Magazine article The Christian Century

Attending to the Kids

Magazine article The Christian Century

Attending to the Kids

Article excerpt

DISCUSSIONS OF EDUCATION have been dominated in recent years by arguments for and against school choice: Should governments offer tax-funded vouchers for use at religious and other private schools? These arguments have stimulated debate in creative ways, primarily by drawing attention to some of the crucial ingredients for school success--discipline, teacher commitment, parental and community involvement--that are often highly visible at religious schools. But the arguments have also distracted attention from a fundamental reality: regardless of what happens in private education or with the various voucher proposals, the vast majority of American children will continue to be educated in public schools.

Private education accounts for about 11 percent of all children. Even were attendance at private schools to double in the coming years--which is highly unlikely--eight of ten children would still be served by public schools. Therefore anyone interested in the health of American society has to care about the state of public education.

Last year the National Council of Churches issued a statement urging congregations to support public schools by providing after-school tutoring programs and other kinds of support to teachers. The NCC suggested that congregations consider adopting a neighborhood school as part of their mission.

A direct effort of this sort has been launched by Kids Hope USA, which pairs volunteers from churches with at-risk students for an hour of mentoring each week. …

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