Training the child in the way he should go, weighs heavily with the parent who is conscious of his responsibility as parent. To develop and cultivate the talents which God has entrusted to our children so that they can take their God-given places in life, is a task we cannot esteem lightly.
As the child grows older, the problem, instead of dissolving itself, thrusts itself fully upon us.
During the grammar school years the question of education is a comparatively simple one. Today every parent realizes that a grammar school education is essential to the child’s future welfare. For he himself has neither the time nor the ability to give him the education he needs. Besides, the laws against illiteracy, especially in our country, are definite enough on that score.
Nor does the subject matter in which he is to be instructed during his early years create any real difficulty. He must learn to read and write, make his acquaintance with numbers and the intricacies of arithmetic, know something about geography, history, health and science. Whether it be a boy or a girl a certain amount of general knowledge must be acquired to become acquainted with the world in which we live and to be able to makes its way through it.
The Christian parent, not content with a mere secular education, nor satisfied with merely adding Bible study to the list of subjects taught, insists that all the instruction be based upon the Word of God, with God as its center, so that the child will learn to behold the beauties of the Lord and His mighty works, and to live a God-centered life, even in the midst of a wicked world.
So far the matter of education presents no real problem as far as the individual child is concerned, except possibly that one child takes to learning far more readily than another, and some will show outstanding ability in one subject while others will show ability in some other subject.
By the time the child has reached the high school age the problem of his education fully asserts itself.
The period between the ages of twelve or thirteen and eighteen, commonly known as the period of early adolescence, marks a definite change in the child himself. He begins to assert himself and take on maturity. The childishness disappears and physically he begins to look “grown up.” His features change, his characteristics and interests become more pronounced. He becomes more independent in his thinking, not merely accepting the word of parent or teacher, but tries to reason out the problems he meets by individual thinking. Almost overnight the child of yesterday outgrows his shorts or her braids, and has become an individual who must be treated as such. In this period of transition between childhood and maturity the education becomes an education of the individual and must serve to develop and cultivate the particular abilities of the individual child. The opportunity must be taken in its stride because the high school age passes swiftly by and maturity is soon reached.
The time comes when the parent faces the question with all its implications: shall I send my child to high school?
This question is of a comparatively recent date. Not many years ago only the well-to-do were in a position to give their children a high school education, while those of moderate means even wondered as to the value of it. No one went to high school unless he had in mind some definite profession, such as becoming doctor, or lawyer, or minister. By the time that he had finished the grades the father could often use him in his own field or business or labor. Frequently it was simply taken for granted that the child would follow in the footsteps of his father and his further education rested solely on the shoulders of the parent. If such was not the case, it was often quite important that the child should help support the family, and his future depended largely on the kind of job he could find.
This has undergone a remarkable change during the last few years. Witness the fact that in 1910 about one million children of America graduated from high school, while twenty years later, in 1930, the number had increased to five million and is very likely still on the increase.
Various factors have influenced this rapid expansion in higher education. One of these is the fact that many states have introduced laws making school attendance compulsory until the age of sixteen or eighteen years. There are objections which can be raised against laws of this nature, particularly the fact that many children are inducted into the high schools who have no ability or desire to study, but are compelled to waste their time there while they might be spending it profitably in preparing themselves for some work they are capable of doing. Yet the fact remains that these laws are there and also enforced.
But there are also other factors that enter in. Our way of living has undergone a radical change during the last few decades, so that the higher standard of living and the improved means of communication thru the radio and the press have made an advanced education an invaluable asset. The introduction of the machine has caused labor and industry to make great strides ahead, but have also tended to make our lives far more complicated. Where formerly a man had to have brawn to handle a pick and shovel in digging a ditch, he now needs a brain to manipulate the complicated piece of machinery that does the work far more quickly and efficiently. Modern inventions, no less, create a demand for skilled craftsmen and trained workmen. The blacksmith shop, for one thing, is now transformed into a modern automobile industry where car after car is run off from the assembly lines by experienced workers. And behind these workers stands a staff of executives, office workers, engineers, designers, chemists, mechanics and others. Likewise electricity and the radio have opened new fields of endeavor demanding training and experience. Now more than ever industry sends out a call for young men and young women who can be inducted into the work and make advancements as they go along. The present war, instead of slackening this demand for trained workmen, only tends to increase it, so that today many positions cannot be obtained without some sort of advanced education.
The question of whether a child should receive an advanced education relegates itself in many cases to that other question, what is the proper form of education for the particular child? There should not only be a definite end in view in sending the child to high school, but the child should also begin to specialize in some particular field of study as soon as possible. His ability and liking for a certain branch of study often holds the key for his future. The child who is making rapid strides toward maturity and must take his place in life tomorrow, must not while away those precious years but must receive his preparation today.
But these things, as important as they may be by themselves, only scratch the surface of the problem. Far more important is the question for every Christian parent, what is the ultimate purpose of giving your child an advanced education?
Only too readily can we allow ourselves to be swept along with the trends of present day education.
In the field of modern education there is a very definite and common trend toward materialism. The love of money is still, as it always has been, the root of all evil. Behind this lies the wicked desire of man to set himself up as God, to seek a self-centered life and to determine for himself what is the highest good. Often the parent will sacrifice himself without end to give his child an education with the sole purpose that he may “make good” in the world. The child must not go through life as he was forced to do, working by the sweat of his brow in menial labor for a meager income. He must arise to some prominent position and “amount to something” in life. It does not make a great deal of difference what position or vocation he chooses as long as it makes his future secure. Professing Christians will even risk sending their children away from home and church into an utterly worldly environment if the profit can be measured in dollars and cents. Little do they seem to realize that they are training the child to labor for the bread that perishes, even at the expense of his soul.
Another common trend in modern education is the trend toward “culture”. It is not entirely distinct from the trend toward materialism, but is nevertheless to be distinguished from it. Culture, they will tell you, is an end in itself and has its own excuse for being. A man of culture is a man of prominence who rises to a position, honor and fame among men. The main question is not what a man is, or what he does, or even why he does it, but simply how he does it. Whatever profession or business he may choose, he must make himself a man of influence and be somebody in this world, no matter what. “Culture” becomes the outward shell in which a man lives among his fellow men, a cloak of self-righteousness to hide the corruption of the heart and gain the high respect of others. It means worldly mindedness in a world where God has no place and Christ has long since been cast out.
We cannot ignore the fact that these and similar tendencies take a prominent place in the public high schools. The world that is “neutral” over against religion lays down its own godless principles and inculcates them into the receptive minds of the youth of high school age. The public high school student, who reached the age that he considers himself quite capable of thinking for himself and formulating his own opinions, is subjected to the subtle influence of these principles for five or six hours of every day, five days a week and some forty weeks of the year, for four or more years. Place over against that the Catechetical instruction of about thirty hours, more or less, per year, the attendance of the public worship on Sunday, and the influence of the home. Even outside of the fact that the time spent in positive instruction in the school far exceeds that of both the home and church together, there is a very natural and constant conflict between them. The child is led into a maze of contradictions and confusions, even while he is being trained for the future. This can only be detrimental to him.
Well may even the Christian schools and Christian high schools be on the alert against these modern trends. We need Christian schools for higher education, but we cannot rest there, for we need Christian schools that are based on the Scripturally Reformed principles which we maintain and defend. The child must be taught that “wisdom is the principle thing, therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7). Wisdom, not in the sense in which the world seeks it, but wisdom which has the fear of the Lord as its beginning, its basic principle. True wisdom sees God in all things, seeks to delve ever deeper into His revelation and to behold His beauty, strives to live according to His statutes and to do all things to His glory. God’s friend-servant in the world must bear the image of Christ Jesus in every sphere of life unto the glory of the Father. Need it be said that an education that will be used by God, through His Spirit, to inculcate that true wisdom must be a thoroughly theo-centric education?
We have not begun to reach our goal until we have created a real cooperation between the home, the church and the school in the education of our children. We need schools that are founded four-square upon the Word of God. But we also need a training for our children in the Church which fits the child of today, in order that he may learn to know the Word of God and apply it to the daily walk of life; a faithful and regular attendance of Catechism and the divine worship. But we need, no less, a home where parents are living examples to their children, instructing them in word and deed and transmitting to the generation to come the heritage of truth handed down to them from the fathers.
The man of God must be made perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.