Educating for Excellence

A recent newspaper article spotlighted a tiny New York school called Love Christian Academy, where all the students work above grade level. The school starts each day with prayer and the Christian Pledge of Allegiance: "I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's holy word . . . ." Surprisingly, this glowing report was not published in a church newsletter or denominational magazine. Instead it was carried in one of the largest secular newspapers in the country—the Wall Street Journal. In a series about alternatives to decaying public schools, the Journal painted a highly favorable picture of Christian schools. What a refreshing change from the old stereotype that prevailed only a few years ago. Christian schools were once dismissed as places that taught Bible verses, bigotry, and backwoods morality. Even the Journal article describes earlier Christian schools as "backward bastions of intolerance," founded in order to avoid racial integration. Ironically, though, this negative stereotype has never been true. Most of the Protestant schools that sprang up in the 1960s and 1970s were founded not to avoid integration but to escape the breakdown of the public schools: declining standards, lack of classroom discipline, and values-free curricula. As for their academic record, achievement tests show that Christian students have always scored above the national norm—despite the fact that many religious schools open in church basements on shoe-string budgets. So much for the stereotype of being born-again and brain-dead. The appearance of the Journal article is an encouraging sign that the old stereotype is finally fading. It notes that at Love Christian Academy last year, all its kindergartners scored in the ninety-ninth percentile of the Stanford Achievement Test—even though many come from poor, inner-city neighborhoods. At Cuyahoga Valley Christian School in Ohio last spring, every graduate went on to college. At Delaware County Christian School in Pennsylvania a few years ago, 10 percent of its seniors were National Merit finalists— compared to a national average of less than 1 percent. What's more, these schools are climbing the academic heights without compromising their strong biblical teaching. Teachers don't shy away from teaching straightforward biblical sex ethics. And they unabashedly teach divine creation in their science courses. These schools are proving that, contrary to what secular educators often say, teaching a biblical world view is not contrary to academic excellence. In fact, when you think about it, the biblical world view is precisely the reason Christian schools can be academic powerhouses. Public schools are bogged down in a morass of relativism, which undercuts any standards of achievement. But Christians embrace absolute standards of truth and morality, which provide direction for spiritual and intellectual growth. The Bible commands us to do everything for the glory of God. That gives you and me a strong motivation to seek excellence in all areas of life, including the things of the mind. Even the secular world is waking up and realizing that Christian education can be a viable alternative to public schools. And not just for Christians, but for anyone looking for excellence in education.


Chuck Colson


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