I sorta agree with Mike Huckabee. There, I said it.
If you haven’t already heard, former Presidential candidate and current Fox News personality Mike Huckabee caused a minor uproar for some comments he made last week in response to the shooting in Newtown, CT.
Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee said that part of the reason for the violence in our school systems is that we have “systematically removed God from our schools.”
And, understandably, many people came out and criticized him for making such comments.
But I sort of agree with Huckabee. Sort of.
I’ve been struggling with this for a few days and I recently saw a post from a Facebook friend expressing similar thoughts, so I thought I’d put mine down on paper (also known as a laptop) to see if I can make more sense of it. So hear me out.
Huckabee went on to say that our school systems have become “a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability.”
“People are going to want to pass new laws,” he continued. “This is a heart issue… laws don’t change this kind of thing.”
Speaking as a non-Christian, as someone who considers myself to be a non-religious person with a spiritual practice, as someone who believes deeply in the importance of open, inter-faith spaces as well as openness to people who are atheist or have no spiritual practice – I don’t entirely disagree with what he’s saying.
In 1947, Martin Luther King Jr., still a student at Morehouse College, wrote an article for the campus paper about the role of education. He wrote that education has two responsibilities. The first is to teach math, science, critical thinking, etc. But he argued that education also has a responsibility to teach morals, to teach character, to teach culture – a culture of peace, a culture of justice. Matters of the heart.
He argued that, “the most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals,” and that “intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”
So what are our schools doing today to teach morals and build character? What are we doing to teach children to love and respect each other, to handle conflicts in a healthy way, to honor and have respect for our differences, to learn to reach out to those in need and to deal with our own anger in a productive way?
I’m not arguing that we should have Bible study in all schools. Far from it. I’m not even arguing that we should bring religion into the schools.
And that’s where the “sort of” comes in. Huckabee believes that what we should do is bring Christianity into our schools, specifically of the Southern Baptist kind. And to that, I whole-heartedly disagree.
But in our society, it’s sometimes so hard to have real, deep, genuine dialogue because we get caught up in surface level conversations and misinterpretations. So I want to challenge all of us to briefly suspend any judgments we may have about Huckabee, about the Church and about Right wing Christians and try to see things from his perspective.
On the surface, what Huckabee was calling for was to bring his interpretations of Christian theology into our schools. But beneath the surface, I want to believe that his intensions were true. I want to believe that the desire behind his message was for our schools to become a place where we are teaching our children not just the maths and sciences but about the morals and values that will help to create the society that will protect our children
Huckabee’s value system and my value system are often at odds. I get that. But I don’t think we should be so quick to criticize him for what he was saying. I think there is ALSO a lot of truth to what he was saying, and I think we should try to focus on where we agree and start from there. We are too quick to point out our differences, without trying to find a common place where a real dialogue could start.
Take the story of North Lawndale College Prep, a high school located in a rough neighborhood in Chicago where PPWN has had the honor of working with for 4+ years. Before they invested in Kingian Nonviolence trainings, this school was much like any other located in a low-income urban environment, and they struggled with violence on a daily basis.
Yet since investing in nonviolence, they have been able to transform the culture of the school, have witnessed a 90% reduction in violence, and have created a real culture of peace. The teachers, the administrators and the students realized that it wasn’t enough to prepare students for college exams, but that they have to prepare students for the tests that life will constantly be throwing at them.
It wasn’t that they brought “God” into their campus, but they did invest in a process of talking about morals, about responsibility, about accountability, about heart.
(As an aside, the school also got rid of their security guards and metal detectors and used the money they saved on resources for their students. Are you listening, NRA?)
As we wrote in our official statement on the killings, I do believe that laws around gun control has to be part of the solution moving forward. That is another place where Huckabee and I will disagree.
King said, “it may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
But I agree wholeheartedly when Huckabee says that this isn’t an issue that any legislation will ultimately solve. I agree with him wholeheartedly that this is ultimately a “heart issue.”
We need to organize and fight for changes in our gun control laws. But we also need to transform our schools into communities that where our children are leaning how to respect each other, where they are learning how to handle their conflicts and anger in healthy ways, where we are not afraid to have the difficult discussion that will help shape the future of our society.
We need to continue to push forward on Martin Luther King’s final marching orders, to “institutionalize” nonviolence education.
We need to invest in our children. We need to invest in peace. In our schools, in our communities, in our own lives.
So I agree with Mike Huckabee. Sort of.