It’s time to stop the madness that is killing public education – Baptist News Global

I am the child of a public teacher. I am the parent of a son who was a public teacher and who remains a private teacher in a public high school. Many dear friends are public school teachers.

As a child, I helped my mom mark homework every night and watched her work long hours preparing lesson plans and creating learning tools. I heard her former students who returned as adults say that what she taught them in fourth and fifth grade math opened up the world to them. I have read and treasured the letters they wrote at his retirement and death.

Mark Wingfield

As a parent, I’ve watched my son perform magic with middle and high school kids, teaching them the joy of music and helping them achieve things they never thought possible.

Like many of you, I care passionately on public education as a stabilizing and equalizing force for the good of society. In a world filled with so much inequity—even if our schools aren’t always as equal as they could be—public education may still be the best way to give everyone a leg up. It is the foundation of our society and our democracy.

It is therefore disgusting, appalling and disheartening to see the continued attack on public education by conservative evangelical Christians and people who claim to be evangelical Christians but have not found John 3:16 in the Bible if you asked. It’s time to stop being offended by this behavior and take a stand against it.

It’s been going on for 60 years and seems to be getting worse every year. We have now reached a laudable crescendo in which the very future of public education hangs precariously. This is not an exaggeration.

Why? Because a very large minority parents want to conform entire school systems to their narrow worldviews. In the 1950s, this sprouted from the racism that rallied parents to oppose the integration of public schools. One of the big differences was when racist parents formed private schools through their churches to keep their precious white children from sitting in a classroom or playing on a sports team with skinned kids. darker. Their response to their racist impulses was to withdraw.

“A very strong minority of parents want to conform entire school systems to their narrow ways of seeing the world.”

But now the plan has expanded. Parents who want their children to be educated in a world that no longer exists little house on the prairie are desperate to divert taxpayer funding from public schools to support their sectarian private schools. They are not prepared to pay the price of being isolationists. And after failing in this unconstitutional effort, they are now trying to take over entire school boards and bend the will of public education to their whims.

They are like parents who micromanage and berate the coaches of Little League teams because they know better than the coaches how the game should be played – always looking for an advantage for their child, not the team. These are the parents who insist their child always plays first base or pitcher and blame the coach when their child drops the ball.

examples of madness in this debate today are many – including book bans, invented hullabaloo over critical race theory and false fears about transgender athletes – but for today look no further than my state of origin, Oklahoma, where Republican Senator Rob Standridge has introduced a bill “that would allow people to sue teachers if they offer a point of view opposed to the religious beliefs of students”, according to MSN News and several other media outlets.

Standridge’s “Student Religious Belief Protection Act” would allow any parent to require the removal of any book “with perceived anti-religious content from the school,” the news service reported. “Topics like LGBTQ issues, evolution, the big bang theory, and even birth control might be off the table.”

Under this bill, teachers could be prosecuted a minimum $10,000 “per incident, per individual” and fines should be paid “out of personal resources”.

In addition, under this bill, teachers could be prosecuted a minimum $10,000 “per incident, per individual” and fines should be paid “from personal resources”, not from school funds or from individuals or groups. And then, if the teacher is unable to pay, he will be fired.

Worse, the Oklahoma legislator says his bill is “necessary for the maintenance of public peace”.

This is madness.

It’s no surprise that a month ago, Standridge introduced a bill to ban books from public school libraries. And if you think his cockamamie bill to good teachers couldn’t be replicated in your local district, just watch how the book ban effort is spreading like wildfire. In Texas, where I now live, a state legislator produced a list of 850 books—850! – that he wants to ban public school libraries, when our governor thinks that our school libraries contain “pornography”.

This is madness.

We can’t fail to connect the dots between this attack on public education and the great political maneuvers in our country. It is basically Christian nationalism and more specifically white Christian nationalism. This is driven by racism, fear of science and a desire to rewrite history. It takes the failed slogan of “Make America Great Again” and applies it to public education.

This is madness.

Over the past year, I have witnessed my own outstanding school district surrender to these ideological terrorists – aided by willful, well-meaning people who think they can keep the peace. Yet there is no negotiation or compromise with far-right ideologues.

“They do and demand senseless things because other opportunists have fanned the fires of hatred within them.”

To think otherwise is madness.

What I’m saying is that our public school systems – coast to coast and border to border – are under a coordinated, frontal attack from angry parents who have been inflamed by all manner of scare tactics. They do and demand senseless things because other opportunists have fanned the fires of hatred within them.

It’s time to put out the fire. It is time to rise up not just for the good of an individual family, but for the good of the community. It is time to make it clear that no matter how sincere religious beliefs some parents may have, they cannot impose those beliefs and their revisionist history on all children.

Some of the more cynical among us believe that the goal of these political agents is not really to take over public schools, but to discredit them and demoralize their teachers and staff to the point that they will fail – and then their sectarian private schools and charter schools will be waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces.

We cannot let this happen. For the sake of all children, for the future of our communities and our nation, we must stand up for the public education that uplifts the least of us and helps every child to excel.

Why? Because that is the very mission that Jesus said he came to earth to accomplish. Read it yourself in Luke 4:18-19 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim deliverance to captives and sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

When attempts to control public education do not result in good news for the poor, the release of those held in educational captivity, the opening of minds to reality and do not liberate minds, the Spirit of Lord is not there. Not advocating for this agenda of Jesus is madness.

Mark Wingfield is executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global.

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