Manuscript Releases, vol. 15 [Nos. 1136-1185]

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MR No. 1144—Care To Be Exercised in Making Changes in Textbooks and Other Matters in School; Helping Inexperienced Teachers

(Written August 1, 1899, from “Sunnyside,” Cooranbong, N.S.W., to S. N. Haskell.)

Again last night I was speaking with you in regard to the textbooks in our schools. I was commissioned to give you a warning. Do not, as you shall meet our schools in California and other places, present to them the ideas that look so clear and plain to you in reference to the textbooks in our schools. They are not prepared for this, and already confusion is working and will work with reference to this point. There are many things to be considered in regard to this matter. There must be no introduction of anything which will sanction Brother Sutherland pushing things to extremes. 15MR 47.1

The young lady, Miss Ellis, may be hurt, and is already hurt, so that she will not be of the use in the cause of God that she might have been, but will do superficial work if the classwork under her care is carried forward in accordance with the methods which are now advancing. Had this young woman been left to come out without being exalted and made to think that she was some superior being, she would, in walking humbly with God, have been willing to be instructed. But she is working superficially. Less harm will be done by using the simple books which have been used in our schools than by taking them away altogether, as is according to her ideas. Reading books will have to be made by selecting portions of Bible history. The Lord of the gospel is satisfied when the great end is achieved. 15MR 47.2

What are the attributes most prized in man by a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour? Meekness, and lowliness of heart, which He declares those whom He calls shall learn of Him. If we would teach, we must be learners. If we would meet the highest standard, we must love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves. Everyone who has purity and love is born of God and knoweth God. 15MR 48.1

I have had presented before me Brother Sutherland's danger in hearing the testimonies and your lessons upon teaching the Bible alone and listening to the voice of nature, which teaches beautiful lessons. If we follow on to know the Lord, we shall see things more clearly than we discern them now. But neither teachers nor students are prepared to make rapid changes. We need the baptism of the Holy Spirit, else minds will misinterpret the subjects and handle them in such a way as to bring confusion rather than light. As you shall go into the study of opening the Scriptures to the schools, do not introduce the matter of simple books being discarded. It will do harm to the uninformed, who, half catching at things, and supposing they know it all, yet utterly unable as teachers to understand the matter in all its bearings, will advance theories which one and another will grasp at but will not understand. Brother Sutherland is making a mistake. Please be guarded. The subjects you have long studied will in Brother Sutherland's hand be carried to extremes, and in the present state of things this will result in matters which we cannot handle or adjust. 15MR 48.2

Brother Sutherland has caught up the idea that there must be many church schools built; but this would mean the misappropriation of means that are called for to open new fields for the ministry of the Word. Wherever there is a settled church, a small building should be erected as a church school. In whatever locality a meeting-house is erected, let a schoolroom be prepared for that locality, and let teachers of good ability work in instructing the students. But there must be no catching up without discretion, of rays of light, beautiful light, mixing with it erroneous matters, and calling it truth, which each supposes he can prove from the testimonies. I am afraid to write out many things which are exceedingly precious. I am afraid to introduce them. 15MR 48.3

In the providence of God this Sister Ellis, who I believe is a jewel, may be properly taught. But as the matter stands, she has been praised and petted, and set to do a work which she cannot do. It seems like the representation of the gospel wagon scheme. The aftersight reveals a work which in her case, if properly handled, would be a good and beneficial work. Why cannot our people study from cause to effect? Why cannot they understand that the greatest wisdom is needed in establishing church schools on an entirely new plan? This undertaking means more than they can properly comprehend. 15MR 49.1

I write you now, my brother, that you may be cautious. Do not state anything I have told you personally in regard to the matter of change in books. I know that Brother Sutherland needs to put on the brake, and move no faster than the Lord has designated. He has obtained ideas from your writings and mine in reference to schools and the changes he is making in what they call textbooks. They will move faster at this time than the people can be carried. Such changes cannot be made intelligently unless those making them have a clearly defined basis on which to construct their building. All the haphazard movements which they will make in the schoolwork will be proved, as they suppose, from that which Sister White has said. But when they mix and mingle their own ideas as to what can be done, and there is no definite plan of work, the workers will weave in a mass of suppositions, and call it that which Sister White has been shown of God. 15MR 49.2

Brother Haskell, please let us both be guarded. Do not let us dwell on the changes to be made until we have something definite to work to. I fear that fanaticism will be brought in. The beautiful theories and suppositions that can be dwelt upon might better be left unsaid until there is something clearly defined, until all can see and understand for themselves. 15MR 50.1

You could not possibly work out the changes that could safely be made at this period, when there is need of great reformation in many lines, need of the transformation of the Spirit of God upon men's characters. Move solidly. You may give expression to the thoughts you have in mind, and others will take up these ideas, and attempt to bring in a new order of things, and make an entirely different structure, and call it your or my plan. They cannot see the aftereffect of the working out of ideas which have been taken into the mind but not clearly discerned. They endeavor to carry them out, mixing with them Sister White's testimonies, and they make the work that should be kept sacred a common matter. Descending to the little things and definiteness which some have brought in in regard to education, leads away from the things the Lord would have carried out. 15MR 50.2

Sister Ellis has been set to work in a way which she supposes is right, but one who has so short an experience should not be entrusted with the work of putting before the minds of students problems they know not themselves how to solve. The present inaccurate phases of supposed reforms will bring into the ranks of Sabbathkeepers a state of things that will make confusion in educational lines. I see no call to take church schools over grounds that are entirely new, according to the methods and plans that the minds of uninformed teachers would inaugurate. If changes are to be made, we must know what counsel to give and what changes to make, and how to present every line of work intelligently. Decided changes are to be made in every one of our churches in America, but everything cannot be introduced now. The working of the Holy Spirit must be seen, and this Spirit is not to be controlled by any human plans or methods. There are plans to be established in every church. God will work Himself, and men must cooperate. 15MR 50.3

The primary classes may keep the same books without disturbance until better books are prepared. The Bible lessons should be given in clear, definite simplicity, so that the minds of the students can grasp them. Until the new methods are understood, let not the present methods be all broken up before better ones are prepared with great care. Let not things be presented to the children which they cannot understand. The light given me is, Move cautiously at every step. Do not bring in the many things that may be said upon nature as a lessonbook until small books are prepared on this subject which may be presented as textbooks. This work has not yet been done, and until it is done, the minds of the children will only become confused by the fragmentary items being brought in, which may be all truth. 15MR 51.1

In regard to state schools, I know not what our brethren mean. If any such thing as state schools has come into my testimonies, I am in darkness as to how it came in. The subject of state schools as they now exist may be mentioned, but to create state schools is the farthest from any movement that should be made. 15MR 51.2

Altogether too large sums of money have been invested in the school building at Battle Creek, and too little wisdom and brain power has been brought into the practical methods to stop the increasing indebtedness of each year. It would have been far better to have closed the school until it should become a science how to conduct the schools in different localities on a paying system. When one year after another passes, and there is no sign of diminishing the debt, but it is rather increased, a halt should be called. Let the managers say, I refuse to run the school any longer unless some sure basis is devised. 15MR 52.1

The very highest kind of education you could give is to shun debt as you would shun disease. For Christ's sake, as the chosen people of God, call yourselves to task, and inaugurate a different system in the school. This is to be your education as churches in every place. As church schools have been established, the best education the people of God can have is to learn how to conduct their school on a basis of financial success. If this cannot be done, close the school until a plan can be devised to carry it on, with the help of God, without the blot of debt upon it. 15MR 52.2

This can be done, and should be done. The Lord is not pleased with the kind of management that has been revealed in the past, for it reveals a lack of judgment. Let teachers take less wages, and let the students’ fees be raised. Let the strictest economy be practiced in the provisions made for the table. Let the one who has charge of the cooking gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. In families there is often great waste in throwing into the wastepail a large amount of food that could be worked into palatable dishes. There is enough wasted here and there in different places to support one or two families. These are lessons that need to be studied carefully, and practiced diligently and conscientiously. 15MR 52.3

The students should have plenty of good wholesome food. The fruit should be fresh and palatable, and free from decay. But as to the many dishes for dessert for which we have recipes, I have no light in regard to them except that they should not be made. We want decided reforms among reformers. We feel the necessity of this matter most deeply. But I am not as well as usual, and will write more fully at another time, if the Lord will give me strength and freedom.—Letter 104, 1899. 15MR 53.1

Ellen G. White Estate

Washington, D. C.,

May 2, 1985.

Entire Letter.