Across our nation and the world, conversations debating the quality and kind of education we will see in our country emerge. Charter vs. public education, voucher program vs. public school advocacy, and religious vs. non-religious education are the various debates about the kinds of education our country serves. There are also debates about whether access to college, and the type of curriculum offered at school. The span of conversation is wide, and the effects of policies around education are large.
As Church Women United, we believe in promoting public education for all students of all ages, regardless of religion, race, politic, ethnicities, or any other difference. When it comes to advocating for education, we are deeply inspired by the teachings of our Teacher, Jesus Christ, who taught people regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, wealth, or position. Who taught and embraced the Jew and the Gentile, the tax collector and the pauper.
We are also inspired by the open words of Proverbs.
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 For learning about wisdom and instruction,
for understanding words of insight,
3 for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to teach shrewdness to the simple,
knowledge and prudence to the young—
5 let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
and the discerning acquire skill,
6 to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
For decades, Church Women United have made historic stances on public education, being the advocate for integration and the separation of church and state long before the laws were ever in place. Church Women United has many social policies dedicated to upholding access to free public education. Some key phrases from our past resolutions include, “[we] call upon church women to work for legislation which will provide aid to public schools in such a way that there will be no federal control of faculty and curriculum.” and “[we urge] church women to strengthen and support a free and open public school system”.
The following are some examples of our social policies, that advocated for justice in education long before many others.
In 1948, long before any laws regarding integration would come to fruition, Church Women United made a social policy regarding federal aid to public education:
(Action of the Assembly, 1948)
“The United Council of Church Women recognizes that education is one of the prime essentials of a working democracy; we also recognize that at the present time, in many sections of the country, teacher’s salaries and school facilities are far below the minimum needed for a sound education.
After careful study, we favor the principle of federal aid to education as a requisite for overcoming these inequalities. We therefore call upon church women to work for legislation which will provide aid to public schools in such a way that there will be no federal control of faculty and curriculum, no violation of the First Amendment which provides for the separation of church and state, and providing only that such aid shall be given and administered without discrimination by reason of race.
The UCCW has consistently stood for the elimination of the pattern of segregation in our schools as in every other areas of society. We again urge church women to work toward this end.”
Again in 1970, Church Women advocated for integration when they thought the Federal Government was not supporting it.
“In light of our commitment as Christian women to the oneness of the human family; and
In light of our earlier resolution declaring our determination to speak out whenever we think the rights of any citizens are denied or endangered; and
In view of our deep concern because of the current retreat on civil rights and the abdication of leadership on the part of the Federal Government in enforcing the Supreme Court decision on school integration; and
In view of the current threat to the public school system;
Therefore the Board of Managers of CWU reminds church women in every community to be vigilant in monitoring education opportunities to see that all persons of whatever race or ethnic or economic background have opportunity to grow in relation to one another to prepare them to be responsible planetary citizens; and
Urges church women to speak out and act promptly whenever they see these values in jeopardy in relation to an individual or group; and
Urges church women to strengthen and support a free and open public school system.”
Other important resolutions Church Women United made about education, was the importance of sex education in public school and as provided by religious institutions. In 1967, CWU made a statement saying any sexual education should 1) emphasize the worth of the each person 2) recognize sexuality is a part of every stage and everyone’s life, 3) help women understand their own sexuality as well as youth’s dilemmas, 4) develop local competence, and 5) make it possible for women to have access to experts in the field. Resolutions like this one continued to be made through the late sixties and early seventies, including statement that urged for comprehensive sex educations at schools and supplemented by churches or other institutions, that helped people accept sexuality as a “gift of God to be accepted with thanksgiving” at a time when “our society is confronted with so many negative and distorted images of sex”.
Our history of progressive stances in regards to advocating for public education have been vital to the work and progress of our nation. May we church women, continue to live into the social policies of our past and be encourage to advocate for comprehensive and inclusive public education for people of all ages, races, and means. We have our work cut out for us, but as our past shows us, nothing is too soon or too impossible to stop women driven by faith to seek and advocate for justice.