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Joel Belz - Fighting education elitism

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WORLD Radio - Joel Belz - Fighting education elitism

A school in Tennessee provides optimism for the future of Christian education


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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, June 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

WORLD founder Joel Belz now with the story of a school in Tennessee that fills him with optimism for the future of Christian education.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Most WORLD listeners may not know that I wasn’t always in the task of journalism. I decided 45 years ago to leave the field of education and try my hand at publishing, but I didn’t really change my vocation.

I had spent long enough in elementary, secondary, and college level schools to know I’d have to discover my forte elsewhere. I wasn’t good at lesson plans, curriculum design, attendance records, and a hundred other habits of school life.

I had dabbled with printing and publishing for close to 20 years, and I thought it was fair to test my gifts on those fronts.

My goal—first for my students and later for my readers—was that they would always think of their Creator God as at the center of their existence. If that had defined my philosophy of Biblically directed education, it also defined my philosophy of Biblically directed journalism.

Still, it’s been my delight to watch the growth and maturing of the Christian school movement. Nor have I had to watch all this from a distance. I’ve been welcomed to serve on three different boards of directors.

From one perspective, however, a big chunk of that success has come at painful cost. The Christian school movement has become more economically elitist—which means hordes of people still have no access to a Christian school of any kind.

That’s why I’m delighted to report the commitment of at least one Christian school in responding to that challenge. Chattanooga Christian School, or CCS, in southeast Tennessee, serves just over 1,000 students. And it knows what we’re talking about when it hears the charge of elitism.

But now CCS is forging strategic links with other schools in the region. Olivet Baptist Church says that for years it’s wanted to launch a school—but leaders doubted they had the resources to do the job well. Now, in a win/win agreement, the church provides school facilities while CCS coordinates the school’s “educational infrastructure.”

It’s not about ownership. Olivet Church’s pastor, Bishop Kevin Adams, was excited about utilizing their space. School Principal Nicha Jean says: “We’re intentional. We think about what students will learn, and who our students will be. We treat the spiritual side and the academic side equally. All of it is important.”

But that’s not all. This August, CCS plans to open a second “micro school” in Chattanooga’s Glenwood area. It’s a minority community anchored by New City Fellowship (part of the Prebyterian Church in America). CCS Lower School Head Shonda Caines points to the new schools’ access to special education training and personnel.

Such innovative expansion almost makes me think it’s time to retire from journalism and see if I’ve any gifts left in the field of education.

I’m Joel Belz.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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