Some months ago we devoted our attention with respect to the “Home Front” to Protestant Reformed Secondary Education. We now turn to Primary Education. It is, of course, no less true with respect to primary education than with respect to secondary education that the principle must be followed that wherever and whenever the Lord makes it possible, Protestant Reformed parents must provide for Protestant Reformed children Protestant Reformed schools.
This implies, of course, in the first place, that the principle of Protestant Reformed education as such is one that cannot be gainsaid. It simply cannot be a question, from the point of view of principle, whether Protestant Reformed people should d favor Protestant Reformed education. This is a matter of simple consistency. The covenant instruction of our covenant seed in the school as well as in the home and church must be in harmony with our distinctive Protestant Reformed beliefs.
Nor is it open to question whether there is a difference. I will not argue this matter of difference as far as the public school is concerned: the public school is not neutral, but it is the school of the world; and covenant parents may not allow covenant children to be brought up in the world’s schools. Nor will I argue the matter of difference between our schools and the existent Christian (Christian Reformed) schools on practical grounds. I will simply point to the fact that as surely as the doctrine of common grace is a doctrine which radically affects one’s world-and-life view, so surely it affects education; which is exactly concerned with one’s world-and-life view. Those who adhere to common grace see this clearly, and they are not ashamed to act accordingly. We ought also to see this, who has seen the actual fruits of our own schools and our own education in our children will testify that there is indeed a difference.
The concrete question, therefore, is not that of the principle of Protestant Reformed instruction as such; but the question is one of discerning when and where the Lord opens the way for us to have our own schools and of being ready, when the way is opened, to follow up our calling.
There has been encouraging progress in this regard. In some areas, of course, we have had our own grade schools for many years. In fact, the time may not be far off when we will have a graduate or two from our seminary who has had his entire grade school education in one of our Protestant Reformed schools. It has also been reason for gratitude that in spite of all the miseries of 1953 and in spite of numerical loss, we were able to maintain our schools in these areas where they had already been established.
But in more recent years there has been progress. In Loveland our people were not slothful in beginning their own school. In South Holland a school has been established and is prospering. In Iowa the Northwest Iowa School Society, according to recent announcements, plans to open a school in the fall of this year, the Lord willing. And various news items indicate that progress is being made in Redlands also. These are good signs, and these are reasons for gratitude. And, under the Lord’s blessing, we may surely look for good fruits from these efforts.
Moreover, I would also express a word of encouragement to our people in this regard, especially in those areas where numerical smallness makes it more of a struggle and a sacrifice to establish and maintain our own grade schools. By all means, go ahead! It is not always easy to get started. Sometimes, for various reasons, the backing of our people is not always one hundred per cent. Sometimes, when one looks back on the history of our school movement, there may seem to be reasons for discouragement and hesitation. Moreover, once started, we may expect it to be a struggle to maintain our schools. But, by all means, go ahead! The advantages far outweigh any disadvantages; and the benefits to be reaped far outweigh any sacrifices that must be made.
OUR ON-GOING CALLING
All this does not mean, however, that we have arrived. To think thus, even in those areas where our schools have long been established, would be a serious mistake. This is true, first of all, in general. The goal of Protestant Reformed education is not merely to haveseparate educational institutions. The essence of Protestant Reformed education does not lie in the Protestant Reformed name on the building. The goal is separate, that is, distinctive education. To provide such education is our on-going calling; and, I dare say, it involves a continuing struggle. It simply will not do that, once our schools are established, we rest on our laurels.
In this connection, I wish to emphasize three items.
The first is this: we must continue to provide teachers for our schools. There was a time when it almost began to appear as though we would have a surplus of potential teachers. But this is certainly not true today. In the first place, of course, there is always a certain amount of normal loss in this regard, so that the supply of teachers must be constantly replenished. But secondly, the demand for teachers is on the increase. As we open our high school in the Grand Rapids area, and as we open more grade schools, there will be an acute need for more teachers. And therefore I cannot emphasize strongly enough that our Protestant Reformed young men and young women, when they face the question of their life’s work, should give serious consideration to the teaching profession. We need you in our schools! Moreover, I wish to emphasize that we must provide teachers. They must come from our Protestant Reformed homes. This means not only that parents should encourage their children to train for the teaching profession. But it also implies practical measures. It is up to our school movement to help provide the necessary means whereby our young people can be trained as teachers. In this day when a college education costs in the thousands of dollars, I believe it is not amiss that our school movement provides for prospective teachers scholarships and grants-in-aid, much in the same way that our churches provide grants-in-aid for prospective ministers.
The second item is this: we must put forth greater efforts in the direction of applying our distinctive Reformed principles to every aspect of education and especially to the subject-matter of education. There is, in my opinion, a vast area here in which we have only begun to scratch the surface. This is, of course, as far as the actual work is concerned, primarily the task of our teachers. But it is also the responsibility of our school boards and school societies to see to it that this task is accomplished. This means not only that our teachers must work at the task of applying our Reformed principles in their day-to-day instruction in the classroom, but it also includes the task of providing educational materials, — notes and manuals and textbooks, — in which these principles are applied. We must continue to build in this regard. This, by the way, is one of the chief reasons for the establishment of our Federation of Protestant Reformed School Societies. This organization has now been in existence for several years. I do not know how much progress they have made; but I do know that thus far we have seen little in the way of concrete results. And I believe that we must work, and work hard, in this direction. I also believe that there are more of our school societies that could and should join this Federation. The work in which they are engaged is for the common benefit of our schools.
The third item which I wish to emphasize is this: we must continue to support our schools generously. We must see to it that we have adequate facilities. We must see to it that our teachers have adequate salaries. And we must pay our own way; no one else will do it for us. I do not share the opinion that our grade schools in the Grand Rapids area will suffer financially because of the high school movement. Nor do I share the opinion that we must hesitate with respect to you high school because of the financial burden of our grade schools. Both are our calling. And if we must sacrifice, then let us sacrifice to provide for both. The same is true with respect to all our schools: we must be prepared to meet the costs. And truly, that cost is little enough in comparison with the high privilege of providing our children with covenant training. I believe too, that in general our people have shown their willingness in this regard. And basically that means this: the Lord has provided for us! And we may be confident that He will continue to provide!
I also wish to emphasize that we must never, never go in the direction of accepting government aid. The possibilities of such aid seem to be increasing; and as the cost of education increases, the temptation to accept such aid also grows. As has been pointed out frequently, with state aid goes state control. And state control will mean inevitably that our schools will be secularized. There is enough of state control already. And the time will come soon enough when the Anti-Christ will try to make it impossible for covenant parents to train their own children in the fear of the Lord. Beside, it is the calling of the parent, not of the state, to educate his own children. We must, therefore, be prepared to pay our own way, even at the cost of sacrifice.
Let us, then , put our shoulder to the wheel!