The kindergarten students at Council Grove Elementary School in Oklahoma City (OK) take part in a really neat program where they visit a local college, walk through the dorms, see the cafeteria, go through the library, experience a science lab, and more. The goal is to inspire them from a young age to see college as within reach — no small thing in a community where “only a small percentage” of the students have a “family member with a college degree.”
The program was the brainchild of one of the kindergarten teachers whose sister happened to be a faculty member at the college. That connection made it much easier to set everything else in motion.
There’s just one problem with this program. The college in question is Southern Nazarene University, a school with a mission to “make Christlike disciples through higher education in Christ-centered community.”
And that’s not all:
We are a sent people, responding to the call of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to go into all the world, witnessing to the Lordship of Christ and participating with God in the building of the Church and the extension of His kingdom. Our mission begins in worship, ministers to the world in evangelism and compassion, encourages believers toward Christian maturity through discipleship, and prepares women and men for Christian service through Christian higher education.
All of this is fine for the private Christian university itself. It’s not okay, however, when public school students are told that attending a school like this is what they should be aspiring to.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation just sent a letter to the Western Heights Public Schools asking them to find a new secular location for these field trips. If they can’t do that, the program will have to end.
Taking kindergartners to a university whose mission is to spread Christianity is unacceptable. It serves to proselytize non-Christian and non-religious students when a public school schedules a trip to this type of sectarian establishment…
… exclusively selecting a Christian college for kindergarten “College Day” creates the appearance that the district endorses SNU and encourages attendance there… Of special concern to us is the extremely young age of the kindergarten students, who are a captive audience.
FFRF notes that there are four public universities in Oklahoma City, any one of which would be a perfectly acceptable substitute for SNU.
The school made a mistake by taking kids to SNU, but FFRF is giving them an easy out here. Just make arrangements with a public university instead and there won’t be any problems. No lawsuit. No money changing hands. Students would still get the college experience for a day.
I hope the District takes this seriously, because the program sounds wonderful — with the exception of the current location — and I don’t think anyone wants it to shut down unless it has to. But good intentions alone don’t justify illegal actions.
(Image via Shutterstock)