A Reflection on Private & Public Education

Photo: Duncan Davis/The Guardian
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Last year, I had the opportunity to give a small lecture on education development. Twenty-Five teachers crowded into a small room to listen to me give some incredible and innovative insight into the development of curriculum, pedagogy, and new concepts in the 2010s. I had a difficult time making the decision, the leaps in this decade have been sizable. Learning Management Systems, Automation, Technology Standards, Strategies–all of these were fantastic options, but I didn’t go with any of them. I opened my slide presentation, looked to the group, and shared my most controversial take: “My small Christian college did a better job of preparing me for teaching, research, and academia than any State program I’ve worked with.” 

Eyes around the room noticeably widened in surprise, this isn’t something you expect a public school teacher to say, much less a biology teacher. Regardless, I had their attention, and I pressed on with a revelation that had surprised me not a week before. Maranatha Baptist University, a school with an on-campus presence of 700 students, had a far-better education program than Ball State University or any other public program I’ve encountered due to ideological diversity, passion for the profession, and a genuine desire to solve problems. 

How could a private Christian college have ideological diversity compared to State schools? Aren’t they, you know, super fundamentalist? Surprisingly, no. At Maranatha, each education or philosophy class I took had diverse and in depth debates that were less interested in shaming their ideological opponents and more interested in reaching a conclusion based on a solid foundation. I was never criticized for suggesting an alternate perspective on teaching, whereas in my master’s program at Ball State I was met with enormous opposition for suggesting that John Dewey, a eugenics supporter, had flaws because of his view of black children. In almost every class, we were bludgeoned with leftist content that demanded we teach in the ultra-progressive style of eliminating grades, lying about content, and whitewashing fields for the sake of equity.

These situations stem from the core philosophies of these universities. Whereas MBU seeks to develop leaders for ministry to the world by working with each individual student, larger State schools focus on passing as many students as possible through a cut mold of what they think a graduate should be.

In addition to their personal approach, I found a genuine passion for the art of education at Maranatha as well. The professors seemed to exude in each class their desire that we would find joy in changing lives, imparting knowledge, and helping our students reach their fullest potential. In the four State programs I’ve participated in, I’ve found that same passion in a scant number of professors. One professor I worked with abandoned a project on creating Spanish-immersion science curriculum simply because she lost interest. To this day, my professors at Maranatha still check in to see how I’m doing, what I need, and what I can share to refine their classes. I haven’t been on campus at MBU since 2016, but the community I still feel with their faculty continues to resound. 

The genuine desire to solve problems is perhaps my highest praise for Maranatha. When I was met with harsh racism from a classmate in a course at Ball State, it was met with cruel laughter. In contrast, every issue in an MBU class was addressed seriously–conscious care was applied to each situation in an effort to maintain harmony in the student body. How does this affect teacher education though? I believe that students model their teachers. My professors at MBU strove to solve issues in a compassionate way, often admitting their imperfections in the interest of resolution. At Ball State and other programs, my 6th and 7th emails to a professor went unanswered as I asked for advice on papers, pedagogy, and practice. Teaching a college course is so much more than content knowledge, it’s an expansion of mentorship through modeling proper education and use.

I, like many other students, spent a good amount of time at Maranatha criticizing the decisions and rules I didn’t like. That’s natural and is expected in young college students who think they have all of the answers without any of the experience. With each step I take away from MBU, however, I find myself more thankful for the excellent education I was given. Rigorous and student focused were attributes I could ascribe to Maranatha, while I could only suggest that for two professors during the pursuit of my master’s degrees. 

In sharing these conclusions with the group of teachers, I encouraged them to help students investigate not only the big State schools, where students are sorted as numbers to rigidly adopt dogma without exception, but to instead visit and seek smaller, private schools. Of course not every private school is great, and not every public school is apathetically mediocre–but my experience with the programs I graduated from leave me thankful for that small, Christian university in Watertown, Wisconsin.

This article was originally published at loneconservative.com

Tony Kinnett
Tony Kinnett is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Chalkboard Review. He is an award-winning science teacher, and the former science coordinator and head instructional coach for Indianapolis Public Schools, until he was fired for whistleblowing information concerning the school system's use of racist material. In February, he was appointed the director of the education nonprofit Choice Media, now Chalkboard Media.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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