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Can a creationist make a difference in a public school? Roger Patterson, AiG–U.S., gives a blunt assessment of the current climate in the American education system.
To Ken Ham or other AiG staff who have been high school science teachers:
I am a home-schooled highschool student, and am considering a career as a public school highschool science teacher. The only reason I’m considering doing this is because then, as a Christian who believes the Bible, I would probably be taking the place of an evolutionist who would influence the kids for the worse.
I thought this would be beneficial because I could perhaps emphasize the difference between science and the evolutionary theory, and thus influence many, many kids.
What are the legal limits of speech in the public school classroom; how far could I go in my goal of putting science and evolution and the Bible in their right places in the public school classroom? Would this be effective?
Sincerely in Christ,
– C.M., U.S.
Thank you for contacting our ministry with your question. I certainly appreciate your desire to be a witness for Christ to the next generation. I want to answer your question honestly without squashing your hopes of impacting many young lives with the gospel.
In one sense, the answer to your question is totally dependent upon the district that you teach in. The political environment can vary from openly hostile toward Christians to very accommodating. For example, I taught in a small town in Wyoming that made sure school activities were completed by 6:00 on Wednesday nights so that the students could attend church activities. Many of the teachers were Christians, and I sponsored a Fellowship of Christian Athletes student group for a time.
On the other hand, the district curriculum demanded that I teach evolutionary concepts in my biology class. I had taught for several years before God was pleased to save me—and when the truth of Scripture shed its light on the darkness of evolution. I had always presented the possibility that God was involved in the process, but I taught my students to believe in evolution.
Once I recognized that God created just as the Bible teaches, I was faced with a moral dilemma. As a teacher, I was obligated to teach the content of the district curriculum. As a Christian, I was obligated to teach the truth of God’s Word. Without neglecting the teaching required by the curriculum, I made my views known to the students in what I believed to be an appropriate way. In God’s grace, I never had to face any discrimination and there were no complaints, and then I took a position here at Answers in Genesis.
Apart from the evolutionary ideas that a teacher must present as part of the curriculum, there are other things to consider. The public education system in America is founded on principles of secular humanism. This is not to say that every school is intent upon these goals, but the system, as a whole, is.
Colleges that train teachers do so in a way that rejects the biblical worldview and is founded in humanistic values. In the teaching program I went through, there were more psychology classes (founded on an evolutionary, anti-biblical worldview) than there were teaching methods courses. The rules and discipline policies in a school will very likely be founded in these principles as well. As a teacher, you will be called to uphold these rules and principles.
You must also consider that getting your teaching credentials to teach science will require you to enter into a generally hostile environment. I would encourage you to read Dr. Lisle’s article “Surviving Secular College” for more insight on that topic.
Many of the teachers who claim to be Christians in the public schools hold an evolutionary view—not a biblical view—of science and education. They have adopted secular theories in regard to educational philosophy, discipline, psychology, and the nature of science. You may face strong opposition from these teachers as well.
As school district employees, teachers are required to follow school district policy with regard to curriculum. Teachers do not have free speech rights to present their own religious viewpoint in the classroom. Some school districts only permit teaching the standard evolutionary models. Other district policies allow, or even encourage, teaching both the scientific pros and cons of these evolutionary models. Still other districts allow teaching “the controversy” around the creation/evolution issue. When allowed to present scientific biblical creation models, teachers must follow general principles for teaching any religious topic in public schools and present the religious information only in a manner that doesn’t proselytize or favor a specific religion.
With all of those warnings noted, I think you are intending to undertake a highly commendable endeavor. As I think of Christians with a solid biblical worldview teaching in the public schools, I can only think of them as missionaries to a hostile culture. If you do decide to pursue a teaching career, I would encourage you to adopt that mindset. You will undoubtedly face persecution, but Jesus promised we would face such as His followers. There is no doubt that there is a great need within the public schools for teachers who will bring biblical principles, and the hope of the gospel, to the interactions with their students.
In fact, to effect change in our current political climate, it is going to take a grassroots effort. Young people like you who will take a stand for Christ and courageously venture into the various public venues to proclaim the gospel at every opportunity. As individuals receive salvation and submit to the authority of the Bible, we can expect to see real change in our society. Ken Ham and I have written on that topic in the New Answers Book 3. I would encourage you to read that chapter on public schools.
Don’t worry about being effective as much as you worry about being faithful to Scripture. Our effectiveness is not measured in numbers, but in our obedience to what Christ has called us to do.
As you move forward with your decision, seek counsel from godly advisors, read your Bible, and pray for God’s wisdom. I trust God will use you for His glory as you seek to serve Him.