Anti-public school resolutions considered the last three years by the Southern Baptist Convention applaud teachers who choose to work in public schools as a Christian witness in a place of darkness. But four Baptist educators contacted by EthicsDaily.com disagree with those who take a dim view of their profession.
“Critics of public schools should come to the realization that change does not occur by abandoning the public school, but instead by filling it with Christian role models, by becoming active partners in public school councils and working to enrich the opportunities provided,” said Lisa Petrey-Kirk a teacher at Anderson County Schools and member of Alton Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Ky.
“The words anti-Christian, anti-American and anti-family don’t apply to public schools as much as they apply to people or groups who work to derail one of the only systems in the world that offers quality educational opportunities regardless of gender, race or ability to pay,” she said.
Sara Brady, who retired last year after 34 years as media librarian at Moore Traditional High School in Louisville, Ky., said “she is very disappointed by the lack of support and respect for the Christian teachers who serve children in the public schools of America.”
“These teachers should be supported by the prayers and presence of Christian parents and church members,” said Brady, a member of Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville for more than 30 years and a current deacon and president of her Sunday school class.
Charlotte Benton, a business education teacher at Reidland High School in Paducah, Ky., and member of Spring Bayou Baptist Church, has been a Baptist for 62 years and employed in education for 39. “I have yet to see what the Baptists are upset about with public education,” she said.
“Public education, with highly skilled educators, strives to equip all students with the skills necessary to become productive and enthusiastic life long learners,” said Jane Sykes, an educator in McCracken County schools and member of First Baptist Church in Paducah, Ky.
“All students are taught the expectations for responsible behavior and academic success,” Sykes said. “Public education offers this opportunity to all children irregardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation or economic circumstance. Public education is the backbone of a free, democratic society. As a Baptist, I am proud to be a public school educator.”
Petrey-Kirk has been a public school teacher for 21 years but regards herself “first and foremost a Christian.”
“As a Christian I live my faith every day, and as a public school teacher I do everything I can to educate middle school children academically and offer them opportunities that will aid them in becoming independent, confident caring citizens.”
“The two do not clash,” she continued. “As a matter of fact they complement each other. I choose this occupation, and I believe that God allows me to be an example, a role model in my career.”
Brady said there are “many opportunities for Christians to support and help the needy children in some public schools.” She recently read about a young teacher in Bowie, Texas, who involved her church in giving food to her kindergarten students who were going hungry on weekends.
“There are many ways Christians can support and love the teachers and children in public school,” she said, instead of promoting “a negative attitude and name-calling such as ‘place of darkness.'”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.