Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students


Value of the Common Branches

In education the work of climbing must begin at the lowest round of the ladder. The common branches should be fully and prayerfully taught. Many who feel that they have finished their education are faulty in spelling and in writing, and can neither read nor speak correctly. Not a few who study the classics and other higher branches of learning, and who reach certain standards, finally fail because they have neglected to do thorough work in the common branches. They have never obtained a good knowledge of the English language. They need to go back and begin to climb from the first round of the ladder. CT 215.1

It is a mistake to allow students in our preparatory schools to choose their own studies. This mistake has been made in the past, and as a result students who had not mastered the common branches have sought to climb higher than they were prepared to go. Some who could not speak the English language correctly have desired to take up the study of foreign languages. CT 215.2

Students who, on coming to school, ask to be allowed to take the higher studies, should first be examined in the elementary branches. I was talking with a teacher in one of our conference schools, and he told me that some had come to this school with diplomas showing that they had taken some of the higher studies in other schools. CT 215.3

“Did you examine every such student,” I inquired, “to find out whether he had received proper instruction in those branches?” CT 215.4

“Why,” said the teacher, “in all these cases we could not give the students full credit for the work done in the past, as represented by the diplomas. Their training even in the common branches had been very defective.” And thus it is in many instances. CT 216.1

Teachers should be careful to give the students what they most need, instead of allowing them to take what studies they choose. They should test the accuracy and knowledge of the students; then they can tell whether they have reached the heights to which they think they have attained. CT 216.2

One of the fundamental branches of learning is language study. In all our schools special care should be taken to teach the students to use the English language correctly in speaking, reading, and writing. Too much cannot be said in regard to the importance of thoroughness in these lines. One of the most essential qualifications of a teacher is the ability to speak and read distinctly and forcibly. He who knows how to use the English language fluently and correctly can exert a far greater influence than one who is unable to express his thought readily and clearly. CT 216.3

Voice culture should be taught in the reading class; and in other classes the teacher should insist that the students speak distinctly and use words which express their thoughts clearly and forcibly. Students should be taught to use their abdominal muscles in breathing and speaking. This will make the tones more full and clear. CT 216.4

Let the students be made to understand that God has given to everyone a wonderful mechanism—the human body—which we are to use to glorify Him. The powers of the body are constantly working in our behalf, and if we choose we may bring them under control. CT 216.5

We may have knowledge, but unless the habit is acquired of using the voice correctly, our work will be a failure. Unless we can clothe our ideas in appropriate language, of what avail is our education? Knowledge will be of little value to us unless we cultivate the talent of speech; but it is a wonderful power when combined with the ability to speak wise, helpful words, and to speak them in a way that will command attention. CT 217.1

Let all guard against becoming annoyed in spirit because they have to be drilled in these common branches. It should be impressed upon students that they will themselves be educators of others, and for this reason they should strive earnestly to improve. CT 217.2

To learn to tell convincingly and impressively that which one knows is of especial value to those who desire to be workers in the cause of God. The more expression we can put into the words of truth, the more effective these words will be on those who hear. A proper presentation of the Lord's truth is worthy of our highest effort. CT 217.3

Unless students who are preparing for work in the cause of God are trained to speak in a clear, straightforward manner, they will be shorn of half their influence for good. Whatever his calling is to be, the student should learn to control the voice. The ability to speak plainly and distinctly, in full, round tones, is invaluable in any line of work, and it is indispensable to those who desire to become ministers, evangelists, Bible workers, or canvassers. CT 217.4

When voice culture, reading, writing, and spelling take their rightful place in our schools, there will be seen a great change for the better. These subjects have been neglected because teachers have not recognized their value. But they are more important than Latin and Greek. I do not say that it is wrong to study Latin and Greek, but I do say that it is wrong to neglect the subjects that lie at the foundation of education in order to tax the mind with the study of these higher branches. CT 218.1

It is a matter of great importance that students obtain an education that will fit them for successful business life. We must not be satisfied with the one-sided education given in many schools. The common branches must be thoroughly mastered, and a knowledge of bookkeeping should be considered as important as a knowledge of grammar. All who expect to engage in the work of the Lord should learn how to keep accounts. In the world there are many who have made a failure of business and are looked upon as dishonest, who are true at heart, but who have failed to succeed because they did not know how to keep accounts. CT 218.2

To spell correctly, to write a clear, fair hand, and to keep accounts, are necessary accomplishments. Bookkeeping has strangely dropped out of school work in many places but this should be regarded as a study of primary importance. A thorough preparation in these studies will fit students to stand in positions of trust. CT 218.3


To every student I would say, Never rest satisfied with a low standard. In attending school, be sure that you have in view a noble, holy object. Go because you desire to fit yourselves for service in some part of the Lord's vineyard. Do all that you can to attain this object. You can do more for yourselves than anyone can do for you. And if you do all that you can for yourselves, what a burden you will lift from the principal and the teachers! CT 218.4

Before attempting to study the higher branches of literary knowledge, be sure that you thoroughly understand the simple rules of English grammar and have learned to read and write and spell correctly. Climb the lower rounds of the ladder before reaching for the higher rounds. CT 219.1

Do not spend time in learning that which will be of little use to you in your afterlife. Instead of reaching out for a knowledge of the classics, learn first to speak the English language correctly. Learn how to keep accounts. Gain a knowledge of those lines of study that will help you to be useful wherever you are. CT 219.2


The instruction which the Lord has sent us, warning students and teachers against spending years of study in school, does not apply to young boys and girls. These need to go through the proper period of thorough discipline and study of the common branches and the Bible until they have reached an age of more mature and reliable judgment. CT 219.3