With Thanks for 12 Years of Support
By John Mitchell
About 12 years ago I approached the Executive Director of the Christian Educators Association, who at that time was Finn Laursen, and asked if he might be interested in offering me some level of employment on the CEAI staff. I was planning to leave my position which at that time was serving as Director of the Educational Issues Department of the American Federation of Teachers. I knew that I wanted to return to the classroom, which I have done on a part-time basis, but I also knew that I should put to use some of the varied experiences the Lord had given me over thirty-five years which included serving as a public-school teacher, a state teacher union leader in New Mexico, and working on the staff of the AFT.
Finn was most gracious and was interested in me doing some work on the CEAI staff. He was particularly interested in me writing a column for the organization that would discuss how federal politics impact Christian teachers, particularly those working in the public schools. I started writing the column almost immediately and found the guidance of both Finn and the current CEAI Executive Director, David Schmus, to be a real blessing to my life and something that the Lord used to help keep me on track though many personal and professional changes. Director of Member Services, Doreen Madere, and our recently passed Director of Legal Services, LaRae Munk, were always reassuring, helpful, and full of wisdom. Vicki Milczewsky, CEAI West Coast Office Administrator, also provided many helpful edits over the past year.
The terrific input I have received from CEAI members has also been a rich blessing to me, shaping what I have written, informing me of trends and issues that I needed to be aware of, and at times, providing delightful encouragement and helpful correction rooted in the deep faith of the individuals. I hope that some of you have found this column helpful for understanding the difficult policy environment in which you serve, and I thank CEAI and the Lord for the opportunity to share my thoughts on matters impacting Christians working in the schools.
I also spent some time over these twelve years assisting members who were having employment difficulties and found that in every case, these individuals were sincere Christians who really did need the support of a strong organization that understood the unique challenges facing Christians in the schools. In many cases I was impressed and humbled by the testimony of these members. The need for Christian teachers to pool their resources though a Christian organization to protect the religious liberties of all teachers is clear and growing. The professional staff of CEAI has been effective in supporting many teachers, and even in situations in which teachers have been severely restrained in what they can say, the prayers of the staff and members of CEAI have made a difference. Your faithful service in the schools and your prayers for your students have had a huge impact on their eternal lives.
As someone who has long believed in the importance of public schools in our country, I remain concerned about what I believe is “mission creep” in the schools. The primary business of the public schools should be to enable each child to reach their maximum potential to be critical thinkers capable of formulating their own opinions on political and social issues, and to prepare them to pursue further education or employment. This is a huge task, and testing data indicates that we are not doing it as well as we would like. In spite of this, there is mounting pressure on our schools to teach children things that should be reserved for parents to promote through their own efforts or in partnership with organizations or programs of their choosing, such as church or sports, to help them instill values and meaning in their children’s lives. Just as the public schools have no business proselytizing children to become Christians or Muslims, they also have no business promoting critical race theory, values clarification programs, history curricula designed to have children adopt specific historical narratives, or programs that encourage children to explore different “gender identities.” Each of these are items that should be exclusively under the control of parents. When the schools take on these tasks, they are sure to alienate many Christian parents who take seriously the Biblical charge to teach their children the precepts of the Lord (Deut. 4:10, 6:7 and 11:19) as well as many other parents who wish to be the primary teachers of morality and ethics to their children.
As I leave CEAI I will continue to pray for our schools and your work in them. The effort of Christians serving in our schools is essential to the lives of children and the success of the nation. It is a blessing that the Lord stands with you in your efforts.
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Washington Education Watch 5/2021. Used with permission.