I just read through the results of a recent survey of Christian school graduates [pre-college] that sought to determine whether graduates from those Christian schools were achieving the goals of the schools—academic excellence, spiritual formation, and the engagement of the larger culture. Some of those results are heartening, while one in particular is discouraging, to me at least.
The positives for Protestant Christian schools, the ones with which I am most familiar and am closer to in spirit, can be summarized this way: their graduates are
uniquely compliant, generous, outwardly-focused individuals who stabilize their communities by their uncommon commitment to their families, their churches, and larger society. Graduates of Christian schools donate money significantly more than graduates of other schools, despite having lower household income. Similarly, graduates of Protestant Christian schools are more generous with their time, participating far more than their peers both in service trips for relief and development and in mission trips for evangelization.
That’s a very good report, revealing that a Christian education does indeed make a difference. So I should simply be happy with that and not nitpick anything else, right? Well, there was one glaring omission in their education, in my estimation. The report goes on to say that those same graduates, when it comes to politics, are basically indifferent. Here are the exact words from the report:
Not only are Christian school graduates avoiding political action—donating less than their peers to political causes and reporting weak involvement in political campaigns and protests—Christian school graduates, and particularly Protestant Christian school graduates, report a surprisingly low interest in politics altogether. They report avoiding conversations with colleagues, family, and friends while their peers from non-religious private schools reported engagement in political discussions in all spheres of their lives.
The survey notes that this apathy toward anything political is also found in the administrators of these schools, thereby indicating why the students turn out apathetic themselves. They are merely mirroring their mentors. The conclusion?
While cultural engagement most certainly includes more than political action, culture is profoundly influenced in the political sphere. If Christian school graduates are not participating in politics, we might conclude the opinions and values of this population are being excluded from contemporary political dialogue and cultural influence.
The survey itself seems to be relieved, though, that these graduates are not becoming “right-wing political radicals,” a relief I don’t share. Of course I disagree with the characterization of right-wing being some kind of fringe radicalism, but that’s another discussion. What bothers me is the fact that these Christian school graduates are so alienated from any interest in the political/governmental realm. I’ve noted before that the students I teach are, by and large, ignorant of any basic Biblical principles that form the foundation for government and politics. It appears we still have a problem with a false dichotomy: anything spiritual cannot be connected to anything political.
Wrong. Without the spiritual underpinnings, politics spins out of control and is doomed to be the plaything of selfishness and personal ego. Only those who have a strong spiritual/moral basis can keep this realm of our society under control. Christians need to be involved. Sadly, we have a long way to go to convince them.