…a boom in conservative Christian schooling, driven nationwide by a combination of pandemic frustrations and rising parental anxieties around how schools handle education on issues including race and the rights of transgender students.
When the pandemic swept across the country in the spring of 2020, many parents turned to home-schooling.
Others wanted or needed to have their children in physical classrooms. In many parts of the country, private schools stayed open even as public schools moved largely online. Because many parents were working from home, they got a historically intimate look at their children’s online classes — leading to what some advocates for evangelical schools call “the Zoom factor.”
More significant, said Mr. Laats, are the words that conservative schools do not use, like “inclusion” and “diversity,” in contrast with a growing number of public and private schools. About 68 percent of students at conservative Christian private schools are white, according to the Education Department, a figure that is comparable to other categories of private schools but significantly higher than public schools.
If many conservative Protestant schools in the 1960s and 1970s were founded to keep white children away from certain people, then the goal today is keeping children away from certain ideas, said J. Russell Hawkins, a professor of humanities and history at Indiana Wesleyan University. “But the ideas being avoided are still having to do with race,” he said.
Deana Wright enrolled her children in Smith Mountain Lake in July, soon after speaking at a school board meeting in Franklin County. She and her husband did not want their children to keep wearing masks in school, and she had also started reading about what her district was teaching about race. She was “shocked” to come across terms like “cultural competency” and “educational equity” — euphemisms, as she saw it, for critical race theory.
“We’re just so grateful that the Christian academy is here,” she said.