Although the controversial resolution to home-school Southern Baptist children was tossed and buried during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)s annual meeting in June, it seems the issue is far from dead: The resolution resurfaced at 11 individual state conventions in October and November, where it received considerable support.
While each of the state resolutions differed in format and wording, the underlying message was the same: every Baptist child deserves access to a Christian education in lieu of a highly secularized public education system.
According to Bruce Shortt, one of the drafters of the original SBC-wide resolution, the controversial issue is now on the table and will not likely go away.
We had ten sponsors who said they would be interested in bringing for the resolution at the state conventions, and another sponsor added his name, said Shortt. The general response has been to try to stifle any discussion on the subject on the vain hope that it will go away, but it will not go away.
While the bulk of the states tossed the resolution, some states came close to passing it, and Missouri actually passed it.
Roger Murand of the Missouri Baptist Convention passed the resolution. His resolution is very different from the original one we drafted for the national convention. However if you understand the substance, you will see that they are essentially the same, said Shortt.
Shortt, a home-school father with a Stanford Ph.D, explained why he believes Christian education is crucial for Southern Baptist youth.
"For more than 20 years the SBC has benefited from strong and godly leadership. As a result, the SBC now stands on sound doctrinal ground. The next step is to align our practice fully with our doctrine by cultivating faithfulness in the K-12 Christian education of our children. I am confident that the SBC leaders will come to see in time why Christian children must not be educated in public schools and that K-12 Christian education, either Christian day schools or home schooling, is an indispensable component of our obedience to Christ, he said.
Shortt also said he understands why the issue would be so contentious.
It is a contentious issue because there are a lot of parents who are accustomed to public schools and a lot of parents accustomed to sending off their children in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. Some parents also think they dont have the time or money to teach their children at home, said Shortt.
However, he added, we must be responsible for the education of our children.
Shortt explained that contrary to public opinion, home schooled children do better intellectually and fair well at college admissions.
Government schools are killing our children intellectually so we need to take our children out. In the latest string of international comparisons on the US verses the rest of the world, our academic performance is dropping and falling. This is the sort of news that keeps coming every week or two. Shortt said. There are also hidden statistics that have been surfacing about violence in schools and the rise in exclusion rates.
How much time gets wasted in [public] schools? A child must ride the bus and go back and forth from classrooms and lockers before starting their studies, he added. We, on the other hand, get right down to business and it leaves a lot of free time. My older sons are fluent in several languages, and it is great fun to spend time with them.
Pointing to a chapter in his newly released book entitled, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, Shortt explained that top tier university admissions officers on many instances praised home-schooled children as a better model student than those educated in public institutions.
It sounds counter-intuitive but admissions officers say they like to try and admit as many home-schooled children because these youths are less outrageous and more prepared for the college life, Shortt said.
When asked why reformation is not possible within the public school walls, Shortt said such reforms are impossible at this point and time.
First of all from the view of a conventional view, weve been working on school reform for 50 years and it has been absolutely futile, he said. People say give the schools more money for reform, but nothing substantial has ever come from that.
Secondly, there is a deeper point. The people who agree with us believe we have an obligation to give our children an education grounded on a Christian basis, he explained. And you cant do that in our time.
And to those parents worried about the lack of time to homeschool their children, Shortt explained that there were a number of hybrid models that can deliver higher level education at a much lower cost.
People need to stop thinking of education in what they call a bipolar continuum where there is the traditional school on one end and homeschool on the other end with nothing in between, said Shortt. There are a lot of hybrid models that can deliver higher leve education at a much lower cost. One example is the university model school. Those schools provide classical classroom education 2-3 days a week and home-schooling on other days. I also know some Baptist leaders in Texas who have their children go to schools in the church classrooms. There are also Christian mom schools and a host of things that can be done.
All the while Shortt said he believes the fundamental reason why schooling has come to this point is because of the lack of concern within the Protestant churches.
Ultimately the problem is that churches have been missing in action, he said. The only church that has been consistently serious about that is the Catholic Church.
Take the Southern Baptist Convention for example. We have over 43,000 churches, but only 650 schools; now thats a scandal, said Shortt.
Therefore, according to Shortt, the resolution for home-schooling is crucial especially for an organization like the SBC.
The main purpose for the resolution is not to make an abrupt change, but rather to inform the parent of what has been happening in our schools. The real purpose is to engender a debate, he explained. Unlike other denominations, we are a bottom-up kind of organization, so the passing of a resolution does not result in any action whatsoever. It is just an expression of those who are gathered, that we as a body are concerned about what is happening in our public schools.
It is a process and it is a marathon not a sprint. But we feel this is a good way to get debate started within the churches, or it just isnt going to happen.
The state Baptist convention effort was coordinated by the Exodus Mandate Project, of which Shortt takes part.
Bruce Shortt will be a guest Lee Strobel's television program "Faith Under Fire" on PAX Network (Christian TV network) on December 18 to discuss his new book and the SBC Christian education battle. The times on December 18, 2004, Saturday Night, are as follows: 10:00 PM EST and PST and 9:00 PM CST and MST.
For more information on the Exodus Mandate Project, please visit: www.exodusmandate.org.
To order copies of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, visit: http://www.chalcedonstore.com/.