Moral Priorities: Education

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  October 1, 2016

            A world without quality education is a dangerous world. The earliest years of a child’s education lays the critical foundations of learning that will necessarily determine the vast potential available later in life. Throughout one’s youth, the ability to grow and learn in safe and creditable schools remains essential to growing into intelligent, informed, and productive citizens. Higher Education and opportunities for learning beyond High School are essential for our nation and its future in the global community. When it comes to education, however, in many ways our society is guilty of a critical moral failure when it comes to our students.
            It is no secret that education consumes a large percentage of the State budget. This should be a cause for celebration as we note that we, as a state, value education to place that much emphasis on the value of education in our state. Were this alone a statement on New Mexico’s commitment to our children and students, it would be a morally positive one.
            In reality, the State is drastically cutting educational spending and these cuts, while sounding responsible by intending to balance the state budget, reflect a critical moral failure. The government is playing economic politics with the lives and education of our state’s children and hampering the dedicated women and men who are turning to advanced education to improve their lives and careers.
            When schools have to hold fundraisers to purchase the basic tools of education because state funding is inadequate to cover the expenses, it is a moral failure. When adults who are looking to expand, enhance, or augment their education and earning power are faced with underfunded public colleges and trade schools, it is a moral failure. When the women and men tasked with educating the children of our future—one of the most vital investments any community can make—are faced with overloaded classrooms and inadequate pay, it is a moral failure. When the quality of a child’s education is directly tied to the economic status of the neighborhood in which the child lives, it is a moral failure. Christians must demand morality!
            There is, within churches across the United States, a growing movement for renewed moral integrity and authenticity. Part of the call to morality includes a call to truly value the moral imperative of truly investing in quality, fully-funded, and equitable educational opportunities of all our children and adults seeking higher or specialized education.
            The reality is, a fully-funded, quality education program that equitably meets the needs of a state as diverse as New Mexico requires money—a lot of money! Yet, because of political pandering, partisan priority, and a fiercely idolatrous anti-tax sentiment, many in New Mexico are compromising our moral obligation to our children by tacitly accepting the reduction of State educational monies. Then, we blame the oil and gas economy and politics for the crisis. We also pat ourselves on the back by believing we are saving taxpayer money and protecting in the business economy of the state. Yet, in reality we are punishing the least of these in our state.
            Christ’s parable of the Sheep and Goats told in Matthew 25 is a stark reminder that Christians have a moral obligation to be the advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, to sacrifice for those who have no means to fend for themselves, and to be the change necessary for those who most need the benefit that faithful change requires. In a very real sense, Matthew 25 implies that if we, as a State, are unwilling to accept the tax increases necessary to fully care for the children and students in our own state, we are likely to be counted among the goats—and that is a moral failure.