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Why You Should Vote in the School Board Races: Reflections from a Christian Teacher

July 31, 2012

Darrell Hugueley is a teacher at Cordova Middle School.  He appeals to Greater Memphis Christians today about our responsibility to be engaged in public education.  It was in conversation with Darrell that we first heard the  powerful concept, “These are your children.” We immediately latched on to the phrase and asked Darrell to elaborate on his thoughts as a guest blogger here at Back in River City. We are privileged to introduce our friend and fellow Centurion Darrell Hugueley to our readers.

One of the most compelling ideas in Christianity is the admonition to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Many Christians have taken this to mean, for the most part, that we are to have nothing to do with the world itself and to keep as far away as possible from its influence. We have a stand-on-the-sidelines mentality about what happens in the world, and our Christianity makes us separate from its, well, worldliness, so that we only have to live in and put up with the world until we are called to a better place.

But God has chosen in his infinite wisdom to use us, the catholic body of believers, to complete his plan to bring all men to himself. That necessarily involves involvement. Participation. Partnership. Relationship.

Photo credit: Monroe Park Vineyard Church

Memphis is on the verge of the greatest change in its history. For three years now we have been in the middle of a public education reform movement that has garnered national attention, and rightfully so. The changes that are taking place in teacher effectiveness, curriculum alignment, and educational leadership will leave an indelible mark on the quality of education in this region. No matter what happens with the consolidation movement or who is chosen to lead it, and no matter what policy changes ensue, the educational landscape of Memphis and Shelby County will never be the same.

Because you are reading this blog, you are no doubt aware of these changes and the enormous potential they represent. This is the world we as citizens of Greater Memphis are living in. The big question is:

As a Christian, what in the world are you doing?

As a teacher in Memphis City Schools, I am appalled at the apparent lack of involvement many fellow believers are taking in the schools merger and the issues of local education reform. The angriest I have ever gotten at a fellow believer was reading a Facebook post in which the person remarked something to this effect: “The public school system is a joke. I just sit back and laugh at it all because my kids are in private school.” How outrageous! Is that the best we can do in the world? Build isolated institutions and let the world go to hell while we snicker in the gallery?

This is a fundamental truth: you have children in public education. Your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews may not actually attend a public school, but the children who do are yours. They are in your community. They will work beside your own children: stocking and managing your Wal-Mart, working at your bank, and preparing your lunch after church on Sunday. They will design, build, and maintain the buildings you frequent. They will also administer hospitals, lead public agencies, craft laws, and create jobs. How much they achieve in life and contribute to Greater Memphis depends a great deal on you.

When you pay taxes on property, groceries, entertainment, and services, you support public school students financially. Getting involved in public education is therefore a matter of stewardship. The children in public schools are your children. They are yours because we are all children of God. Our lives are woven together in community.

The church is a place of community, but we have neglected the communities in which many of our churches exist. Whatever the social and cultural problems that beset some Memphis neighborhoods – the worldliness, if you will, of our surroundings – this is still the community we live in. It is still the world the church is in. It is still the world Christ came to redeem. Is condescending laughter from ivory towers of private schools, segregated churches, and bland institutional programs the best we can be in the world?

One might ask:

What difference does it make?

Recent voting trends indicate that election results are based on roughly 15% of voter turnout. I tell my students at the beginning of every school year: Create the world you want to live in.

Why can’t we create, even demand, a first class public education system in Memphis and Shelby County? Would it be a stretch to imagine that if all faithful followers of Christ showed up at the polls and voted for the change they want to see, say, on the school board in the upcoming elections, they could make a difference? Could it even be a deciding factor? If faithful followers of Christ took ownership of the meager talent with which the Master has entrusted us, could we not show, at His return, a better public school system, and thereby a better community?

What in the world are you doing? What in the world will you do?

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