I placed 14 new students in classes in the week before school started. It was very busy, but exciting, and unprecedented. While the reasons varied, there was a definite connection, in some cases, to the current situation in the public schools. While it is a blessing to welcome these families into ACES, I am saddened by circumstances for at least three reasons.
First of all, ACS exists because we believe parents have the right and the responsibility to choose what schools their children go to. In a pluralistic society, that means parents need to have access to a strong, viable public education system. Without taking a position here on the current situation, it is a detriment to the well-being of our society.
Secondly, we have always viewed public school teachers as colleagues and enthusiastically work alongside them when the opportunities are there. Indeed, we should probably be doing a better job of making those connections. We went into the profession for the same reasons—we believe education is paramount to cultural development and strength. In the end, all those teachers want to be back in the classroom engaging with learners.
My third reason is more “big picture,” and I need to digress for a moment. When I was spending my first summer at Calvin College for my Masters, my advisor gave me the book Desiring the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith. Even though my course load that summer was demanding, I began to read the book and found it so engaging I had to finish it on top of the other work. Dr. Smith will be the keynote speaker at the Christian Schools Canada conference in a couple of weeks (I am so excited!).
Briefly, one of the points that Dr. Smith makes in the book is that the public school is not competition for the Christian school. Our competition is the shopping mall, the sports arena, mass media…. They are competing for the desires of our students’ (and our) hearts. Dr. Smith says, “We are what we love.” What Christian schools are ultimately about is to nurture in students a desire for the kingdom of Christ, for human flourishing as God intended it to be. The lure to idolatry from institutions such as those mentioned above is as real for our students (and us) as it is for students in the public school.
As an example of just how real that lure is, let me give you an example from my own life. Jane and I have become big Vancouver Whitecaps fans in the last couple of years. Enjoying a well-played game of soccer can be a celebration of God-given abilities. But, honestly, it scares me sometimes how much I want the Whitecaps to win, or how strongly I react when they lose, especially if the ref makes a bad call or two. So, if we are what we love, I am a Whitecap.
Certainly if we are being faithful, we are helping our students to recognize idolatry, and to desire the kingdom. And that is the reason I want people to choose “for” ACS and not “against” the public school.