The most exciting development in education today is the rise of the Protestant church school. A rarity three decades ago, Protestant schools are now being organized at the rate of 225 per year. If the enthusiasm does not wane, they will soon take a place of equal importance alongside the public schools and the Roman Catholic parochial schools. The First Baptist Church School of Charleston, South Carolina, is an example of this new force in elementary and secondary education. In 1949, First Baptist offered kindergarten and first grade. Then each year it added a grade, until now there are 670 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
In 1937 there were about 2,000 Protestant schools in the United States, most of them Lutheran, Episcopal, or Seventh-day Adventist. The next fifteen years brought about 1,000 more. Then between 1952 and 1959 there arrived 1,800 new schools, and total enrollment doubled. In the next three years, 900 new schools were started. Since 1962 the growth rate has leveled off at 4 per cent per year.
There are now more than 5,700 Protestant schools with a total enrollment of half a million. By comparison, there are more than 10,000 Roman Catholic schools with 5,570,000 pupils. However, enrollment in Catholic schools dropped 58,000 in 1966, while Protestant schools continued their 4 per cent growth rate. If these trends continue, Protestant schools will match Roman Catholic schools in ten years.
What explains this rapid increase in Protestant church schools? To find out, we asked those who are now operating them this question: “Why did you start a church school?” The answers revealed concern for three things:
1. a superior academic environment,
2. a strong Christian influence,
3. a Bible-centered curriculum.1
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