72 Teachers Crossed the Street

The National Union of Christian Schools’ Teachers Recruitment Committee is struggling with a difficult problem; how to solve the teacher shortage in Our Christian schools.

Last June 422 teachers left our Christian schools. Of these 72 left for other occupations and another 72 transferred to public schools. (By comparison; Calvin College and Dordt College graduated 329 teachers last year.)

It is well that the Teachers Recruitment Committee expresses concern about this alarming development. The committee has sent out special bulletins to the ministers of the Christian Reformed Church, asking their advice. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed, but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22).

In the meantime it is well to bear in mind that our Christian school problems are part of a much bigger problem. Seventy-two teachers left for the public school. Seventy-two teachers, we must presume, felt that they could fulfill their Christian obligations in the public schools as well as in the Christian school, if not better. They look upon the public school, we take it, as a neutral common framework of education in which they can let their Christian light shine.

Before we start frowning, we must remember that actually this view of life prevails widely in the Re· formed community. The fact that we have no Christian political party is not because we are too small in number, but because we hold, by and large, that the present parties are “neutral” frameworks within which the individual Christian can quite well discharge his Kingdom responsibility. Our church members have joined the “neutral” labor unions because they feel that such unions are neither Christian nor un-Christian and therefore allow sufficient room for the expression of the Christian view of life and work. Examples could be multiplied in other areas of human relationships.

The seventy-two who went to the public school thus acted in accord with a view of society widely held among us -the view that society is a neutral given a common theatre in which we take our place as individuals, manifesting whatever Christian truth and grace we can. By switching to the public school they did what many of us have done in other areas of life.

We will, then, not overcome om problems now signalled by the Recruitment Committee until we arrive at a more comprehensive, reformational view of society. Trite but true; society is not neutral. Man’s institutions in society are the product of his religious heart. “All man’s Babylons strive but to impart The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart” (F. Thompson). Man acts from his religious heart commitment when he stipulates humanism as the basis of his political, educational and economic structures, a creed which he subsequently hides under the cloak of neutralism so that he can invite Christian believers to jump on his bandwagon.

The Christian school—with all its faults—is a testimony to the Christian faith. The public school with all its virtues—is the consistent outcome of the humanistic creed.

Until the N.V.C.S.—and we all—recognize this, there is not much to say to teachers who cross the street. They will answer us that they act from the same noble motives which inspire their brothers in other “neutral” institutions.

Christian schools face hard times. True, the last year has brought a 1.7% growth in number of students. But a significant segment of Christian Reformed people remain aloof of the Christian school movement. Financial pressures follow rising standards and need for modern facilities. These obstacles can be overcome when we are gripped by the dynamic of Christ’s total claim on man’s heart, his ways, his culture, and his institutions. Among these, Christian education occupies a strategic place. Christian education and public education draw from radically different root principles.

The Recruitment Committee deserves our help in this painful problem. May more and more of our young people prepare themselves for a teaching career under the victorious banner of Christ. But unless the community of Christ is gripped by this larger Kingdom dynamic we may well witness a larger exodus of teachers and children to the public school.

The N.V.C.S. and our Christian Colleges should lead the march toward that vision in education in all areas of life.

Rev. L. Tamminga is pastor of the Bethel Christian Reformed Church, Sioux Center, Iowa.