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Whose Job Is It?

One doesn't usually associate high school students with high school teachers, though this is exactly the position I'm put into four days out of the week.

  • Joshua Rodgers,
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One doesn't usually associate high school students with high school teachers, though this is exactly the position I'm put into four days out of the week. Some of my students could easily out-score me in the SAT, ACT, and legions of other aptitude tests. Some of the individuals I instruct are older than I am. Many of them hobnob with me before and after class. So to stand up and teach these people, while still a high school senior myself, makes things very interesting.

I attend Tri-City Covenant Church in Somersworth, New Hampshire, and I teach American history and government to Tri-City Christian Academy's freshmen and sophomores. I thoroughly enjoy my job. The racial, religious, and political diversity of my twenty-four students makes my classroom a refreshing and interesting place. A good number of my students come from fundamentalist backgrounds ("fundies," as a friend of mine calls them); others are members of my own rock-ribbed-Reformed-and-reconstructionist congregation; some attend churches vehemently at odds with Reformed theology; and several of my students aren't terribly religious one way or the other. The students' approach to America, and to American government, differs widely: I had one young man tell me that anybody — up and to and including his three-year-old sister — should be able to smoke cigarettes without the government interfering. Another student took issue with this, saying that the real problem in government was not its meddling in private affairs but the men in control of things. Men, this young lady explained, were sometimes "a little numb to what's going on."

As divergent as the opinions of my students may be, their outspoken opinions on hot-button issues always illustrate an astonishing fact. Come a noteworthy discussion — should pornography be available to minors? Should sixteen-year-olds be allowed to vote? — Two major groups always take sides: those who know what they're talking about, and those who don't.

This isn't as obvious an observation as you might think. A closer look at those well-informed students and their misinformed counterparts is quite revealing. Religion always — always — plays a part in a student's approach to a discussion. And more often than not, those students who can hold their own in a debate (and actually have something valuable to say) come from homes that are firmly imbedded in the Reformed Faith. The leaders in my class are those who have a good hold of Christian reconstruction; leadership is not as evident in those students who attend churches that are characterized by antinomianism.

Risking arrogance, I'd like to use myself as a good example of a Reformed teen who was put into a position of leadership thanks to the teaching he received at home. The teachers who inspire me most aren't necessarily the instructors I interact at with at Tri-City; they are, without a doubt, my parents. My mother and father have been married twenty years, and to raise and homeschool seven children — I was homeschooled up to ninth grade and still receive plenty of at-home instruction — is a feat I daresay most of my students' parents cannot top. Just the same, theonomy is taught (perhaps even stressed) in the homes of my class leaders. I think the following anecdote is a prime illustration of this point.

One Tuesday in late November, I walked into the classroom and abruptly asked what made the previous Sunday so important. It took ten minutes of mental teeth-pulling before a student realized what I was driving at: President John Kennedy had been shot thirty-five years ago that Sunday. An uproar shot up and down the rows of desks, and much of the discussion went something like this: "Who was John Kennedy?" "Didn't a guy named Harvey shoot him?" "So what?" "Can we see the movie?!" "May I go the bathroom?"

The student who answered the question attends my church, and he's been drilled in the fine points of dominion theology for years. Many of the students who did not know about John Kennedy, his alleged assassin, and the assassination itself weren't among those students I'd call Christians. This is a prime example of the point I'd like to make: it is Christian youth, especially Reformed youth, who have a superior love and grasp of history. A nation's identity, a nation's past, a nation's future, mean absolutely nothing to death-centered, death-loving, disinterested, humanistic teenagers. The real interest in history in my class lies with Christian students. Specifically, Reformed Christian students. Some of my most diligent students are professing Christians but don't attend churches with a reconstructionist outlook — and that's fine with me — but I'm convinced that their church preference puts them at a disadvantage with their reconstructionist counterparts.

And why is that? Understand, reconstructionists are (as their name implies) building on something. We're not starting from scratch. To rebuild our nation from the ground up, we need a good comprehension of where America started, how it went wrong, and how we can turn the tide. Reconstruction in this nation will go nowhere if we don't come to terms with our nation's past. We can't repair that which we do not understand. My class, whether they know it or not, studies American history to be better equipped with their dominion task.

Make no mistake: many of my students, sitting in their neatly-ordered rows, know the issues. They know what they're all about: their Reformed Faith proclaims it. It is the Reformed students in my classroom that I can consistently depend on to present a coherent argument and actually have facts to back up their case. In answer to my questions I hear this refrain constantly from non-Christian students: "I don't know!" to which I reply, "What do you think?" Because like it or not, everyone thinks. It's all a matter of worldview: where are these unbelievers coming from? Where's their foundation? Small wonder they tune out in my class and get lost when a discussion begins. I once had a student blurt out that Communism could work under certain circumstances. I asked the young man to prove his point. He got a very perturbed look on his face (the unblinking stare of a duck that just got clubbed) and proceeded to regurgitate the Communism-could-work-under-ideal-circumstances line half a dozen times before I forced him to admit that Marxism never, ever, worked in early America (or anywhere else). But this shows what kind of argumentation skills, what kind of reasoning, ungodly teenagers use today. Basically, they're conditioned to spit out inane assertions that they've been spoon-fed since kindergarten, without any thought to confrontations or disagreements that might follow. What good is history to these heathen youngsters? They aren't planning on transforming society; America's past means nothing to them. They have no wish to rebuild their nation--thus they have no need to know it better.

When the JFK assassination debate broke out, a good eighty percent of my class couldn't tell me why November 22, 1963 was significant in American history. When I berated the class for their ignorance and asked them who was at fault, someone shouted back: "You! Whose job is it to tell us this stuff? Yours! 'Cause you're the teacher." "And is it my job to tell you everything?" I wanted to know. Well, no, actually . . . it's not. Recently a very bright young lady complained to me about her test, pointing out that I'd announced that I would go over the test in class before handing it out. I apologized for not finding time to review and asked her if she'd bothered to study for the test. Well, no, actually . . . she hadn't. It's the lack of initiative in some students that burns me. And it's the motivation of other students — students grounded in Reformed theology, with the proper dominion-oriented mindset--that I find tremendously encouraging.

Not to say that every single student who goes to my church, or who can tell me what TULIP means, is an all-star A-student. Sometimes teens brought up in solidly reconstructionist homes allow their fundamentalist opponents to pick up the slack. But the tide is turning in the right direction. Even better, many students who didn't care about history before are starting to see the sense in dominion theology. And that's good news for me. It tells me that in one corner of the world, tucked away in a small New Hampshire town, the kingdom is taking root.