By Dan Olson and Russ Gregg
We believe the mis-education of American inner city youth is one of the greatest Biblical justice issues of our day. But to solve a problem, you have to deeply understand it. Our conviction is that the urban education crisis is a symptom of a much deeper society-wide problem: the rejection of God as creator and redeemer, and deep confusion around society’s understanding of personal and societal sin.
This tragic blindness to God and a true understanding of sin as God defines it has deeply affected our schools—private, public and charter; urban and suburban. C.S. Lewis, in his prescient book The Abolition of Man, called it the “poison of subjectivism”, and that it would inevitably lead to “men without chests” and downfall of Western civilization.
All across America, this education divorced from the image of God has relatively quickly deteriorated into the dismissal of God from classrooms, the rejection of truth from textbooks, the disregarding of parents, the abuse of teachers, and the warehousing of students. It has contributed to school shootings, voluntary segregation along ethnic lines, a yawning achievement gap, gender confusion, classroom chaos, and generation after a lost to drugs, gangs, and teenage pregnancy.
And who is most affected by these currents? Our most vulnerable resource: low-income, minority youth, or, what Dr. Vernard Gant calls A.C.E. students 1 — Academically disenfranchised, Culturally diverse, and Economically disadvantaged students. 2
Today in America, there are around 13.6 million school aged A.C.E students (ages 5-17). The vast majority—around 80%—live in U.S. cities. Only 132,000 of these students — less than 1% — are enrolled in an Evangelical Protestant Christian school. 3
This crisis of access to faith-based education in the Judeo-Christian heritage has been building over the last twenty years for two main reasons. First, between 2000 and 2006 nearly 1,200 faith-based schools (50% of them Catholic) closed in America’s inner cities, forcing more than 400,000 students to find other schools. 4 This trend has only continued. Second, traditional Christian schools in both urban and suburban communities have become increasingly cost-prohibitive, making access for A.C.E. students through scholarships increasingly rare. 5
The result is that nearly 99% of our most vulnerable students will spend 14,000 hours (180 days, 6 hours, for 13 years) in schools where it is illegal for classroom teachers to base their teaching in the only source of ultimate hope: Jesus Christ. While high-income, socially stable families can afford to choose to homeschool or enroll their kids in the thousands of Christian schools in America, this is simply not an option for nearly any low-income, minority youth in most U.S. cities.
The problem is massive and addressing it is urgent. Perhaps God is calling you to do something about it.
- Another A.C.E. acronym is much more commonly used in educational circles: Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.). Schools, including Hope Academy, seek to understand trauma and it’s effects using an A.C.E. score. These A.C.E.s — such as abuse, drug use in the home, fatherlessness, incarceration — are common in under-served communities
- In an America context, A.C.E. students are in families who meet federal low-income guidelines and are ethnically Hispanic, African or African-American, Native American, and Pacific Islander. Dr. Vernard Gant today serves as the director of the A.C.E. Student Success Center of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
- We estimate that 132,000 (62%) of an estimated 216,700 A.C.E. students (19.7%) enrolled in Evangelical Christian schools in America (Hispanic (8.1%), African or African-American (10.6%), American Indian (0.5%), Pacific Islander (0.5), Low income estimate of 62% taken from National Center for Children in Poverty Report: http://www.nccp.org/profiles/US_profile_6.html). Estimate of 1.1 million total students enrolled in Evangelical Christian schools in America taken from 2015-2016 report, estimate of 18% of the 10% of American students enrolled in Private Schools (5,751,000). See tables here: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017073.pdf. Overall, 22 million (40%) of the 55 million school aged children in America are African American (15%), Hispanic (25%), or Native American (1%), based on population numbers gathered from the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. See https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/children-by-raceethnicity/.
- See the 2006 White House Report: Preserving a Critical National Asset. Website access 10.24.18: https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/government/fbci/pdf/preserving_a_critical_national_asset.pdf
- A key finding in a 2018 report was that “urban private schools have less socioeconomic diversity today than they had several decades ago”. See See Long-Term Trends in Private School Enrollments by Family Income. Accessed online on Oct. 24, 2018. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2332858417751355