Difficult decisions, critical choices

flash-of-genius-2008Principles or pragmatism? Is there a right answer? How do we decide? Is there a decision-making grid for Christians around dilemmas, one that we could teach to our students?

Let me give an example from a recent movie, Flash of Genius. An engineer, who is a part-time inventor at nights, comes up with the very first intermittent windshield wiper mechanism. This feat has not been accomplished before by any of the auto companies and when the inventor shows the lead engineer at Ford Motor Company, the engineer is naturally keenly interested. Over the course of several months while waiting to hear from Ford about them purchasing his invention, the inventor comes to believe that his creation has been stolen and reproduced. He spends the next many years of his life attempting to right this injustice and prove that he is the original creator of this invention. In the process of his preoccupation and concerted effort around his legal efforts, he is divorced by his wife and loses contact with his young and large family. In typical Hollywood fashion he regains some of his family relationships back as his children assist him in his legal efforts and in the end he wins his case. Justice has been served – but at what human cost? Did our character gain the world, but lose his life in the process? What was the opportunity cost to his family of his decision? Does family need/nurture trump justice? What was the right decision for the main character in this movie?

Here is a rubber hits the road example as applied to Christian schools. In western Michigan, some Christian schools have entered into shared time relationships with public schools. On the face it seems like a win-win – the Christian school gets teachers paid for by the public school and thereby gaining budget relief, while the public school gets to count the Christian school students as their own for state funding purposes. However, teachers in the Christian school, who are now public school employees, have to give up teaching in a distinctively Christian manner since they are now public school employees. Is this a retreat from mission and principles (distinctively Christian instruction in all subject areas – “every square inch”) or a pragmatic solution so that tuition does not need to be raised, thereby forcing more families to leave Christian education? Do we agree with the state definition of subjects such as art, music, P.E., technology, world languages as being “non-core”? (“Core” subjects are not eligible for shared time designation.) Of course if we went back to the days of teachers teaching their own art, P.E, and music we could save the same amount of money. But would we be sacrificing quality instruction in the process? Is not offering these subjects at all a better choice than having them taught by public school teachers?

What is your opinion and why?

Whether you come down on the side of principles or pragmatism, I would encourage schools in these circumstances to have school society dialogues about these kinds of decisions because they speak to the core of our missions and our reasons for existence. Our kids are watching not only what decisions we make, but how we make them.

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17 Comments

Filed under change, distinctively Christian, leadership, mission measurement, resources

17 responses to “Difficult decisions, critical choices

  1. Pete Post

    I will once again pose an interesting question from nurturingfaith to my education students at Trinity Christian College and look forward to their responses. Recently I shared another dilemma with the students. The state of Illinois has a proposal to give $3 million dollars to Trinity (which could really help with our gym expansion) but the catch is that it seems that the money is linked to legalized video gaming. Makes one ponder wwjd?

  2. Lauren Gattuso

    First, I always have a problem when people say that “Christian teachers have to give up teacing in a Christian manner when they teach in public schools.” It bothers me because just because you can’t speak the Gospel doesn’t mean you can’t live it out and that God will provide opportunities for you to speak. In the words of Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times and when nesscesary use words.” I feel that sometimes we limit God, when we think that we can’t spread the Gospel in public schools because we can’t speak the Gospel… God can do anything regardless on whether or not we use words.

    Now I don’t believe with the state in thinking that P.E., technology, world language, art and must as not being core subjects. They definitely are, art and music help students express themselves and their have also been studies that ave shown that music helps students do better in math and so on. Technology is also important because the world is growing rapidly due to the use in technology and there is always new technology coming out, students defintely need to learn about technology. As far as world languages, what about the students who want to maybe eventually teach in another country but are scred to because they don’t know the language? It also helps people and the economy to have people know different langauges because it makes the individual more global which is imortant in todays day in age. P.E. is important too, America seems to constantly complain about obeisity ratings yet they aren’t giving enough time for P.E. These are all equally as important as instructionally and mybe should be incorporated. I took a class about fine arts education which basically shows how you can combine art and instruction in the same classroom and I don’t mean having an art class. You can always have kids draw pictures or creatively write about what they are learning, it may take some difference in constructing lesson plans but I would ask you… is it worth it?

  3. Michelle Svendsen

    A red flag went up in my mind when the article said, “Teachers in the Christian school have to give up teaching in a distinctively Christian manner since they are now public school employees.” The whole purpose of a Christian school is to teach in a distinctively Christian manner in all subject areas. That is why Christian families send their children to these schools. It is set apart from any other type of school. If teachers are not allowed to teach in that way, then what is the point of having Christian schools? As for tuition, Christian schools are expensive, but some families feel that it is worth the cost. My parents did not make a lot of money, but they sacrificed a lot to send their four children to Christian schools. They thought it was worth it and even though tuition went up each year, they made it happen. For that, I am grateful to my parents who worked so hard in order for me to receive such a high quality education.
    I do not agree with the state definition of art, P.E., music, technology and world languages as being “non-core.” These are just as important as other subject areas. In order to encourage students to become well-rounded people, we must expose them to all different kinds of arts and sports. For example, students who sit in their desk all day need time to run around and expend some energy. They need to participate in some kind of physical activity in order to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. That P.E. time may be the only chance they get that day to exercise. Also, instructing them in these areas of art, music and sports may uncover hidden talents among the students and may allow a chance for them to express themselves. I also do think that students need to learn about these subjects from a teacher who is certified in that area and who knows what they are talking about. This is going to give students the best quality education. Don’t they deserve that?

  4. Luke S.

    I think that if the public school system wants to join with the private Christian school system, it obviously means that the Christian Schools are doing a good job getting results. Therefore wouldn’t it make sense for the public school system to avoid changing the way the Christian school operates (distinctively Christian instruction in all subject areas and to engage in the the instruction of “non-core” areas of education). I think the Christian schools should make this clear to the public system that, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  5. Brie Assink

    At first, I did not agree with this solution. After all the reasoning behind Christian education is so that students can be surrounded by people with Godly character and have Christian morals and viewpoints integrated into their everyday lessons. Now, I realize that these same Christian teachers are teaching their students, which is awesome because the students still have those Christian role models in their daily lives. However, as stated, the teachers can no longer teach in their typical Christian manner which is extremely unfortunate.
    Even though these teachers are not able to teach as we would have hoped, at least they are still the teachers these students are learning from! If this hadn’t happened, and tuition was raised, most likely quite a few students wouldn’t have been able to afford a Christian education any longer. The students can still learn Christian morals and values from their Christian teachers even if the teachers don’t talk openly about Christianity in the classroom. Also, this was stated as a “shared time relationship”, which I’m assuming means some of the time they teach as “public school teachers”, but at other times they can become their typical “Christian school teachers” again, so at least the students will still be able to have their core Bible classes (I’m assuming).
    As for fine art subjects, well, even in my Christian high school they weren’t emphasized that strongly, probably not any more than the public schools around us. Also, public schools often have more opportunities for after school activities that involve fine arts, such as art clubs, theater, bands, and sports that the students could be involved in. In addition, teachers could put more of an effort into incorporating the fine arts into the core subjects, which is proven to help students learn better anyway!
    While the situation is unfortunate, the most important thing to remember is that students are still receiving their education from Christian teachers, which might have been taken away from them if tuition was raised.

  6. Margaret Miller

    I think that just because it says, “Teachers in the Christian school have to give up teaching in a distinctively Christian manner since they are now public school employees,”should not completely change how the teacher acts. If the teacher is Christian, then they will always act in a Christianly way, even if they can not express their beliefs to the students. I do not agree with the state definition of art, P.E., music, technology, and world languages as being “non-core.” I believe that these are just as important as all of the other subjects. The students need art and music to express themselves, and technology is so important in our everyday life and it keeps becoming more advanced and it is important for the students to keep up. P.E. is especially important because Americans have become so obese in the past years. I think that it is important to have a teacher that is certified in these subject areas so the students can really benefit from the classes. I went to a Catholic school, and I never remember my teachers in the “non-core” subjects talking about religion, so I do think that having the teachers get paid by public schools is not a bad idea, since there are a lot of families struggling to pay tuition.

  7. Kathy Hossink

    I think it’s a neat idea to have students from Christian schools and students from public school combined for various subjects and activities because it exposes students to people from various backgrounds. Also, it gives the Christian school kids a wonderful opportunity to witness to students who might otherwise never hear the gospel. At the same time, I don’t think it is worth it if the Christian school teachers are unable to teach from a Christian perspective. Parents send their children to Christian schools so that each and every subject, including subjects such as P.E. and art, can be taught from a Christian perspective. God is found in those subjects and therefore should be acknowledged in those subjects as well. Now I understand that a teacher can reflect Christ through more than what he or she says, but limiting how a teacher can reflect Christ by putting restrictions on what he or she is allowed to say should not be ok with the school administrators or parents. If a Christian school teacher wants to talk about God in P.E. by acknowledging how amazing the human body is, he or she should be free to do so.

  8. Jessica Kamp

    I don’t agree that the Christian schools should have to give up their teaching of the Bible. I like how they are able to make Christian School cheaper, but at what cost are they doing that. I do not believe that they would be giving up good instruction because they have the same Christian Teachers. The teachers can show their Christianity through their actions and attitude. I also believe that the subjects like PE, technology, art, and music are core classes. They are classes that need to be in schools and they should be just as important as math and science. I believe that the Christian schools need to have all the subjects. I am personally not willing to give up my Christian education for anything.

  9. Jenna Young

    I can understand why people would be upset. What they’re doing really isn’t right, and it’s not really giving our students a Christian education. However, I can’t really argue with them. If that is what they want to do, let it be. However, I wouldn’t advise parents who want their children to have a Christian education to send there children there in order to save money.

  10. Mike Jones

    If I was a parent who was paying tuition to send my kid to this Christian school in western Michigan, I would be very upset, and would probably not send my child to this school. The problem I see with this situation is that I would be paying lots of money for what is only a partial Christian education, and the core reason for me sending my child to this school would be to recieve a FULL, through Christian education. Regardless of what my financial situation would possibly be, I would rather not cut corners on my childs Christian education to save some money, because if I’m going to commit to sending my child to a Christian school, then I would need that school to be fully committed to giving my child a proper Christian education, even if it had to cost a little bit more.

  11. Laura Roose

    This is a very interesting situation. I do not know if I quite understand how a Christian school coming together with a public school would work. Would you even still be able to call the school a Christian school if they are no longer allowed to talk about Christianity? I like the idea, but there must be some way that students could take classes that have a Christian perspective. Maybe it could be that the students are allowed to sign up for their classes. If the students or thier parents can sign up for their classes, they can take whatever classes that they want which would be acceptable in public schooling. The main point of public schooling is so that everyone feels accepted; if the choice of taking different classes was extended to the students, everyone would still feel accepted. I think that all private schools should take advantage of this idea. It sounds great. It would provide a great opportunity for the Christian school students to minister to the public school students and to interact with other non-believers while still growing in their faith. It would also be beneficial to the public school students to see how Christ is living in each of the private school students. Overall, I think this is a great way that the private school teachers can have a more substanial salary, and that the funding would go up for the public schools as long as the private school does not lose it’s Christian perspective.

  12. Rachel VandeKamp

    As many people have already pointed out, this is a major RED FLAG! Christian schools have a higher calling of education to teach not only curriculum to the students but also to teach Biblical aspects as well. It would be fine to collaborate with the public school system for things such as shared books or lesson plan ideas but to give up Christian morals is not okay. I believe that we need to question wether or not this is really worth it. I think that Christian schools need to take a stand and be a major voice. it would say a lot to the community if they didn’t accept hand outs that mean jeapordizing their beliefs.

  13. Kathy Urbanowicz

    I do not think it would be a bad idea to combine students from Christian and Public Schools. I think it is a great way to prevent the increase of tuiton. Also, just because the Christian teacher can not teach in a distinctively Christian manner does not necessaily mean that they can not show it in different ways. They still can be Christ-like and show their students how to love and respect one another without talking about religion. I can see why parents would be upset but when you look at it, these parents are saving money and they are still being taught by individuals who posses great morals and values.

  14. Courtney Kats

    Although I am a Christian and I come from a strong Christian background, coming to Trinity is my first experience with Christian schooling. I love every aspect of Christianity being incorporated within curriculum and I think it is a shame that it costs more to go to a private school but I understand why and that’s where it becomes difficult to choose pragmatics or principles. Being a Christian does not end though once you walk out of a Christian classroom, Christianity should be apart of every aspect of your life, and that includes the public school system. Christianity does not always mean reading straight from the Bible or praying in every class, it can also be acting like a Christian and being an example for students and colleagues. Sometimes the best way to reach a non Christian is by just being an example in their life, and they will want to attain the peace that you have. After saying this I do still think that there is a reason and place for Christian schooling and there is a reason for separation and it should stay that way.

  15. Jori Dotson

    I think that there is a major problem with this situation. If parents are sending their children to a private Christian School, then most likely they are expecting their children to get a proper Christian education. If the Christian schools are getting funded by the public schools and christianity isn’t allowed in the classroom, then technically the school can no longer be considered “christian”. it is important that the Christian Schools realize that the Christian faith is a very important part of the curriculum and essentially should be a part of every single subject. If the teachers aren’t allowed to teach every subject in the light of scripture than the students aren’t recieving a proper Christian education. Although it may seem like a win win situation for both the schools, they are forgetting to keep in mind the students. The students that are attending the Christian Schools are losing in this situation becuase they aren’t recieving a proper Christian education. It is important that the school keep in mind the well being of the students and make every decision so that it benefits the education of the students.

  16. Melissa Voss

    After reading the article I had mixed feelings about the situation. Because I went to the Christian school, I think that I am partial to how the Christian school views education. I firmly believe that Christian schools have a high calling not only in the education that they present to their students and also how they present the material. Often times I don’t think that Christians take enough of a stand in relationship to public/worldly issues. I am not trying to say that the Christian school should completely shut out the public school, but I am saying that they need to be very careful. Christian schools were started for a purpose and I don’t think that it is worth it, to combine with public schools and sacrifice how and what they are teaching. If the teachers were allowed to teach in the same manner I would be all for it. Teaching is a calling, and I think that teachers who decide to teach in a Christian school is a big sacrifice with a great reward. Therefore, I would have my reservations on the issue. I do think that Rachel brought up a good point to say that it may be very beneficial to share lesson plan ideas and group work. We can learn a lot from other teachers and we should collaborate outside of the classroom.

    I do believe that no matter where you teach, it is always possible to teach in a Christian manner, but there is something different about teaching at a Christian school. No matter what any says, teaching in a Christian school is different from teaching in a public school.

  17. Kaitlyn Knudtson

    I am very partial to a Christion school and education. I think it would be a good idea, but a little far fetched to try to intertwine Christian and public schools. There are some fine lines that can’t be crossed. Christian schools can’t give up why they were started or what ther believe in. Even is you are a Christian teaching in a public school, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your beliefs you just can’t express them in the same way as in a Christian school.
    As for not all subjects being ‘core’ subjects, I completely disagree. Art, PE, music, worl languages…all those are core subjects along with math, english, history. We may not realize it now, but we need all of these subjects and they will all be useful at some point.
    As for public funding for Christian schools, I put up my red flag. Christian schools developed to teach in a ‘distinctively Christian manner’ and if you have to sacrifice that because the state funds you, it is not worth it then. There are ways of getting what you need without abandoning what you stand for.

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