WASHINGTON, August 14, 2013 — Do you want to know how to improve the education of every child in the public school system? Eric Buehrer founded Gateways to Better Education in 1991. He has some answers and is making them available to every student, teacher, parent, and administrator in the country.
Gateways to Better Education encourages openness to the Bible, the Judeo-Christian influence, and the historical principles of faith in the public schools.
Randall Furrow: What caused you to start and build your organization? What was the impetus?
Eric Buehrer: I was a public high school teacher and was concerned about what was happening in the culture with the growing emphasis on stripping religious acknowledgement out of our schools. As I saw that, I realized that somebody needed to be out there making the case that it is perfectly legal and it is good education — both academically and as a matter of culture — to help students understand the important contributions that the Bible and Judeo-Christian values make to the world.
I saw that ultimately it’s about what the teacher does in the classroom, and my educator’s heart wanted to see teachers once again feel the freedom to make their classrooms safe places for students to express their faith where they could help them understand the connections between their particular subject matter and how the Bible and our Judeo-Christian history and culture have impacted that particular subject.
RF: What age groups or segments of society do you hope to impact?
EB: Our focus is on helping public school teachers, administrators, and school board members gain confidence to implement policies and practices that promote academic and religious freedom.
RF: What specific social changes are you trying to bring about?
EB: My vision is to bring about a cultural renewal in America’s 99,000 public schools to such a degree that students will learn to be people of strong ethical character who understand the importance of our nation’s religious heritage and values.
I believe that truly addressing the whole child includes addressing their spiritual lives. The adults in students’ lives need to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of children and young people.
Educators can acknowledge the positive role of religion in history, culture, and values. They can affirm the religious backgrounds of students and they can encourage them to live by the values of their faith at school without endorsing or establishing religion in the classroom.
Specifically, I want to see schools annually inform students and their parents about the U.S. Department of Education guidelines explaining students’ religious liberties. I want educators to encourage students to live … by the moral guidance of their families’ religious traditions. I want traditional American religious holidays recognized and taught about in school as part of cultural literacy. I want students taught about the important role that Judeo-Christian history, thought, and values have played, and continue to play, in Western,and now, Eastern and African civilization
RF: Are there some specific goals you’ve met in your efforts?
EB: Our biggest focus is on simply informing people regarding what is possible. When that happens, individual teachers improve what they do in the classroom. We call it, helping them move from fear to freedom.
RF: Are there any steps you’re taking currently to effect specific changes?
EB: We present a professional development seminar for educators on how to address the Judeo-Christian tradition without mixing Church and State. “Faith, Freedom & Public Schools” gives educators practical ways to appropriately and lawfully include teaching about the Bible and Judeo-Christian history, culture, and values across the curriculum.
RF: Is there a Scriptural imperative for your work?
EB: The Library of Congress has a letter from George Washington to “chief executives of the states, June 11, 1783” in which the concluding paragraph contains what has become known as “Washington’s Prayer.” In it, he uses the beautiful language of Micah 6:8 as a guide for our nation:
“Dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”
Micah 6:8 “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
RF: How is your organization funded?
EB: We are funded through individual supporters and foundations.
RF: Where do you plan for the organization to be in four years?
EB: We want to bring our message of academic and religious freedom to a variety of public school arenas: local communities, education conferences, and educational leaders. The future of our children — the future of America — depends on improving the way our public schools address the value of religion in society.
Buehrer can be contacted through the Gateways website. As the public school environment seems to deteriorate more every year, Gateways seems to be a bright spot in the effort to inform and educate public school teachers, administrators, and other officials about the right to enunciate the fact of the great Christian influence in American history.
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