We have selected these titles not for endorsement but as representative of various views about public education and about the Christian’s role in public education.
Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can and Should Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids, Nicole Fulgham (Brazos Press, 2013). Fulgahm argues for a particular role for Christians in public education—among the “least of these.” Writing from on-site experience, she acknowledges the challenges of working with low-income communities. She also invokes the encouragement of faith: “As a Christian, I can speak personally to biblical principles about serving the poor and working for justice. My relationship with God and personal commitment to follow Christ has led me and sustained my commitment to improving low-income schools” (p. xi).
Pluralism and American Public Education: No One Way to School, Ashley Rogers Berner (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). America’s government-sponsored approach to education is out of step with other liberal democracies. Berner sets out an alternative she believes is more in keeping with our diverse and pragmatic culture and more amenable to religious education, a pathway that is neither libertarian nor state-focused. “This is what I mean by educational pluralism: changing the structure of public education so that state governments fund and hold accountable a wide variety of schools, including religious ones, but do not necessarily operate them” (p. 3).
Working for Our Neighbor: A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life, Gene Edward Veith (Christian’s Library Press, 2016). Dr. Veith has made several contributions to recent literature in the doctrine of vocation. This brief volume is one in a series of books on vocation from writers in different theological traditions. The book does not directly address teaching in a public school, but it does provide a sound biblical context for understanding our labors as a station in our calling as Christians. From his Introduction: “Luther’s theology shows the interconnections of faith, work, and economics not just theoretically, but practically, and discloses how the ordinary, seemingly secular activities of everyday life are essential dimensions of Christian spirituality.”
The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education, Adam Laats (Harvard University Press, 2015). American public education is often equated with progressivism. Names like John Dewey and Alfie Kohn come readily to mind. However, Laats maintains that the progressive movement has been more flash than bang and that other, less publicized but influential themes also continue to characterize public education, including traditional Calvinist beliefs. His opening chapter is titled “What Does Jesus Have to do with Phonics?”
Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, Diane Ravitch (Vintage, 2014). Another lens through which to view public education are the works of Diane Ravitch. Ravitch is a long-time advocate for and critic of public education. In this volume, she addresses several current conditions in public education with attention to poor and minority students. Her thesis is that the popular narrative of all the problems with public education is wrong. “Public education is not broken. It is not failing or declining …. Public education is in a crisis only so far as society is and only so far as this new narrative has destabilized it” (p. 4).
Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America, Donna Foote (Vintage, 2009). And still another lens through which to regard public education today is through this documentary account of four new Teach for America classroom teachers at a Los Angeles high school. The book offers an inside view of both the inner city school and the TFA program with much and varied commentary, such as from an administrator who “found the quality of the thirteen new TFA candidates he hired to teach in 2006 much higher than those from other, more traditional credentialing programs, and he thought the passion they displayed for the mission could not be faked” (p. 39).