NORWALK, Calif. Exodus Mandate, a national advocacy group that urges parents to remove their children from the public school systems, has launched a California affiliate in the wake of passage of SB 777.
The California Exodus project was announced Feb. 7 and has been endorsed by a coalition of Christian organizations.
Dr. Ron Gleason, chairman of California Exodus and pastor at Yorba Linda's Grace Presbyterian Church, said the implementation of SB 777, which prohibits instructional materials and activities that promote a "discriminatory bias" against homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals and transgenders, was the final straw for evangelicals. The law also redefines gender into the state education code to include an individual's "perceived" gender.
"There is a very clear, present, and dangerous agenda that is being foisted upon parents and students alike by a well-organized group of ideologues," Gleason wrote on a letter posted on the group's Web site. "These groups are usually well funded with the requisite cadre of lobbyists working on their behalf. This, combined with disinterested and uninvolved parents, is a recipe for educational disaster."
He said the new law is nothing more than affirmative action and values clarification propaganda. Even so, although SB 777 was the catalyst, Gleason said the problem extends much deeper.
"It's not the homosexual issue," he said in a telephone interview. "It came into play as a tangent, but not as the major issue."
A broken system
In addition to high dropout rates, underperforming graduates and discipline problems that distract from core teaching, Gleason said the removal of prayer from the classroom and challenges to "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance have stripped away vital morals teachings. Complicating matters, he added, is a school system that is driven by a heavy bureaucracy and a strong, liberal union.
Gone are the days, he said, when parents, the church and the schools worked in unity to provide virtue and values instruction. Although the link between home and church remains strong, the third element has evaporated.
When it comes to the educational aspects of academics, Gleason points to the 1983 "A Nation at Risk" study which declared the nation's educational system broken, a declaration he said was backed up 18 years later when the Hart-Rudman report said that, "next to a terrorist attack, the biggest danger facing our country was the lack of math and science skills."
Finally, he said, Christians have a mandate from the Lord to protect their children from false teachings.
"Our children, all children, are covenant children who are entrusted to us by God," the education advocate said. "He's entrusting them into our hands."
Not only will removing children from the public schools protect them against questionable teachings, but Gleason said it will also send a strong message to public schools, which are funded by the number of students they have enrolled. A large exodus could have a dramatic effect on funding.
He admits that private school is not the be-all and end-all, but that in many instances it's much safer for young, impressionable minds.
"Any human method is going to be infallible, but we do have the mandate that God wants us to raise up godly seed," Gleason said. "On balance it's going to be far, far better than what we have in public school right now.
In addition to warning parents of the dangers of public school, Gleason said his group is working to compile resources to help parents with the added costs of private school or even homeschooling. His desire is to see large churches divert some of their capital improvement funding to build larger and larger facilities into scholarship accounts to underwrite tuition costs for the needy and single parents.
"It's not about me," he said of his role as a pastor. "It's about Christ, and because it is about Christ, it's really about thinking that we are going to build the kingdom and not my little empire."
Other supporters of the project include Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, Citizens for Excellence in Education, Considering Homeschooling Ministry, Association of Classical Christian Schools, Mission America, Alliance for the Separation for School and State and the Nehemiah Institute.
Give to Caesar
Gleason, who has appeared on numerous radio talks shows since announcing the project, said he believed Voddie Bauchman, a Texas-based pastor and author of "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World," aptly summed up the public school situation on a recent show by saying, "You give them to Caesar and you get back a Roman."
Gleason said it was important for well-meaning parents to reconsider their child's exposure in the public schools, which can total up to 14,000 hours through 12th grade.
"Parents try to counterbalance that by an hourlong Sunday School class and a weekly worship service," Gleason said. "That isn't going to happen."
He likened the experience to an Old Testament context of having the Israelites ship their children off to the Philistines for their schooling.
"These days it is unconscionable for parents to think we are going to send our children to school to be salt and light and to be missionaries," he said, lamenting the influence of teacher and peer pressure. Let's face it, we don't send 5 year-olds into the mission field."