School system committed to racial reconciliation
In a recent commentary in The Sentinel, columnist Case Van Kempen wrote that he “would rather tackle almost anything than the subject of racism in Holland…because…he would have to say something about Holland Christian Schools,” which he later referred to as the “huge elephant in the room” in discussions on racism.
As board members, staff members and parents at Holland Christian, we are puzzled by Rev. Van Kempen’s suggestion that until we talk about Holland Christian, “not much will change about racism in Holland.” We confess that institutionally and individually we at Holland Christian have been guilty of committing sins of racism, just as many other organizations and individuals in our community and in our society generally. However, we are committed to working at racial reconciliation because that is part of who we must be if we are to live out our mission of “equipping minds and nurturing hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ.”
When Holland Christian Schools was founded in 1901, the school mirrored the ethnic background of the community at large. From the beginning and through today, parents have sent their children to Holland Christian because they wanted a Christ-centered education, an option not available at most other area schools.
What has changed since 1901 is the ethnic diversity of Holland itself. Many of the immigrants to the area over the past century have been Hispanic, Asian or African American. Some of the immigrants since 1901 are not of the Christian faith and would have no interest in educating their children at a Christian school. Those who are Christian often come from a faith background that is not in the reformed tradition, and they have little familiarity with schools that teach from a reformed perspective.
Holland Christian is committed to increasing our racial diversity and has designated significant scholarship dollars specifically to that effort. We know, however, that attracting a population that is unfamiliar with Christian education from a reformed perspective is a process that may take a generation or more. Knowing that we do not yet reflect the full range of diversity in god’s kingdom means that we have to work harder than most places to identify and address racial issues with our staff and students.
Some of our ongoing efforts include; participation by middle and high school students in the Calling All Colors initiative (including development of school wide plans for implementing lessons); a “Dance of Racial Reconciliation” chapel series; a staff in-service day devoted entirely to racial reconciliation; participation by staff and board members in the Institutes for healing Racism program; and adoption of a Spanish immersion program and Spanish language instruction for elementary and middle school students.
We also have very intentional programs for all of our middle and high school students to be involved in service projects that allow them to interact with the greater Holland community. Perhaps if Rev. Van Kempen had come for a visit to the school, met with the staff and students, or talked with board members he would have written form an informed perspective rather than making critical comments from the sidelines that create more division than understanding or reconciliation. Sadly, Rev. Van Kempen’s uniformed letter perpetuates stereotypes that threaten to damage the diversity initiatives at which we are working so intently.
We extend an open invitation for Rev. Van Kempen to visit Holland Christian Schools and talk with us about what is really happening here. And we would invite anyone form the community of any ethnic background to visit and learn more about Holland Christian’s mission, our program and our staff.