It is with some diffidence that I undertake the task, of discussing the question of discipline in the field of education. For this subject is the most serious, the most comprehensive in its range, of all the problems of education. Discipline is by far the most important element in the education of our children. We can conceive of a school without buildings, without equipment, without books; but we cannot conceive of a true school without discipline. Besides, these are days when we are not only told that the problem of discipline has been completely and finally solved, but one is laughed at when mentioning discipline, particularly when we extend the connotation of the world to its severest terms.
We live in days of so-called “self-expression” which practically eliminates all discipline. The child may express himself as he sees fit and reap the bitter or the sweet of his actions, which in turn is disciplinary. Absolute authority is definitely unknown and positively unwanted. They, on the other hand, who may as yet still cherish the idea of authority, exercise some form of discipline following the so-called “Mode of Appeal to Personal Interest,” or the more modern “Mode of Social Consciousness,” which at best are purely humanitarian, and at heart are governed by the evil motive of self-gratification.
Christian discipline, on the other hand, may not and can never be motivated by selfish or humanitarian interests. It is in no sense related first of all to man, but to Christ, for it is Christian discipline, and through Him to God, as will become evident in the discussion of this subject. From the outset it is well to bear in mind that the motive and purpose, the very heart of all that which is Christian is GOD. Therefore, the motive and purpose of all Christian discipline, too, is God.
In treating Christian Discipline in Education it is pertinent to the subject, to understand with some degree of exactness just where education stands as a force in the world. In other words, the nature and extent of school’s authority can only be determined by the relation of the school to the child, to the home, the church, the world, and above all to God. More simple still, what is the purpose of the school? Upon this point depends the whole question of school authority, and this authority determines school discipline, for the latter is rooted in and empowered by the former. Hence, the relation of the school to God and man determines its discipline.
The educators of the public school system unhesitantly teach that the school finds its authority in the state, or government. If asked, what then is the state, the answer is: “It is an economical device by which men unite to effect certain desirable ends, an organization seeking the advantage of its members.” Therefore, F. M. Morehouse writes in his book, The Discipline of the School, quote: “it, (the state) has taken over the business of formal education from the home. . . . because the state can do the work more effectively and more economically. . . . and we call this department of the state the School System.” Properly speaking, the public school is a part of the state. Further, he goes on to say: “Therefore the parents have no inherent right whatever to dictate to the school what its methods shall be. Teachers are responsible, not to the parents, but directly to the state.”
From this reasoning of Francis Morehouse we may easily conclude what he establishes as the purpose of the school. We read in the same book, quote: “This world of the school is organized by society for the benefit of the children, that they may be able to benefit society in turn, and be themselves happier for what they learn there. The teachers are in the school for the purpose of helping them to become intelligent, happy, helpful. All that makes boys and girls intelligent, happy and helpful in the school is right, and therefore permissible.” (I underscore, A.C.)
How thoroughly unchristian, how absolutely contrary to all Scripture is this reasoning. First of all this conception of government is unscriptural. At this time let it be a sufficient reminder that, “there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Rom. 13). The rulers are no servants of society, but of God, to Him they are responsible. This error of the author of said book naturally leads to the second fallacy, namely, that the source of authority is vested in society, the majority of mankind, the greatest number of sinful men. This philosophy is, of course, rooted in: “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Thus man dictates what is right and what is wrong, and usurps the throne of God who alone is sovereign, who alone is the source of all authority. Such faulty reasoning can only mean that all discipline in such school systems is thoroughly wicked, no matter which mode they may choose to adopt.
How diverse in character will Christian discipline be to that of the world when educating the child. The Christian cannot and will not concede the school, the education of his child to the state. He maintains the school as a branch of the home, for the child does not belong to the state but to the parent. Since the child is of father and mother, they alone are responsible for its education.
According to Christian principles this responsibility of the parent can in no wise be transferred to other shoulders. This shifting of responsibility is impossible because the parent is not sovereign owner of the child. In the truest sense of the word the child is God s child, His sovereign property. Therefore the relation of the parent to God and to the child is that of stewardship. Hence, God gives His children to the care and keeping, to the education and training of the parent who in turn is always responsible, not to the state, but to God.
In giving these children to earthly parents God causes the child to become a part of the world, a unit of His creation, of which Scripture testifies: “The Lord hath made all things for Himself.” Hence, the relation of these children to all things, as well as the relation of all things to these children is the honor and glory of our Sovereign God. Therefore, the relation of the parent to the child, and that of the school thru the parent, is one grand relation of glory and eternal praise to God. This is quite a different story than: “This world of the school is organized by society for the benefit of the children, that they may benefit society in turn.”
The responsibility, as well as the right and power which God gave to the parent to train the child, and thus promote the glory of God, is all expressed in that meaningful and beautiful word, “authority.” This word is derived from the noun, “auctor,” signifying one whose duty it is to promote the growth and prosperity of a certain cause. Our word, “auctioneer” is derived from the same word, denoting one who must promote the increase of bids on property. Hence, from this we glean that one in authority is a person who has the legal and rightful power to promote the prosperity of a cause by means of command. Such a person has a fourfold duty: firstly, he must see to it that the cause is brought under way; secondly, he must assign to everyone related to that cause his or her specific duty; thirdly, he must call the last named into account; finally, he must reward the faithful and punish the unfaithful.
This discharge of duties, on the part of the one in authority, is called, “discipline.” The root of this word literally means, to teach, to instruct, to order. From the root of this word, too, the noun, disciple, is derived, denoting one who is taught or receives instruction. When we extend the connotation of the word discipline to its severest terms it denotes control which is gained by enforcing obedience and order by means of chastisement. These duties of authority or discipline, relative to the child, God has laid upon the parent and upon the parent only.
When speaking of Christian discipline in education we do not mean that the authority of the parent at home is transferred to the teacher in school. Authority is not transferable. In school, too, it is still the parent who has authority, but here he exercises it through the teacher. Hence, the teacher is responsible to the parent, and through the parent to God.
For the teacher this means that she may not conduct her school on the basis of appealing to the personal interest of the child, nor by making the child conscious of his social obligations. Neither may she permit the child to express himself in words or actions as he sees fit and leave the results of these actions become disciplinary. But she must hold before the child his divine calling in relation to God, to man and all things. She must prompt the child to learn and realize the seriousness of this calling. She must equip him so that he may be able to discharge his duties faithfully. She must demand that the child accept this teaching and be disposed to being so taught She must call him into account for his performance of these duties and faithfully reward or punish him, as the case may demand.
This task of the teacher is not an easy one. Were the child one of a pure, holy nature her duties would be simplified, then her teaching would merely assume the form of leadership and guidance. But now the child she deals with is one conceived and born in sin, perverse by nature, hating God and His laws. The result is that the teacher will always again collide with the child’s obstinacy. Because this obstinacy is sin the teacher may not compromise, but demand obedience and compel the child to obey. Never may she use the hit-or-miss method, whereby she casts about aimlessly, trying first one remedy and then another, in the vague hope that she may find one pleasing to the child. She may use but one method and that only, namely, “thus saith the Lord.”
This does not infer that the teacher be cruel or harsh and inculcate fear into the child. When a child is frightened into obedience two evils have occurred: the child has lost sight of true obedience and the teacher has lost love to anger. But it does mean that in true Christian love to the child, which is the bond of perfectness, she hold before him, with firm resolve and determination, the keening of God’s law, for “His commandments are not grievous and in keeping them there is a great reward.”