Date of Award

1986

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Communications

First Advisor

Dr. Roy Buckelew

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Beaty

Third Advisor

Dr. Tom Greer

Abstract

No one can claim to be perceptive of the current religious and educational trends in this nation without noticing the phenomenal growth of Protestant day schools. Some have claimed that as many as four new schools are being built each day , but more reasonable estimates of two per day are still staggering . As two education experts wrote, "The most rapidly growing segment of American elementary and secondary education is that of private Fundamentalist schools."

While the overall enrollment in nonpublic schools declined 28% between 1965 and 1975, enrollment in fundamentalist and evangelical schools increased 118%. Also, the Association of Christian Schools International. the largest association of Christian day schools, reported 1,294 member schools in 1980 and 2,273 member schools in 1985. The enrollment in those schools has also risen drastically from 220,001 to 390,285 in the same five years. Overall, reliable estimates say that well over one million children are students in approximately ten thousand fundamentalist and evangelical schools. The sheer magnitude of the Christian school movement is sufficient justification for a study of significant size.

Still other factors make it incumbent upon the reader to understand and evaluate the Christian school movement. First, the prospects of tax monies being used indirectly to support these Christian day schools is something worthy of considerable attention and debate. In particular, the recent push by the Reagan administration to secure tuition tax credits and vouchers for private school parents should force every American taxpayer to make some judgement regarding the use of tax money for private education.

Second, the Christian school movement may cast grave doubts over the future of public school education. Many Christian school advocates believe Christian schools should ultimately overtake public schools as the primary educators of elementary and secondary schoolchildren. If this is one of their goals, and if Christian schools continue to grow, then financial support for public schools, which educate the vast majority of America's poor children, might dwindle to severely inadequate levels.

A third reason for studying the Christian school movement is that many fundamentalists and evangelicals believe the survival of fundamental Christianity depends on the proliferation of Christian schools. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral Majority and the Liberty Federation, has been particularly vocal on this point. According to him, Christian schools are necessary to provide leadership for sustaining the recent "resurgence of conservative Christianity" in societal life. He plans to establish five thousand new schools with a thousand students in each by the end of this century. It is in those five million students that Falwell places his future hopes for bringing this nation "back to God."

Indeed, the Christian School movement is no small, ineffectual phenomenon. It deserves a careful interpretation of its rationale.

Although the Christian school movement can be studied from many different perspectives, this paper will focus on the relationship of it to conservative Christian attitudes toward culture. These questions will be considered: How is the Christian school rationale related to historical attitudes toward culture? How does the Christian school community interpret its role in society? And, how has this interpretation evolved since the first Christian day schools of the 1940's?

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