Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks a Few Days Early

The ACSI Student Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia always comes the Sunday through Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  I think that's probably a calendar issue more than anything else, wedging it in between sports seasons and holidays.  But it also provides students the opportunity to visit the nation's capital, Washington, DC, and to take an excursion into the city to see the sights. 

This year, due to some difficulties with scheduling and some unexpected surprises, we were unable to tour either the White House or the Capitol building, which had been in our plans.  Instead, we got an impromptu tour of the Supreme Court building, a visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and a trip to the war memorials for those who served in Korea and Vietnam.  It was a good time to visit both, prompting expressions of thanks from the students who went to see them, and from those who went to Arlington Cemetery afterward. 

The existence of a Supreme Court, interpreting a constitution that protects the same individual rights as the soldiers who are named in those memorials died protecting, were fitting places to visit prior to Thanksgiving.  And in spite of the political perspectives that have, in our day and age, become so heated, and in many cases, so selfish, the impact of both the court, and the memorials, was not lost on the students who visited. 

In a day and age when science, technology and mathematics have taken over the emphasis of the education system, it is time to revisit the mission and purpose of American education in general.  I think, in the realm of Christian schools, we have achieved some balance in the teaching of scripture, and of history, to our students, but I think we need to do much more.  Discernment and critical thinking are not things which can be taught from a book, they must be learned by practical application.  Compulsory education in the United States is considered to be a backbone of support for the entire democratic republic that we have in place to govern the country.  It takes an educated population to administer the apparatus of the state, to the benefit of the people as directed by the constitution.  So I believe we are at a point where our students need to be able to exhibit a clear understanding of this country, its principles, and how it works, before they can graduate from high school.

What is represented by those institutions at either end of the National Mall--the war memorials and the Supreme Court building, is the foundation of the democratic republic that is the United States of America.  The values that are present go well beyond the perspective of an individual, to the collective good of the entire country.  It is not hard to understand these values, though it is much more difficult to set aside personal preferences and biases.  But it must be done, or the country will not survive intact. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Approaching Election...

Many people will be very happy when November 8 passes by.  I know I will be.  But there are some considerations that you might want to note before you go cast your ballot. 

School choice is an important issue for those of us in the Christian school community.  It never really gets high on the priority list for most politicians, but for those of us involved in private, Christian education, particularly those of us who earn a living from it, it is important, and we are affected by what happens on every election day. 

School choice is primarily a state issue.  So in those races that are "down ballot", when you get into state senators and representatives, it is one of the primary issues state politicians deal with.  And because of the nature of the issue, and its relationship to education, which is its larger umbrella, party affiliation is not always a predictor of the level of support of any particular candidate. 

The EITC and OSTC programs all operate based on limits and regulations from the state legislature, as does the transportation fund for bus operation.  In the past couple of years, there has been a conflict between individual rights, and the school's religious liberty as a Christian institution that has the potential to create difficulty for us when it comes to the admissions process or hiring.  The PA Family Foundation has warned us that exemptions which apply to religious institutions and allow for religious requirements in hiring practices is disappearing from legislation.

So while we cannot endorse candidates for office, we can encourage you to "do your homework," and find out where candidates stand on school choice.  We've had a strong effect on the way the legislature has handled bills that affect private schools through the voter voice app on the ACSIPA and PACAPE websites, and are recognized by many legislators when it comes to deciding how they'll vote or pursue bills that affect private schools.  There are several strong supporters of the EITC/OSTC program in our area, as well as proponents of protecting our religious freedom, and you need to find out who they are before Tuesday.