As part of the national Million Father March, I was pleased to put on a suit and, with Allison, take Duke and Jozy to New Hope Christian Preschool for their first day of class. The twins were also dressed in “vest and tie” and were ready to begin their first semester at one of this country’s finest Christian educational institutions. Founded in the 1980s, New Hope Christian School (NHCS) holistically ministers to preK-6th grade students and their parents. As Dr. Jerry Young, the school’s headmaster, often says, NHCS not only teaches children how to count but also what counts. Believing that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7) they “assist Christian parents in fulfilling their God-given responsibility to educate and train their children by providing them with a God-centered, Christ-honoring education.” Thus, the school’s mission is to “prepare students for life as Christian role models and leaders who choose character before career, wisdom before scholarship, and service before self.” These are a few reasons Allison and I chose to educate our sons at New Hope. We want Duke and Jozy to be smart, well-rounded people. Most of all, we want them to be God-fearing men who will one day confess with their mouths and believe in their hearts that Jesus is Lord. Being in an environment like NHCS academically extends the foundation we are laying for the boys at home.
Being a parent, pastor, and especially professor reinforces my conviction regarding the need for comprehensive Christian education in the formative years. As the Director of Religious Life at Alcorn State University, I stress to students our institution’s motto: Where Knowledge and Character Matter. Both knowledge and character are essential to true education. One without the other is deficient. It’s best to get that truth when we are young but no time is too late to absorb its power. This is no less true for me when I teach Ethics in the spring. Every Alcorn scholar who comes into my class knows that I’m interested in making them smarter and more ethical. I want them to make better life decisions, to reflect on their choices, and to treat themselves and others with respect and dignity. It blesses me when students tell me how much they learned—about the subject and about themselves—as result of the class. This will hopefully be part of our twins’ DNA going forward.
C. S. Lewis quipped, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. maintained that intelligence plus character is the goal of true education. There was a time when our society as a whole would nod in agreement, even say “Amen,” to both of these statements. But over the last few decades we have become more pragmatic and career-oriented about education. We seem to have abandoned a love for learning for learning’s sake and a sense of how education can make us better people. Though New Hope is certainly not the only school reminding us of the importance of character education, it is certainly a welcomed interruption to our contemporary sensibilities. Whether on Main Street or Wall Street, we need to once again educate people in ways that make all of us people of virtue and not vice.
There are surely less expensive ways to make sure Duke and Jozy have a solid Christian worldview through formal education. I often joke that for what Allison and I pay for preschool our sons should be able to walk on water, among other things. But it’s worth it. As a product of public schools I want Duke and Jozy to benefit from a Jackson Public School education as well (because I’m that committed to Jackson). In the meantime, I unapologetically submit my children to the character and content formation they are getting at NHCS. If the trend continues, they will be reading well beyond grade level and be exposed to arts and sciences early on. This is because NHCS is committed to “high academic standards for each student, with the expectation that all can succeed.” Duke and Jozy will also be tutored in responsible, moral agency and the good news is that they will be intelligent and wise, just like their daddy (and mommy too).
The way the world is going, there can be no better start to our sons’ life than an excellent Christian education from New Hope Preschool.