WASHINGTON The United States Secretary of Education says Christian values should be the foundation of the nations educational enterprise.
"All things equal, I would prefer to have a child in a school that has a strong appreciation for the values of the Christian community, where a child is taught to have a strong faith," said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. "Where a child is taught that, there is a source of strength greater than themselves."
Paige, a Mississippi- born black Republican, was appointed by President George W Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2001 as the first black secretary of education. He served as the superintendent of schools in Texas until joining the cabinet.
In an interview with Union University, Paige emphasized Bushs No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, and said the church community could be a part of the solution to the nations educational woes.
"Our children's education isn't just the business of parents and teachers and schools -- educating our children is everyone's business," Paige said. "I encourage pastors and the church community to work closely with parents and students.
"In addition, I urge you to be the gatekeepers of the educational process and to ensure that investment in the future of your community, your church and the nation."
"We are one year into this and it is a savior," Paige said of the policy which some have called an historical reformation of our schools. "The state of our national education system is under-performing, leaving a large number of children behind -- minority children, inner-city and rural children."
Paige said no child should be tied to a school that is failing. "A parent should be free to select a school that meets that child's needs, whether it's private, home school or public."
Quality education should be modeled on religious values, Page said. "Religious values are wonderful values that we should embrace in our daily lives. I think it's even more important that we embrace those values in our homes. We would have a much calmer, compassionate society.
I believe faith is a good response to the problems we are facing in this nation," he said. "I don't think my job is to solve all the education problems in the world. It's to work toward right solutions. The battle is never won. It's only fought well."
Paige, who raised Hustons educational test scores by 20 percent and decreased the dropout rate by half, during his term as the superintendent, said his faith in God was an integral part of his strategy.
"My faith in God is not a separate part of me," Paige said. "I can't do that. I know clearly that where I am and what I do is not so much a product of my work, but a product of God's grace.
"If it had been left up to me, I would have made a big boo-boo out of my life some time ago," he added. "I understand what empowers me. My parents made sure it was engrained at a very young age."
His life verse, Psalm 91, provided him comfort and encouragement for the challenges he had faced. It reads: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!"
"I begin my day with a quiet time," he said. "When I get up in the morning and get my coffee, I prepare myself for the day through Scripture lessons, readings, prayer and other things that I call devotion. It's the very first thing I do and I never allow anything to interfere with that."
Similar to the Chief of State, Paige begins his day with a moment of meditation. "Strangely, when I do have devotion, I feel the decisions and solutions to my problems come to me. At first I worried about being unfocused. Now, as I read Scripture, I focus on each word and I begin to see more clearly paths that I should take on problems that have been bugging me."
Looking at the rate of growth in the Christian Schools, Paige said "The reason that Christian schools and Christian universities are growing is a result of a strong value system," he said. "In a religious environment the value system is set. That's not the case in a public school where there are so many different kids with different kinds of values."
And to those who disagree with his position, Paige replied, "I would offer critics my prayers."
By Pauline J.