivalent until they are convinced that teaching is an important job in its own right, and that they are the persons to do it. Earning brownie points with the man upstairs should not be the selling point.

Most of all, I want my son’s teachers to be dedicated to preparing students for navigating this world, not the next. Freedom of religion does not entitle an educator to an alternate reality.

Unfalsifiable claims about ancient history and the afterlife aside, there are facts about science, history, and law that have been confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt that we all need to agree on if we are going to keep our society functioning and solve the problems we face. It will probably even be the difference between whether or not our species survives its self.

If your biblical worldview has you butting heads with the organizations that are on the front lines of educating the country that founded its self on freedom of speech and the market place of ideas, it isn’t because your worldview is the oppressed truth yearning to be free. It means that it’s wrong. If perpetuating these wrong ideas is more important to you than your duty to teach kids what they need to know to build a decent future in this world, then you don’t belong in the classroom.

These people should be fired, but they likely won’t be. Challenging teachers for church-state violations is difficult. The community invariably circles the waggons and accuses the boat-rocker of religious persecution. This is how this organization gets away with offering both atrociously bad legal advice and millions of dollars in legal liability insurance to its members.

We can’t let them do that. We must keep the pressure on, because our children deserve a fighting chance.