Your child attends a public or private school where Critical Race Theory is taught or at least available within textbooks and/or recommended reading materials. That concerns you. You want to say or do something that will make a difference in your child’s education. What do you do?
Making A Difference
I attended public schools as a child and our children also went to public schools. I remember attending PTA meetings and sharing concerns with teachers and administrators publicly and privately. I attended scores of school board meetings as a journalist and took notes as parents spoke to administrators and board members about their concerns. Most everyone in attendance wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of the children attending the school.
As we’ve noted in previous parts of this series, making a positive difference has become more challenging during the last few years because of many controversial topics. Many parents and educators disagree about what’s positive for children to learn.
One of the most controversial subjects is the teaching and promoting of Critical Race Theory (CRT) to children. While many school boards and administrators have claimed that CRT is not part of their schools’ curriculum, remote learning during the Covid-19 Pandemic demonstrated that was not true in some situations. Even if CRT was not an ‘official’ part of the curriculum, many teachers were seen and heard on Zoom classes promoting CRT. That led many parents to complain to school administrators and show up to speak at school board meetings.
I’ve watched many school board meetings during the past couple of years and seen parents and teachers (White, Black and Asian) identify themselves as Christians and speak passionately about CRT and other topics. It’s obvious they want to make a difference in their children’s education, but the question is how effective are they in accomplishing that?
I’ve also watched as parents and teachers, many identifying as Christians, protest outside schools and administration buildings. Some of the signs parents hold up during protests include:
- Education Not Indoctrination – Stop Critical Race Theory Now!
- Stop CRT Agenda
- No To CRT
- Content of Character Over Color of Skin – NO CRT
- Ban CRT
- Children Should Learn To See People For Who They Are – Not What They Look Like
- Equality of Opportunity Over Equity of Outcomes
- NO CRT IN SCHOOLS
- We Can’t End Racism With Racism
- STOP Teaching Our Kids To Hate
Question: How effective are these kinds of protests in making a difference for our children?
Answer: What does effective look like?
If Christian parents want to make a difference for their children in public schools, they need to be effective in communicating with the people who have the power in public education. Those people include school board members, administrators and teachers. It’s one thing to be angry and upset and communicate your anger. It’s another thing to effect real change in the public school education.
Making A Change
Some Christian parents are making a change in their children’s education by removing them from public schools. Private schools and homeschooling are options. However, if you want your children to continue their education in public school but want change in what the school teaches, then you need to consider a strategy that has the best chance of leading to a positive outcome.
We find principles for making change in the Bible. It begins with personal conversations.
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15
Though the context of what Jesus said is different, the principle is still the same. If you are going to have a difficult conversation with someone, start with a private meeting. If school board members are elected, they may be more open to meeting with you to discuss your concerns. You may already have a relationship with a school board member or administrator or the principal of your child’s school. If you do, start there.
So, how do you build the relationship? Changing minds takes time. You may need to meet privately with an individual more than once. You may need to meet privately with multiple people. Your child’s educational wellbeing is important to them and to you, so make time to meet with people who can change what’s taught in your child’s school. Think of private meetings with a school board member or administrator as part of a process of developing a positive relationship.
Here’s something I’ve used for years when having challenging conversations. I call it ALPS:
Asking questions demonstrates your respect for another person’s thoughts and beliefs.
Listening to their answers to your questions also demonstrates respect. It also gives you an opportunity to better understand the person’s worldview.
Praying silently for wisdom and guidance from God is very helpful and it is also important part of building your relationship with Him.
Sharing your thoughts after asking, listening and praying will often be helpful for the person with whom you’re talking. Speaking the truth in love can lead to a better understanding and relationship.
Here’s another principle of communication from Jesus.
But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ Matthew 18:16
If you are not able to meet with a school board member or administrator privately, then requesting a meeting with a few other concerned parents may help you gain the opportunity to share with them at a deeper level. Some educators may not want to meet alone with a group of parents, so they may have staff members attend as well. It’s good to be prepared for that possibility. It’s also important that you and other parents attending a meeting are on the same page about the issue and agree that logic is better than emotion in private meetings. Encourage the parents who are with you to keep their emotions in check and remember that building consensus takes time.
Whether you get a private or group meeting with a decision maker in your child’s school or the public school system, be ready to make your case in a short period of time. That demonstrates your respect for the administrator or board member. Presenting your thoughts in a short meeting means you need to know your subject well and be able to articulate the best points in a way that the decision maker will understand and appreciate. Hopefully, everyone in the meeting will view it as positive.
Unfortunately, many of the meetings between parents and school board officials have devolved into negative experiences for both groups. What usually happens in those situations is that both sides dig their heels in deeper and the gap between them widens. That rarely leads to a good outcome. Even though parents pay the taxes that fund public schools, many in public education believe they are the experts and that parents should let them do their job. The question, of course, is what happens when taxpayers don’t like how public officials do their job? That’s where private and small group meetings may have a chance of making progress toward understanding and change.
Remember the basics of presenting an effective response:
- Be Reasoned (logically valid)
- Be Informed (fact-based)
- Be Thoughtful (loving and kind)
Whether you have a private or small group meeting that lasts 20 minutes or speak at a school board meeting for one minute, the basics of an effective response do not change.
School Board Meeting Strategy
It’s helpful to understand how a public school board operates in order to develop a strategy for addressing issues of concern at their meetings. Most public school districts have a school board made up of several people from the community. While some school boards are made up of elected members, some have appointed members selected by a school board selection commission. Some school board members represent districts (specific areas of the community), while others may serve at-large (all areas of the community). You may find it helpful to have a private meeting with the school board member that represents the district where your child attends school along with one or more at-large members. If you have a positive private meeting with them, they may be more receptive to what you say in a public meeting. They may even share their positive thoughts about you with other board members. That would be helpful to your cause. Remember, your developing a relationship – hopefully, a positive one.
Part of a good school board meeting strategy is to develop a good relationship with one or more members of your local media. Introduce yourself to TV reporters, radio reporters and newspaper reporters. Some of the reporters will be general assignment reporters, meaning they cover whatever stories they are assigned. However, some reporters will have the education beat. That means they specialize in covering education issues. You can find out who they are by watching their reporting on TV, listening on the radio and seeing their bylines on newspaper articles.
Introduce yourself to one or more reporters before or after a meeting and let them know that you see them on TV, listen to them on radio or read their articles in the newspaper. You might also mention something about their recent education reporting. That lets them know you are an informed parent. It’s good to develop good relationships with media in your city or county. They may select you for an interview based on your comments at a school board meeting. If they do, be sure to let them know you saw, heard or read their report and your thoughts about it.
Local School Strategy
One of the many ways Christians can effect change in the schools their children attend is becoming involved in the schools. That may include involvement in the school’s PTA as a leader or a member of one of the group’s committees. You can also volunteer as a community representative from your school to a school system committee (if your school system has that type of committee representation). Serving on a curriculum committee would be helpful. Many of the complaints about CRT in schools are about the books and materials used to teach it in addition to the training teachers go through to learn how to teach CRT to students. Many Christians of all races have expressed concerns about the racist and pornographic nature of CRT materials. If true, that’s something a Christian serving on a curriculum committee could point out early in the process of selecting books and materials for teachers and students.
Who We Represent
It’s important that Christian parents remember who they represent – the King of kings and Lord of lords. Christian parents do have a vested interest in the schools their children attend. You also have vested interest in the work God is doing on earth today.
Whether we meet privately with a school administrator or board member or speak publicly to a school board, we are representing our Lord and Savior. We are His representatives and we need to represent well.
The basics of communicating with school administrators and school board members do not change from subject to subject. We move next to Transgender issues as they impact children in public schools when our series continues.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[This article was originally written in 2020 and has been edited slightly for publication two years later.]
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