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From the Freedom to Learn Network, Volume VIII, Number. 2/3, September 2000,
OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE DOING GOD'S WORK
By Frosty Troy
Of all the groundless, hurtful attacks on public educators, none is more
painful than the charge that public schools are "godless" institutions. The
staccato drumbeat against public education includes religious defamation.
The Constitution requires that public education be neutral in the arena of
sectarian religion, but that's a far cry from the debasement heaped upon
public educators. A torrent of abuse has hit the airwaves since the
shootings in Littleton: If only the Ten Commandments or prayer had been
permitted ... if only school teachers were not void of values ...
It is ironic that the religious and political critics bring no facts to the
table. Columbine High School was rife with religion, the kind permitted
under the Constitution. There were Bible clubs, a religious organization for
athletes, "prayer at the pole," and a largely Christian faculty.
The crescendo of calumny heaped on public education is a partisan attack to
promote vouchers and private schools-the re-segregation of America, this
time along class lines.
Who is for spiritual values for kids and who is just kidding? Can you name
one other institution that comes nearer to biblical injunctions than public
*Feeding the hungry? Last year, for nearly 30 percent of public school
children, a school lunch was the only hot meal they got.
*Clothing the naked? There's hardly an elementary school in a poor
neighborhood in America that does not have a clothing closet stuffed with
underwear, socks, and other necessities for have-not children.
*The widow's mite? The average teacher spent more than $400 of personal
funds for such things as workbooks and pencils for poor children.
*Visiting the prisoners? Those are public educators staffing the GED,
vo-tech, literacy, and skill centers behind the walls-redeeming tens of
thousands of otherwise lost lives.
*No greater love? The Littleton teacher who herded children into a room for
safety, then shielded them with his own body, lay shot and dying in front of
the praying students he had saved.
*Role models? No other profession provides a higher percentage of Sunday
*Suffer the little ones? Who takes millions of little ones who are retarded,
developmentally disabled, or mentally handicapped? Who redeems the
dispossessed and the delinquent in alternative education programs? If you're
looking for values, consider the majority of teachers who spend their time
and money mentoring students, sponsoring nonacademic class activities, all
the while attempting to deal with the most undisciplined generation ever to
enter public education.
Because teachers can't pin on a church label and baptize the student doesn't
make public education any less spiritual. It isn't the babbling critics who
wrap themselves in religious intolerance who are making a difference for all
of God's children. They preach to the saved in the rear echelon, while
public school teachers staff the front line. Public educators don't have the
time or inclination to bash Christian, parochial, or other private schools,
or the home schoolers who so often bitterly denounce public education.
Look who comes to public school among the 53 million enrolled this year, and
then consider who truly does God's work:
--Six million for whom English is a second language.
--Six million special education children.
--More than two million abused children.
--Nearly 500,000 from no permanent address.
--One out of four who come from extreme poverty, often born out of wedlock.
--Many who are neglected, unwashed, unwanted, and unloved.
Public school teachers are scorned on editorial pages and maligned from
ignorant pulpits, but they keep moving on. And only God knows why. They earn
the poorest salaries among all the industrial nations, yet a new study shows
they are among the brightest college students, and nearly half hold master's
With all its warts, public education produces more math and science brains
than all of private education combined. From astronauts to Pulitzer Prize
winners, from Nobel laureates to the clergy, public school graduates are in
the front rank.
The public school day may not start with a Hail Mary or Our Father, a mantra
or a blood sacrifice; but public education does more of God's work for
children every day than any other institution in America-and that includes
Frosty Troy is the editor of the Oklahoma Observer.
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