Fundamentals of Christian Education


Chapter 6—The Home and the School

It is the boast of the present age that never before did men possess so great facilities for the acquirement of knowledge, or manifest so general an interest in education. Yet despite this vaunted progress, there exists an unparalleled spirit of insubordination and recklessness in the rising generation; mental and moral degeneracy are well-nigh universal. Popular education does not remedy the evil. The lax discipline in many institutions of learning has nearly destroyed their usefulness, and in some cases rendered them a curse rather than a blessing. This fact has been seen and deplored, and earnest efforts have been made to remedy the defects in our educational system. There is urgent need of schools in which the youth may be trained to habits of self-control, application, and self-reliance, of respect for superiors and reverence for God. With such training, we might hope to see the young prepared to honor their Creator and to bless their fellow men. FE 64.1

It was to secure these objects that our own College at Battle Creek was founded. But those who endeavor to accomplish such a work, find that their undertaking is fraught with many and grave difficulties. The evil which underlies all others, and which often counteracts the efforts of the best instructors, is to be found in the home discipline. Parents do not see the importance of shielding their children from the gilded temptations of this age. They do not exercise proper control themselves, and hence do not rightly appreciate its value. FE 64.2

Many fathers and mothers err in failing to second the efforts of the faithful teacher. Youth and children, with their imperfect comprehension and undeveloped judgment, are not always able to understand all the teacher's plans and methods. Yet when they bring home reports of what is said and done at school, these are discussed by the parents in the family circle, and the course of the teacher is criticised without restraint. Here the children learn lessons that are not easily unlearned. Whenever they are subjected to unaccustomed restraint, or required to apply themselves to hard study, they appeal to their injudicious parents for sympathy and indulgence. Thus a spirit of unrest and discontent is encouraged, the school as a whole suffers from the demoralizing influence, and the teacher's burden is rendered much heavier. But the greatest loss is sustained by the victims of parental mismanagement. Defects of character which a right training would have corrected, are left to strengthen with years, to mar and perhaps destroy the usefulness of their possessor. FE 64.3

As a rule it will be found that the students most ready to complain of school discipline are those who have received a superficial education. Having never been taught the necessity of thoroughness, they regard it with dislike. Parents have neglected to train their sons and daughters to the faithful performance of domestic duties. Children are permitted to spend their hours in play, while father and mother toil on unceasingly. Few young persons feel that it is their duty to bear a part of the family burden. They are not taught that the indulgence of appetite, or the pursuit of ease or pleasure, is not the great aim of life. FE 65.1

The family circle is the school in which the child receives its first and most enduring lessons. Hence parents should be much at home. By precept and example, they should teach their children the love and the fear of God; teach them to be intelligent, social, affectionate, to cultivate habits of industry, economy, and self-denial. By giving their children love, sympathy, and encouragement at home, parents may provide for them a safe and welcome retreat from many of the world's temptations. FE 65.2

“No time,” says the father, “I have no time to give to the training of my children, no time for social and domestic enjoyments.” Then you should not have taken upon yourself the responsibility of a family. By withholding from them the time which is justly theirs, you rob them of the education which they should have at your hands. If you have children, you have a work to do, in union with the mother, in the formation of their characters. Those who feel that they have an imperative call to labor for the improvement of society, while their own children grow up undisciplined, should inquire if they have not mistaken their duty. Their own household is the first missionary field in which parents are required to labor. Those who leave the home garden to grow up to thorns and briers, while they manifest great interest in the cultivation of their neighbor's plot of ground, are disregarding the word of God. FE 65.3

I repeat, it is the lack of love and piety, and the neglect of proper discipline at home, that creates so much difficulty in schools and colleges. There is a fearful state of coldness and apathy among professed Christians. They are unfeeling, uncharitable, unforgiving. These evil traits, first indulged at home, exert their baleful influence in all the associations of daily life. If the spirit of kindness and courtesy were cherished by parents and children, it would be seen also in the intercourse between teacher and pupil. Christ should be an honored guest in the family circle, and His presence is no less needed in the class room. Would that the converting power of God might soften and subdue the hearts of parents and children, teachers and students, and transform them into the likeness of Christ. FE 66.1

Fathers and mothers should carefully and prayerfully study the characters of their children. They should seek to repress and restrain those traits that are too prominent, and to encourage others which may be deficient, thus securing harmonious development. This is no light matter. The father may not consider it a great sin to neglect the training of his children; but thus does God regard it. Christian parents need a thorough conversion upon this subject. Guilt is accumulating upon them, and the consequences of their actions reach down from their own children to children's children. The ill-balanced mind, the hasty temper, the fretfulness, envy, or jealousy, bear witness to parental neglect. These evil traits of character bring great unhappiness to their possessors. How many fail to receive from companions and friends the love which they might have, if they were more amiable. How many create trouble wherever they go, and in whatever they are engaged! FE 66.2

Children have claims which their parents should acknowledge and respect. They have a right to such an education and training as will make them useful, respected, and beloved members of society here, and give them a moral fitness for the society of the pure and holy hereafter. The young should be taught that both their present and their future well-being depend to a great degree on the habits they form in childhood and youth. They should be early accustomed to submission, self-denial, and a regard for others’ happiness. They should be taught to subdue the hasty temper, to withhold the passionate word, to manifest unvarying kindness, courtesy, and self-control. Fathers and mothers should make it their life-study that their children may become as nearly perfect in character as human effort, combined with divine aid, can make them. This work, with all its importance and responsibility, they have accepted, in that they have brought children into the world. FE 67.1

Parents must see that their own hearts and lives are controlled by the divine precepts, if they would bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are not authorized to fret and scold and ridicule. They should never taunt their children with perverse traits of character, which they themselves have transmitted to them. This mode of discipline will never cure the evil. Parents, bring the precepts of God's word to admonish and reprove your wayward children. Show them a “thus saith the Lord” for your requirements. A reproof which comes as the word of God is far more effective than one falling in harsh, angry tones from the lips of parents. FE 67.2

Wherever it seems necessary to deny the wishes or oppose the will of a child, he should be seriously impressed with the thought that this is not done for the gratification of the parents, or to indulge arbitrary authority, but for his own good. He should be taught that every fault uncorrected will bring unhappiness to himself, and will displease God. Under such discipline, children will find their greatest happiness in submitting their own will to the will of their Heavenly Father. FE 68.1

Some parents—and some teachers, as well—seem to forget that they themselves were once children. They are dignified, cold, and unsympathetic. Wherever they are brought in contact with the young,—at home, in the day school, the Sabbath school, or the church,—they maintain the same air of authority, and their faces habitually wear a solemn, reproving expression. Childish mirth or waywardness, the restless activity of the young life, finds no excuse in their eyes. Trifling misdemeanors are treated as grave sins. Such discipline is not Christlike. Children thus trained fear their parents or teachers, but do not love them; they do not confide to them their childish experiences. Some of the most valuable qualities of mind and heart are chilled to death, as a tender plant before the wintry blast. FE 68.2

Smile, parents; smile, teachers. If your heart is sad, let not your face reveal the fact. Let the sunshine from a loving, grateful heart light up the countenance. Unbend from your iron dignity, adapt yourselves to the children's needs, and make them love you. You must win their affection, if you would impress religious truth upon their heart. FE 68.3

Jesus loved the children. He remembered that He was once a child, and His benevolent countenance won the affections of the little ones. They loved to play around Him, and to stroke that loving face with their innocent hands. When the Hebrew mothers brought their babes to be blessed by the dear Saviour the disciples deemed the errand of too little importance to interrupt His teachings. But Jesus read the earnest longing of those mothers’ hearts, and checking His disciples, He said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” FE 68.4

Parents, you have a work to do for your children which no other can do. You cannot shift your responsibilities upon another. The father's duty to his children cannot be transferred to the mother. If she performs her own duty, she has burden enough to bear. Only by working in unison, can the father and mother accomplish the work which God has committed to their hands. FE 69.1

That time is worse than lost to parents and children which is devoted to the acquirement of wealth, while mental improvement and moral culture are neglected. Earthly treasures must pass away; but nobility of character, moral worth, will endure forever. If the work of parents be well done, it will through eternity testify of their wisdom and faithfulness. Those who tax their purses and their ingenuity to the utmost to provide for their households costly apparel and dainty food, or to maintain them in ignorance of useful labor, will be repaid only by the pride, envy, willfulness, and disrespect of their spoiled children. FE 69.2

The young need to have a firm barrier built up from their infancy between them and the world, that its corrupting influence may not affect them. Parents must exercise increasing watchfulness, that their children be not lost to God. If it were considered as important that the young possess a beautiful character and amiable disposition as it is that they imitate the fashions of the world in dress and deportment, we would see hundreds where there is one today coming upon the stage of active life prepared to exert an ennobling influence upon society. FE 69.3

The parents’ work of education, instruction, and discipline underlies every other. The efforts of the best teachers must often bear little fruit, if fathers and mothers fail to act their part with faithfulness. God's word must ever be their guide. We do not endeavor to present a new line of duty. We set before all the teachings of that word by which our work must be judged, and we inquire, Is this the standard which we as Christian parents are endeavoring to reach?—The Review and Herald, March 21, 1882. FE 69.4