As students who attend a private school, we have a harder time seeing what Christians face in the public school system. Perceptions may be misconstrued, in that we make general assumptions about lax and rebellious public school life. So, to get the facts right, we went into the community to find out what really goes on inside a public school classroom.
In public schools, Christian students have a hard time sharing their faith, since they are not allowed to have discussions about Christianity in class or with teachers. For some, being denied the right of talking about their faith discourages them; so much so that spreading the Good News to anyone seems impossible. However, there are various clubs like First Priority for kids to get connected with people that share their same interests.
“By joining clubs or having conversations in class, you can make new friends and meet people you share common ground with,” said public school student,
Being surrounded by temptations is understandably more difficult to ignore in the secular setting, and according to Sydney, “I’m surrounded by sex, drugs, cursing, lying. That kind of stuff in my everyday life is harder to resist when everyone and everything around me says it’s all right.”
There are rules of course, but it’s not hard to “bend” them. Take something as simple as the school’s dress code: according to student, Haley Echols, “It’s [the dress code] not strict at all. There are rules you are supposed to follow, but it’s easy to wear whatever you want.”
“Public school is easy compared to the difficulty of private school curriculum,” says former public school student, Jameson Kelliher. This is different everywhere you go, but as high schools all across the United States are bursting at the seams, and classroom sizes are increasing, teachers are finding little time to spend quality one-on-one time with their students.
As the classes get larger, students get less attention, and as that happens, grades tragically fall. And that brings up yet another issue, even more troublesome. Recently, there was a report in the New York Times, in which NYC high schools were being investigated because it wasn’t the students who were caught cheating, but the teachers. Pressure by the need to pass students from one grade to the next, some teachers have been caught modifying their gradebooks to ensure that their “falling behind” students, those who were gliding between a D and an F, received the extra nudge to the passing point.
Of all the public school lessons that we learned during this exploration on their turf, perhaps the one that resonated loud was the fact that public school students are taught to “play well with others,” as this will teach them how to deal with differences, not to form cliques—aggregating to people with similar interests, similar abilities, similar looks, similar gender preferences, similar religious backgrounds, similar ethnicity and similar race.
While in context this seems like a great lesson—not forming cliques is one that we try to practice here too— Christians in pubic schools still find it hard to live out their faith when rules may be easily broken. Our advice to them is: hold God’s Word as a shield. You may be in the world, but you are not of the world. Show the world you are different and play a part in changing it.