Since 1992, commencing with the stabbing of 15 year-old Damion Ennis, there have been more than 250 school-related deaths, of which at least 195 involved the use of firearms. Our nation's public schools are in a crisis of almost unimaginable dimensions.
The recent tragedy at Columbine, not to mention those at Springfield, OR; Pomona, CA; or Jonesboro, AR; illustrate a depravity eating away at the heart of the nation's youth. The media is full of questions concerning how this could have happened. Access to guns, gory video games, Goth music, low self-esteem, and gang mentality have all been touted as the root of the problem. It is interesting to note the words of the father of Rachel Scott, one of the Christians gunned down at Columbine, as he gave testimony before the House Subcommittee on Crime, on May 27, 1999:
Your laws ignore our deepest needs
Your words are empty air.
You've stripped away our heritage,
You've outlawed simple prayer.
You regulate restrictive laws
Through legislative creed,
And yet you fail to understand
That God is what we need.
What is revealing about so much of the media talk, and even the passionate heartache of a grieving father, is that the question of whether the public school system itself is to blame is never asked. No one suggests that the very concept of public education is fatally flawed. No one suggests that the real problem is with the institution, not its product. R. L. Dabney, the Southern Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century, argued strenuously in his essay, "Secularized Education," that because the modern state is essentially secular, when it comes to its schools, ". . . their complete secularization is logically inevitable." He further added a warning for Christians to prepare themselves for the unavoidable consequences of the increasing self-consciousness of state-sponsored education. "All prayers, catechisms, and Bibles will ultimately be driven out of the schools Infidelity and practical ungodliness will become increasingly prevalent among . . . youth."
We now live in the reality of the future that Dabney saw so presciently. It is our contention, as well as that of the whole reconstructionist movement, that, as Dabney argues, the education of our children is " . . . properly a domestic and parental function." For the past thirty years, the Church of Christian Liberty, through our non-denominational educational ministry, Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools (CLASS), has brought homeschooling to over 250,000 students. It is our mission is to assist parents in their God-given duty of education through the provision of quality curriculum that centers on the Word of God and teaches phonics from the earliest age. Our 20-acre campus in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, IL, also houses a 900-student K-through-12 day academy, and our publishing division, Christian Liberty Press.
Of course, we are not alone in our pioneering work. Across the nation, hundreds of Christian schools have sprung up and perhaps as many as two million students are being educated at home. But this is a mere "drop in the bucket." We believe that the time is ripe for the Christian church to move to assert, not just the right, but the necessity of Christian education.
To facilitate this new thrust, we have formed an organization dedicated to saving the students of this land. We call it "SOS CLASS ACTION." The "SOS" stands for "Save Our Students." Our aims are briefly summarized as follows.
Litigation: We are preparing a class action civil lawsuit that parents of children in the public school system can use if their children suffer physical or sexual abuse at school. The June 22, 1998, ruling by the United States Supreme Court in the case Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District affirmed that its decision not to award damages in this case "does not affect any right of recovery that an individual may have against a school district as a matter of state law or against the teacher in his individual capacity under state law or under 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Although this case concerned only sexual abuse, given the rise of violence in the public school system, the time may soon be ripe for parents to hold state school boards accountable for their failure to care for those they insist should be in their charge.
Legislation: We are currently preparing legislation to be introduced at the federal level requiring that suitable measures be taken in every public school to prevent the importation of weapons into school buildings and to ensure the safety of students while attending class. This would include mandating metal detectors and x-ray equipment at school entrances, armed security guards, and the possibility of allowing school districts with limited budgets to train their teaching staff in armed response and allow them to carry weapons during school hours.
Leaving: We will seek to alert pastors to the critical need to lead their people out of the public school system and into Christian education. One Sunday of each year will be designated "SOS Sunday," a day to pray for our children and move decisively to rescue them from the public school "Titanic."
Learning: We will promote the use of Christian curriculum, phonics, American history, and a Christian world and life view. We will teach churches how to start their own Christian school and parents how to educate their children at home.
Plans for a Time of Critical Need
Initially, we intended to take next year to prepare the ground for the first SOS Sunday in A. D. 2000. However, the situation at Columbine High School convinced us of the critical need to move forward at once. The "Titanic" of state education, that expensive luxury considered by the "cultural elite" as unsinkable, has struck the iceberg of its own internal weakness. What we are witnessing is the logical consequence of removing God and His requirements for all of life from the educational compass. Children are being thrown overboard without the equipment that will save them from the moral degeneracy we call culture.
In a recent decision, the Kansas Board of Education approved educational standards that make no mention of the theory of evolution and remove the requirement that children learn "that evolution by natural selection is a broad, unifying theoretical framework in biology." That same week in Kentucky, the Jackson County School Board oversaw the posting of the Ten Commandments in their schools. Now this may seem to beg the question, "What is all the fuss about?" The answer comes from none other than Timothy Crawford, the Jackson County School District Attorney, who is reported to have said, "I do not believe posting the Ten Commandments is imposing anyone's religious views because the kids are not tested on that, the kids are not required to look at it, and the kids are not required to read it, and they're not held accountable for that knowledge." Here truly is the crux of the matter: Posters are displayed all across Jackson County, but are considered little more than talismans to ward off violent behavior and moral decline. There is no doubt that these small victories are important for those they affect; however, when weighed in the balance of all that is going wrong elsewhere, they will make little or no
difference. To what standard will the children of Jackson County School District be accountable? How can morality be taught without an absolute standard? Who will stand up and say, "God's Word is the only standard"?
Because we believe that America's churches must lead, we have written to 28,000 pastors, asking them, if they are not currently homeschooling or sending their children to Christian schools, to lead their people out of the public school system. In our letter we outlined the problem and challenged them to set aside one Sunday in August 2000, as SOS Sunday "a time when the lifeboat of Christian education pulls alongside the children of your congregation and plucks them from the icy waters of moral and spiritual chaos."
It is our intention, as the Lord leads and supplies, to initiate an annual National SOS Sunday, which will be the culmination of perhaps weeks of preaching and teaching on the subject of education from a Biblical perspective. On this Sunday, parents will be asked to make a declaration that they will abandon the public school system and enroll their children either in a Christian school or homeschooling program. In addition, recognizing that we have a long struggle ahead of us and that, for various reasons, some children are unable leave the public system, we intend to produce kits that will assist parents and children to overcome its shortfalls academically and to prosper spiritually.
There are some who will say that the effort to protect children currently enrolled in public education is futile. To some extent they are correct. However, the more demands we make of the civil government in this area, an area to which they have demanded exclusive rights in the past, the more the public may come to see the dimensions of the problem. There are no reasons to assume that the situation of moral decline and violence in public schools will be remedied. The problems are spiritual. The government has taken on a role it was never intended to have. We believe, therefore, that the only remedy is the dismantling of the state system of education, thus returning to parents their responsibility under God to educate the lambs that He has entrusted to their care.
If you would like more information as it becomes available, would like to help financially, or join us in our work, perhaps as a local volunteer organizer, please write to me at SOS CLASS ACTION, 502 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights, IL 60004, or e-mail, [email protected]. Our website is: http://www.class-action.to.
- Quentin Johnston
Rev. Quentin Johnston is married to Pam and the father of Lewis, was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was involved in the pastoral oversight of a church in Edinburgh for fifteen years before coming to the U. S. at the invitation of R. J. Rushdoony to complete his M.Div. at Whitefield Theological Seminary, Lakeland, Florida. He is now Co-Pastor of the Church of Christian Liberty, Arlington Heights, IL. He serves on the board of Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools and Whitefield College and is National Director of SOS CLASSACTION.