The final question which confronts us in connection with this subject is one of a rather practical nature, namely: How can the goal of our own Protestant Reformed teacher training facilities be attained? How can we arrive at the stage where we make an actual beginning in training our own teachers?
First of all, however, I wish to make a few introductory remarks in connection with this question. My first remark is a repetition of a previous warning, that is: I have no stock answer for this question. Nor will I lay claim to the possession of a panacea for all the problems connected with it. My main intention is to arouse an interest in the cause in question, as well as to alert you and myself to the problems involved. And along that line I attempt to make a few observations and suggestions. My second remark is that in my opinion it is time that we begin to take action toward the attainment of this goal. Let the groundwork be laid; let study and discussion take place; and let those who have an interest in Protestant Reformed education not only agitate for this cause, but take some initial, concrete steps toward the realization of this ideal. I do not mean that a normal school must immediately spring up. This is far too big a thing for any hasty and precipitate action. Let our actions be deliberate, understanding, well calculated, and well planned. But the point is: let us begin to act! And let us do so at once, lest this whole problem of teacher training descend on us suddenly and with crushing weight, and force us into hasty, ill planned, emergency measures.
I will divide my treatment of this question into two parts, viz., organization and execution.
Since we have determined that, like our local grade schools, any school organized in our midst for the training of teachers should be of parental origin and be controlled and maintained by a society of parents, the question of the organization of such a society arises first.
In answer to this question I believe that in general such a society should not be local, but national, that is, open to all our Protestant Reformed parents. We must not leave the establishment and organization of such a normal school to any one of the present school boards or societies. The problem of teachers and teacher training is one that affects all our teachers, all our schools, all our children, and all our parents. It is a problem of a denomination wide scope. And it therefore should be solved on a denomination wide scale. This rule should be observed, of course, provided all are willing to cooperate. Otherwise, those who are interested and willing to cooperate must go ahead, regardless of the cooperation of the rest. But of a lack of cooperation on this score I cannot conceive.
In the second place, it may be emphasized that this is a matter for all our parents, whether directly or indirectly concerned with the proposed normal school. It must be evident that this whole matter of a normal school is one that is closely integrated with the entire movement for Protestant Reformed education. The responsibility for its establishment does certainly not rest with the relatively few parents whose sons or daughters expect to prepare themselves for the teaching profession in our midst. Then the matter is hopeless, from a practical point of view, entirely. No, there is not a parent with children in any of our present schools who is not involved—not even so indirectly as we might be inclined to think. If we are to hold the line in regard to distinctive, Protestant Reformed education, we must have trained Protestant Reformed teachers. That is simply a matter of undeniable logic. And that fact at once implies that it is the duty of the very same parents upon whom devolves the responsibility to give their children Protestant Reformed education to provide those children with guaranteed Protestant Reformed teachers, and therefore to provide their teachers with Protestant Reformed training. In fact, I do not hesitate to say that the whole cause of Protestant Reformed education will lose ground, instead of gaining it, will fast degenerate and lose its distinctive character unless our parents take steps in the direction of our own normal school. With all deference to our present schools and teachers, although I believe that a beginning has been made, and although I certainly believe and expect that a serious attempt is being made to give our children Protestant ‘Reformed education, and although I certainly have in mind no instance of concrete error nor any overtly non-Protestant Reformed instruction,—nevertheless I am convinced, and would be convinced if it were only for the logic of this argument, that we are actually far from the full realization of the goal of Protestant Reformed grade schools, for the simple reason that we have no Protestant Reformed teacher training facilities. And I say once more: unless we get such facilities, I am afraid that we fight a losing battle. Hence, let our parents face their responsibility in this matter.
Thirdly, I wish to underscore the need of action on a national, denomination wide level, for the very obvious, practical reason that we are small to begin with, and that for such a large project as this we need all the strength and support that can be mustered out of our little group. At best we have only little more than a thousand families to count on. And we need the support of all
As to the actual organization of such a society for the establishment of a normal school, I can conceive of two possible methods.
One method would be this, that our present societies and boards organize into a kind of super society and super board, which would then be responsible for the normal school. The boards, with the approval and support of their respective societies, would each be represented by one or two members on this super board, which would become the executive board of the normal school. The members of the various school societies would then also be members of a normal school society automatically.
This would imply, of course, that any Protestant Reformed school society which might be organized in the future would also be permitted to join the normal school society.
In favor of such an arrangement would be its obvious ease of execution. We already have several local school societies. And these existent societies would provide the machinery for a normal school society, provided they were willing to pull in one direction.
However, there are also some disadvantages, to my mind, which outweigh the advantage of ease. In the first place, I am afraid of boards, especially of super boards, simply on general principles. Big, strong organizations lead almost inevitably to dictatorial powers and to a silencing of the voice of the people. In the church that is true, when synods arrogate to themselves the powers of local congregations. And it is true in government, when the federal government takes to itself broad powers and becomes a monster organization. Such is always the tendency, and it would be in this case also, very probably. Secondly, this arrangement would far remove the normal school from direct contact with the parents who support it. And this would be unhealthy from every aspect. It would result in a lack of interest and zeal, and a lack of support. Any institution should have as much direct contact with the hearts and minds of its constituency as possible. And thirdly, I can foresee that such an arrangement would carry with it not only all kinds of organizational red tape, but also bring with it the possibility of and occasion for all kinds of intersociety quarrels and squabbles. Now, you may say, Christians, and especially Christians of the same denomination, ought not to quarrel, but to live and labor together in brotherly love. That is granted. But this does not mean that they always do, nor does it mean that the occasion for differences should be placed on their path. How easily difficulties could arise in this case, for example, between larger and smaller societies. How easily the large societies could insist on larger representation in the board, and more influence. How easily intersectional rivalries and jealousies could arise.
And therefore we favor rather an independent society on the same, denomination wide level, a society modeled after our present local societies, but existing on a national level, and as to its organization independent of the local societies. From this national society a board could be elected, just as in the local societies. And from this national society would have to come the funds for the establishment of the school, just as is the case with the local schools. By this means the difficulties mentioned above could be avoided. And yet the aid and moral support of the local school boards and societies could be enlisted in organizing a normal school society. After all, though they be organizationally separate, they all would agree on the need of our own teacher training facilities. And they could all serve in propagandizing, in furthering the organization, and in enlisting the much needed support of the parents. Besides, the present societies and boards could take the initial action in organizing such a society, or in calling for its organization, even though afterwards the society itself would be independent. They could serve in its conception and birth.