By Kimberly Burkett
Dear Mr. Huckabee,
Regardless of your motivation, I want to suggest that you visit your local public school before passing such judgment in the future. If you visited a neighborhood elementary school like Sandy Hook, or any public school for that matter, you would see that God’s presence and the teachings of Jesus Christ are well represented by the works of the people in those buildings. Now perhaps His presence isn’t seen in the way you want – there aren’t readings from the Bible (or any other religious texts for that matter) and the Ten Commandments aren’t posted in classrooms (nor are the Pillars of Islam, actually), but His presence and teachings are instead practiced, demonstrated, and felt. You see, Mr. Huckabee, if you visited the schools you quickly denounce for removing your symbols of God, you’d find that His work actually takes places there every day.
For many students, that public school you deride is their only constant; their only refuge; their only normalcy. Like educators across the nation, my elementary school principal husband and his staff work daily with homeless children, hungry children, abused children, broken children. He and his staff feed their bodies, characters, minds, and souls. They do it every day. They do it for little pay and they do it for lousy benefits. They do it despite the disrespect they sometimes feel from parents and the public. They do it in the face of disdain from politicos that claim they’re fleecing taxpayer money and don’t contribute revenue to the economy. They do it even as they’re called “union thugs.” Educators are God’s workers – there’s no other reason to think a person would endure so much to receive so little.
These educators, aided by school support staff and parent/community volunteers, are God-given, Mr. Huckabee. Through them God’s miracles happen every day. Through education, God’s children are provided a shot at a better life. In my state of Texas, 25% of children live in poverty (the statistics in your home state of Arkansas are similar). For some of these children, these educators are the only chance they have of breaking the poverty cycle. In those Godless government schools, they have a chance at a better tomorrow. The school is a place where they can not only explore their life’s dreams, but be provided the tools to achieve those dreams. It is the tireless men and women of the school systems that will give them those tools.
And these educators wear many hats – not only do they educate and lead, they serve as role models, protectors, life coaches, and cheerleaders. They’re in loco parenti. They’re friends and counselors. Unfortunately, some in Connecticut even served as human shields – coming between bullets and six year olds. If serving children and the community in this way isn’t the work of a higher power, I don’t know what is.
Perhaps your efforts would be better spent, Mr. Huckabee, not in trying to bring your particular brand of religion into schools or dictating how God should appear in a classroom, but instead supporting public schools and the work He does through them. Education budgets have been slashed nationwide. Our students learn in over-crowded classrooms with outdated technology. Our teachers are being pushed out of the profession by unrealistic accountability systems and the profit-driven thirst to change classrooms into testing factories. Our state legislatures are bowing down to special interests seeking to privatize our education systems – turning a noble profession and public commitment into little more than a profitable pick for a hedge fund manager. Through systematic defunding, the decline of critical thinking skills to make way for rote memorization to pass the next benchmark test, and the political prostitution of public education for profit, the war on education is clear and ongoing. God’s work through these schools and educators is under attack, but your concern is reciting scripture in the classroom. Really?
Mr. Huckabee, why are you and other sanctimonious detractors more concerned that educators don’t lead children in prayer instead of sharing concern for the many challenges that schools and impoverished children face daily? Why are you saddened that children aren’t taught Biblical parables instead of uplifted by the miracles that occur in schools every day? If you don’t see God in the efforts and works of schools and educators, I’m afraid you’re not really looking.
You see, Mr. Huckabee, schools don’t need to preach the Gospel or read the Bible every day to bring God into the classroom. He never left.