September 18, 2017
By Aaron Weaver
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Public education is under assault in the United States, Dallas pastor George Mason said at a Baptist conference focused on racial justice September 11 in Louisville, Ky.
“Racism is not the root of all problems of public education in America, but the problem of racism is rooted in public education in America,” said Mason, who serves as senior pastor of Dallas’ Wilshire Baptist Church, at The Angela Project Conference, the first of three annual summits focused on race and justice. “It should be the mission of the church of Jesus Christ to call [racism] out and root it out.”
“Public education is under assault in this country and whom do you think suffers most when it does,” added Mason, who addressed the diverse crowd on behalf of Pastors for Texas Children, a multi-denominational mission and advocacy network of more than 2,000 church leaders from across Texas who work to support public schools.
Pastors for Texas Children, a partner of Fellowship Southwest, is led by CBF pastor Charles Foster Johnson and was formed in 2011. PTC works to ensure that Texas children have access to quality public education, matching churches with local schools, creating mentoring and tutoring relationships with students, and providing needed material support to compensate for inadequate funding of public schools. PTC also advocates for just laws and adequate education budgets.
“The heroic efforts of people who founded schools like Simmons [College of Kentucky] are to be lauded,” Mason said. “The example of successful black Americans who had to work twice as hard as people like me to get where they are today is remarkable. But neither is any excuse for our complacency. Cherry-picking African Americans to praise so we have moral license to condemn many others who haven’t, because of unjust and unequal educational systems we continue to defend, is a sin against God.
“You know the history. From slavery to Jim Crow segregation, white Americans have been afraid to be exposed as frauds in our assertion that we have God-given intellectual superiority. We have clung to a lie about ourselves; and it is idolatry, not theology. We have to repent of the contrived notion of whiteness as rightness that has become operational policy in our approach to public school education. It’s not enough for us to feel sorry for our history; it’s necessary for us to atone for it.”
Mason emphasized that in Texas as well as nationwide there is a “privatizing movement that wants to peel off taxpayer dollars to private schools through voucher programs.”
“As always, these educational entrepreneurs see themselves as messianic figures, saving disadvantaged students from educrats and bureaucrats who only want to keep their jobs at the expense of the kids,” Mason said. “But that argument is bogus.”
“Voucher programs take our tax dollars and give them to private schools without public accountability. Charter schools do a similar runaround. Vouchers are a ruse designed once again to privilege the privileged and underprivilege the underprivileged. The people who cry for accountability all the time only want accountability when other people are in charge. And they employ all sorts of negative narratives to support their claims public schools can’t succeed. It’s either corruption of administrators or mismanagement of funds or the breakdown of the black family that makes education impossible. All these arguments are marshaled to undermine public education in favor of moving money and people toward charter schools and private schools.
“The performance data, however, don’t back up the claims of failing public schools and thriving charter schools; nor do state experiments in voucher programs justify the upending of a public education system, which was created to strengthen democracy and reinforce our country’s high ideals of patriotism and citizenship. Something else is going on, and we all know what it is. It’s what it’s always been.
“After Brown vs. Board of Education, whites fled the public schools for the homogeneity of private schools. When public schools were forcibly integrated, every form of creativity was called upon to maintain white advantage. Black kids and white kids now went to school together, but black teachers — who were invaluable role models in segregated schools — were let go all over the country. Schools were never ordered by the courts to integrate black teachers. Think of it.
“Then consider the code language we use in educational reform. Local control, school-based decision making, and here’s the big one — choice. Sounds good in principle, but so did the lofty notion of states’ rights that was used to justify slavery and segregation. The outcome has hardly been different, because when the people in charge locally only answer to people like them, they choose in their own favor time and again, and nothing changes to equalize opportunity.”
Mason noted that in Dallas 95 of the school district is non-white and 90 percent of students are on partial or full food subsidy.
“White flight is rooted in white fright,” he added. “Yet the only thing proven to improve performance in public schools is real racial and economic integration. Know why? Because children haven’t yet learned how not to love their neighbor. They work together and play together and want each other to succeed. It’s their parents and paid-for politicians who don’t know how to do this.”
Public education is a fertile field for justice work, Mason concluded.
“Pray for us and join us,” Mason said.
Learn more about the work of Pastors for Texas Children here.
Additional Helpful Links
- Baptists gather in Louisville to focus on racial justice at Angela Project Conference
- CBF pastors sign statement condemning racism and recommit to pursuing racial justice
- Cooperative Baptist Fellowship affirms historic partnership with gift for disaster relief
CBF is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.