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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The True Science of Education

The True Science of Education
Extracts from the writings of E. G. White
The True Science of Education

True education means more than taking a certain course of study. It is broad. It includes the harmonious development of all the physical powers and the mental faculties. It teaches the love and fear of God and is a preparation for the faithful discharge of life’s duties.

There is an education that is essentially worldly. Its aim is success in the world, the gratification of selfish ambition. To secure this education many students spend time and money in crowding their minds with unnecessary knowledge. The world accounts them learned; but God is not in their thoughts. They eat of the tree of worldly knowledge, which nourishes and strengthens pride. In their hearts they become disobedient and estranged from God; and their entrusted gifts are placed on the enemy’s side. Much of the education at the present time is of this character. The world may regard it as highly desirable; but it increases the peril of the student.

There is another kind of education that is very different. Its fundamental principle, as stated by the greatest Teacher the world has ever known, is, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Its aim is not selfish; it is to honor God, and to serve Him in the world. Both the studies pursued and the industrial training have this object in view. The word of God is studied; a vital connection with God is maintained, and the better feelings and traits of character are brought into exercise. This kind of education produces results as lasting as eternity. For “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10), and better than all other knowledge is an understanding of His word.1

Sound physical development

Physical culture is an essential part of all right methods of education. The young need to be taught how to develop their physical powers, how to preserve these powers in the best condition, and how to make them useful in the practical duties of life. Many think that these things are no part of school work; but this is a mistake. The lessons necessary to fit one for practical usefulness should be taught to every child in the home and to every student in the schools.

The place for physical training to begin is in the home, with the little child. Parents should lay the foundation for a healthy, happy life. One of the first questions to be decided is that of the food on their tables; for this is a matter upon which the development of the little ones and the health of the family very largely depend. Skill in the preparation of food is very important, and it is not less important that the food be of the proper quantity and quality. . . .

Every mother should see that her children understand their own bodies, and how to care for them. She should explain the construction and use of the muscles given us by our kind heavenly Father. We are God’s workmanship, and His word declares that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). He has prepared this living habitation for the mind; it is “curiously wrought” (verse 15), a temple which the Lord Himself has fitted up for the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. . . .

Exercise is an important aid to physical development. It quickens the circulation of the blood and gives tone to the system. If the muscles are allowed to remain unused, it will soon be apparent that the blood does not sufficiently nourish them. Instead of increasing in size and strength, they will lose their firmness and elasticity, and become soft and weak. Inactivity is not the law the Lord has established in the human body. The harmonious action of all the parts—brain, bone, and muscle—is necessary to the full and healthful development of the entire human organism. . . .

Every student should understand how to take such care of himself as to preserve the best possible condition of health, resisting feebleness and disease; and if from any cause disease does come, or accidents occur, he should know how to meet ordinary emergencies without calling upon a physician and taking his poisonous drugs.

The Lord Himself has spoken upon this subject of the care of the body. He says in His word, “If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:17, RV). This scripture enjoins a conscientious care of the body, and condemns all ignorant or careless neglect.2

Character training in early childhood

Parents should bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, educating them to love to do the will of God. It is impossible for us to overestimate the advantages of youthful piety. The impressions received in youth are to many as enduring as eternity. It is in youth that the statutes and commandments of God are most easily inscribed on the tablets of the soul. The instruction of children has been greatly neglected; the righteousness of Christ has not been presented to them as it should have been.

The time of probation is given us that we may perfect a character fit for eternity. How solemn is the thought, parents, that your children are in your hands to educate and train that they may develop characters which God will approve, or characters which Satan and his angels can play upon as they choose! Jesus spoke from the pillar of cloud and of fire, and bade His people instruct their children diligently concerning the commandments of God. Who are obeying this instruction? Who are seeking to make their children such as God will approve? Who keep the thought in mind that all the talents and gifts of their children belong to God, and should be wholly consecrated to His service?

Hannah dedicated Samuel to the Lord, and God revealed Himself to him in his childhood and youth. We must labor far more for our children and for the youth; for God will accept them to do great things in His name in teaching the truth to those in foreign lands, to those who are in the darkness of error and superstition. If you indulge your children, gratifying their selfish wishes; if you encourage in them the love of dress, and develop vanity and pride, you will do a work that will disappoint Jesus, who has paid an infinite price for their redemption. He desires that the children shall serve Him with undivided affection.3

Those children are most attractive who are natural, unaffected. It is not wise to give them special notice and repeat their clever sayings before them. Vanity should not be encouraged by praising their looks, their words, or their actions. Nor should they be dressed in an expensive or showy manner. This encourages pride in them and awakens envy in the hearts of their companions.

The little ones should be educated in childlike simplicity. They should be trained to be content with the small, helpful duties and the pleasures and experiences natural to their years. Childhood answers to the blade in the parable, and the blade has a beauty peculiarly its own. The children should not be forced into a precocious maturity but should retain as long as possible the freshness and grace of their early years.4

How solemn is the thought, parents, that your children are in your hands to educate and train that they may develop characters which God will approve!

The first lessons are of great importance. It is customary to send very young children to school. They are required to study from books things that tax their young minds, and often they are taught music. Frequently the parents have but limited means, and an expense is incurred which they can ill afford; but everything must be made to blend to this artificial line of education. This course is not wise. A nervous child should not be overtaxed in any direction, and should not learn music until he is physically well developed.

The mother should be the teacher, and home the school where every child receives his first lessons; and these lessons should include habits of industry. Mothers, let the little ones play in the open air; let them listen to the songs of the birds, and learn the love of God as expressed in His beautiful works. Teach them simple lessons from the book of nature and the things about them; and as their minds expand, lessons from books may be added, and firmly fixed in the memory. But let them also learn, even in their earliest years, to be useful. Train them to think that, as members of the household, they are to act an interested, helpful part in sharing the domestic burdens, and to seek healthful exercise in the performance of necessary home duties.

It is essential for parents to find useful employment for their children, which will involve the bearing of responsibilities as their age and strength will permit. The children should be given something to do that will not only keep them busy, but interest them. The active hands and brains must be employed from the earliest years. If parents neglect to turn their children’s energies into useful channels, they do them great injury; for Satan is ready to find them something to do. Shall not the doing be chosen for them, the parents being the instructors?

Learning useful service

When the child is old enough to be sent to school, the teacher should cooperate with the parents, and manual training should be continued as a part of his school duties. There are many students who object to this kind of work in the schools. They think useful employments, like learning a trade, degrading; but such persons have an incorrect idea of what constitutes true dignity. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is one with the Father, the Commander in the heavenly courts, was the personal instructor and guide of the children of Israel; and among them it was required that every youth should learn how to work. All were to be educated in some business line, that they might possess a knowledge of practical life, and be not only self-sustaining, but useful. This was the instruction which God gave to His people.

In His earth-life, Christ was an example to all the human family, and He was obedient and helpful in the home. He learned the carpenter’s trade and worked with His own hands in the little shop at Nazareth. He had lived amid the glories of heaven; but He clothed His divinity with humanity, that He might associate with humanity, and reach hearts through the common avenue of sympathy. When found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and worked for the recovery of the human soul by adapting Himself to the situation in which He found humanity. . . .

The time spent in physical exercise is not lost. The student who is continually poring over his books, while he takes but little exercise in the open air, does himself an injury. A proportionate exercise of all the organs and faculties of the body is essential to the best work of each. When the brain is constantly taxed while the other organs of the living machinery are inactive, there is a loss of strength, physical and mental. The physical system is robbed of its healthful tone, the mind loses its freshness and vigor, and a morbid excitability is the result.

The greatest benefit is not gained from exercise that is taken as play or exercise merely. There is some benefit derived from being in the fresh air, and also from the exercise of the muscles; but let the same amount of energy be given to the performance of helpful duties, and the benefit will be greater, and a feeling of satisfaction will be realized; for such exercise carries with it the sense of helpfulness and the approval of conscience for duty well done.

In the children and youth an ambition should be awakened to take their exercise in doing something that will be beneficial to themselves and helpful to others. The exercise that develops mind and character, that teaches the hands to be useful, and trains the young to bear their share of life’s burdens, is that which gives physical strength, and quickens every faculty. And there is a reward in virtuous industry, in the cultivation of the habit of living to do good.

The children of the wealthy should not be deprived of the great blessing of having something to do to increase the strength of brain and muscle. Work is not a curse, but a blessing. . . .

The approval of God rests with loving assurance upon the children who cheerfully take their part in the duties of domestic life, sharing the burdens of father and mother. They will be rewarded with health of body and peace of mind; and they will enjoy the pleasure of seeing their parents take their share of social enjoyment and healthful recreation, thus prolonging their lives. Children trained to the practical duties of life will go out from the home to be useful members of society. Their education is far superior to that gained by close confinement in the schoolroom at an early age, when neither the mind nor the body is strong enough to endure the strain.

The children and youth should have the lesson continually before them, at home and in the school, by precept and example, to be truthful, unselfish, and industrious.

The educational environment

In the selection of a home, parents should not be governed by temporal considerations merely. It is not altogether a question of the place where they can make the most money, or where they will have the most pleasant surroundings, or the greatest social advantages. The influences that will surround their children, and sway them for good or evil, are of more consequence than any of these considerations. A most solemn responsibility rests upon parents in choosing a place of residence. As far as possible they are to place their families in the channel of light, where their affections will be kept pure, and their love to God and to one another active. The same principle applies to the location of our schools, where the youth will be gathered, and families will be attracted for the sake of the educational advantages.

No pains should be spared to select places for our schools where the moral atmosphere will be as healthful as possible; for the influences that prevail will leave a deep impress on young and forming characters. For this reason a retired locality is best. The great cities, the centers of business and learning, may seem to present some advantages; but these advantages are outweighed by other considerations. . . .

The youth educated in large cities are surrounded by influences similar to those that prevailed before the Flood. The same principles of disregard for God and His law; the same love of pleasure of selfish gratification, and of pride and vanity are at work at the present time. The world is given up to pleasure; immorality prevails; the rights of the weak and helpless are disregarded; and, the world over, the large cities are fast becoming hotbeds of iniquity. . . .

The continual craving for pleasurable amusements reveals the deep longings of the soul. But those who drink at this fountain of worldly pleasure will find their soul-thirst still unsatisfied. They are deceived; they mistake mirth for happiness; and when the excitement ceases, many sink down into the depths of despondency and despair. O what madness, what folly to forsake the “Fountain of living waters” for the “broken cisterns” of worldly pleasure! We feel to the depth of the soul the peril that surrounds the youth in these last days; and shall not those who come to us for an education, and the families that are attracted to our schools, be withdrawn, as far as possible, from these seductive and demoralizing influences? . . .

There is a refining, subduing influence in nature that should be taken into account in selecting the locality for a school. God has regarded this principle in training men for His work. Moses spent forty years in the wilds of Midian. John the Baptist was not fitted for his high calling as the forerunner of Christ by association with the great men of the nation in the schools at Jerusalem. He went out into the wilderness, where the customs and doctrines of men could not mold his mind, and where he could hold unobstructed communion with God.

When the persecutors of John, the beloved disciple, sought to still his voice and destroy his influence among the people, they exiled him to the Isle of Patmos. But they could not separate him from the divine Teacher. . . .

God would have us appreciate His blessings in His created works. How many children there are in the crowded cities that have not even a spot of green grass to set their feet upon. If they could be educated in the country, amid the beauty, peace, and purity of nature, it would seem to them the spot nearest heaven. In retired places, where we are farthest from the corrupting maxims, customs, and excitements of the world, and nearest to the heart of nature, Christ makes His presence real to us and speaks to our souls of His peace and love.5

Aiming high for unselfish ministry

God is the source of intellectual as well as spiritual power. The greatest men, who have reached what the world regards as wonderful heights in science, are not to be compared with the beloved John or the great apostle Paul. It is when intellectual and moral power are combined that the greatest standard of manhood is reached.6

“Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Daniel 2:49)—a place where judgment was dispensed, and his three companions were made counselors, judges, and rulers in the midst of the land. These men were not puffed up with vanity, but they saw and rejoiced that God was recognized above all earthly potentates, and that His kingdom was extolled above all earthly kingdoms.7

Each should aim just as high as the union of human with divine power makes it possible for him to reach.

Many do not become what they might, because they do not put forth the power that is in them. They do not, as they might, lay hold on divine strength. Many are diverted from the line in which they might reach the truest success. Seeking greater honor or a more pleasing task, they attempt something for which they are not fitted. Many a man whose talents are adapted for some other calling is ambitious to enter a profession; and he who might have been successful as a farmer, an artisan, or a nurse, fills inadequately the position of a minister, a lawyer, or a physician. There are others, again, who might have filled a responsible calling, but who, for want of energy, application, or perseverance, content themselves with an easier place.

We need to follow more closely God’s plan of life. To do our best in the work that lies nearest, to commit our ways to God, and to watch for the indications of His providence—these are rules that ensure safe guidance in the choice of an occupation.

He who came from heaven to be our example spent nearly thirty years of His life in common, mechanical labor; but during this time He was studying the word and the works of God, and helping, teaching, all whom His influence could reach. When His public ministry began, He went about healing the sick, comforting the sorrowful, and preaching the gospel to the poor. This is the work of all His followers.

“He that is greatest among you,” He said, “let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For . . . I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:26, 27).8

1 Special Testimonies on Education, pp. 47, 48.
2 Ibid., pp.32–34.
3 Selected Messages, bk. 1, pp. 318, 319.
4 Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 83, 84.
5 Special Testimonies on Education, pp. 37-47.
6 Ibid., p.50.
7 Ibid., p.12.
8 Education, pp. 267, 268.