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Situational Ethics In the Christian School

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).

A Christian school in America has placed itself in an ethical dilemma. A letter went home to the parents stating that if their child would bring in some cleaning supplies, bonus points would be awarded. One parent vigorously protested this practice to the school authorities on two grounds. First, a high tuition bill was already being paid. With the amount of revenue being paid to the well-funded private school, surely the school could afford to buy cleaning supplies. Second, the child that did not participate in this “buying of grades” policy was being punished.

The school administration is faced with three options. First, the school could reverse this practice of “buying grades” by children. Second, the school could defend the policy and insist that no grades are being purchased. Third, the school could engage in a practice of benign neglect and say the child will not be penalized for not participating. But then, neither will the child have their grade inflated like the other children. If the child is given bonus points for non-participation and put on an equal basis with the children who bring cleaning supplies and rewarded with bonus points, then the original objective of receiving cleaning supplies for the school is defeated.

I am curious as to how the school will handle this conundrum they have placed themselves in. The easiest solution would be to try to persuade the concerned parent that no wrong is being done. That would be spiritual and intellectual dishonesty for something is being done that is wrong. Specifically, bonus points are being given, not on the basis of academic performance, but on the basis of the exchange of goods for a grade. If that approach does not resolve the situation the school might simply tell the parent to withdraw from the school and find another place of academic study for the family.

I do not want to prejudge the final outcome of this situation, but I suspect the school will find it difficult to reverse its policy. It is not unreasonable to assume the school does not want to lose the income generated for cleaning supplies. Herein lays the danger. The school administration must be careful to remember the Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all evil.  In addition, human nature being what it is, people find it very difficult to admit to error, no matter how well intended an original idea might have been. Well-intended consequences gone awry is a hallmark of Liberalism, and at times, Conservatism as well.

The spiritual dimension of this situation is that a Biblical principle is being violated. The Bible instructs Christians not to be pressed into the mold of the world. A school that is ready to sell grades for cleaning supplies regardless of academic performance, and then deny that grades have been sold, is being pressed into the mold of the world for the world defends the indefensible and justifies the unjustifiable. There are defining moments of character in the life of every person, and every school. This is such a moment.

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