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Our ‘’modern age” must also have “modern” technique and methods in the field of education. Largely under the influence of the philosophy of John Dewey, new theories have been conceived, stated, and incorporated into the public school systems in a varying degree. The results are called by various names: Progressive Education, New Education, Social Education, Social Experimentalism, etc.

The purpose of this “modern” education is expressed in the names by which it is known. The development of a socially efficient individual is the primary end sought by the new educators. Social education should prepare the pupil for living with his fellows through the formation of skills of social communication and the building up of the etiquette of harmonious and frictionless human relationships. The school, thus, is looked upon as the primary agency for adjusting the individuals to his place in society. All means, methods, and activities should be effective to train young people to live together on the highest plane.

It is but natural that the methods employed will spring from this underlying philosophy of purpose. The method to be used is guidance. Through guidance the pupil must be helped to solve his own problems; to make intelligent choices when alternatives are presented. The pupil must be guided into all knowledge and guided to develop the reasoning powers needed to use the facts discovered wisely, in the solution of social problems. Simply stated, the pupil must be free and uninhibited in thought, word, and deed and gently led and guided to think, speak, an act correctly to the greatest good and benefit of himself and his fellow man. The whole theory rests on the basic assumption and error that the inherent nature of an individual is good, cooperative, and unselfish.

This same social guidance should be substituted for discipline as a method of establishing order and good behavior in the school and outside of it. The pupil should be taught to see that he can best satisfy his own legitimate desires by refraining from any action that will thwart the legitimate desires of others. Self- control must be established as the principle and basis for action. Recognition of the rights of others is the surest source of good conduct, so it is said. When a pupil refrains from a certain act because he sees that it is inimical to the welfare of the group, he has been started on the road to good behavior, outside the school as well as in it.

Limiting ourselves to the subject of discipline in this Progressive Educational theory we quote the following principles of change sought and somewhat accomplished by modern educational philosophers:

  1. From the control of conduct through the authority of the Church or Bible, to the development of self-control based upon a desire for social service.
  2. From a social training in classical standards of expression, to the development of free, creative self-expression.
  3. From a religiously motivated moral training, to one based on conformity to natural laws or on a desire for social service.
  4. From Church and private schools, to state controlled, tax-supported, free, common and nonsectarian schools. (Though not strictly a disciplinary motive yet quite interesting and important to us. W.H.)
  5. From a method of formal discipline, to one of motivation, in which the pupils’ interests are developed and utilized.
  6. From methods of indoctrination and domination, to methods of guidance and direction.
  7. From a school discipline based on coercion and conformity, to one based on self-control and social intelligence.*

A simple reading of these statements should be enough to convince us of the corruption of this modern educational philosophy in respect to disciplinary methods and aims. It is hardly necessary to point out that it is fraught with fallacy from beginning to end. As a theory it rests upon the false basis of Humanism with its emphasis on the inalienable rights and inherent goodness of man. It fails to take cognizance of the great facts of sin, the fall, and the total depravity of every individual as he is by nature. In practice its results have been well-nigh disastrous. This is recognized even by many who have no special regard for Christian principles. The well-known columnist Paul Mallon, for example, has written several articles recently in which he accords much of the guilt for our present day juvenile delinquency to the lack of disciplinary training that has resulted from the practice of the ideas advanced by the promoters of Progressive Education.

Over against this popular notion and because we are often influenced by the world round about us, perhaps, to a greater extent than we realize, it is well to return to the fundamentals. The Christian Schools should not only be distinct but also antithetical. In fact, its distinction should lie in its antithesis; also in respect to methods aims and practice of discipline. No one will deny that many of our Christian Schools have already lost, or are last losing much of this distinctiveness as  regards discipline not only, but in every phase of educational policy and current activity. The only possibility of retaining what is left, and regaining what has been lost, is to return to the fundamentals in principle and practice. A simple statement, therefore, of the basic principles of Christian School discipline is certainly in order.

The distinctiveness of the Christian School should be found in the fact that its education and means are God-centered and God directed. Christ should be everywhere; for our only knowledge of God and approach to Him is through Christ. Christ must certainly be in the Christian School. And that not only in name or appearance but so, that the knowledge of God in Christ permeates and fills all that is taught and ail methods used to accomplish this teaching. It would follow, therefore, that discipline in the Christian School must also be God-centered and God-directed.

In order to find the means to accomplish this ideal of Christian education it is necessary to turn to Christ, i.e. to the Word; the revelation of God in Christ. Here only can we find the guideposts; the lamp and light upon our way, as regards education in all its phases and ultimately all knowledge and direction. It must be our only rule of faith and LIFE. In the Word of God only can we find the principles and working out of them upon which a Christian School must be built and conducted. It follows, therefore, that it is also to the Word of God that we must turn to discover the principles of discipline that should govern a distinctive Christian School.

Before setting down the principles of discipline revealed to us in Scripture it might be well to circumscribe a bit more closely what is meant by discipline. In the broad sense of the term, discipline means simply to teach. In this broad sense it connotes the training of the mental, moral, and physical powers by instruction and exercise. Thus, any training or study is a discipline. In the narrower sense, as it is also used in our subject, it means to train to obedience or subjection. It implies the positions of authority and submission to authority. At the same time, if it is to be effective, it must include authority, power, and ability to correct and punish disobedience and insurrection. Discipline itself, rests upon the principle of our having been created as servants and to serve, and thus, to be in subjection and obedience.

The first and basic principle of any discipline is found in the fact of the fall into sin. Through willful transgression of God’s commandment man fell from the state of free, willing and loving obedience into disobedience and enmity; thus he became an object of discipline. The guiding principle of Christian School discipline is to be found in this fall. It is beautifully stated in our Baptism Form as follows: “that we with our children are conceived and born in sin, and therefore are children of wrath. . . .”

Simply stated, the first principle is that we by nature are totally depraved. It is the first principle for it instructs us concerning the objects of discipline and the necessity for discipline. It teaches us, further, what to expect from an individual by nature and why to expect it. He who is totally depraved is at enmity with God and consequently at enmity with his neighbor. The expression of this enmity will always be disobedience and insurrection for, as the apostle Paul states: ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

This first principle is already, not only distinct but antithetical. It is in direct contradiction to all that was stated in the principles of the Progressive philosophy. It teaches that discipline must certainly be much more than guidance, development, adjustment, and direction. Just because this basic principle is denied and refused by the world all its discipline must necessarily be a guidance and development into condemnation. At the same time, as long as it is denied, all discipline is impossible, for as it is maintained that man is inherently good by nature, correction is unnecessary. Here also is a fundamental reason for maintaining distinct Christian Schools. 

If we were to remain with this first principle alone it would be quite impossible to speak of discipline at all. In his state by nature man is hopeless and helpless and can never find a way out; not even by the strictest practice of correction and obedience. His depravity renders it all quite impossible. We hasten to add, therefore the second basic truth that must underlie Christian School discipline. This is found in Biblical concept of the covenant. In the sphere of the covenant God moves, not man, and God moves so, that He redeems His people and implants within them a new principle of love and obedience. In that covenant we see God as the great disciplinarian, Christ as the object of His discipline, while the cross is both the expression and end of all discipline.

Once again, this second principle is distinct and antithetically opposed to all that the world holds. Not willing to hear of sin, it knows nothing of true punishment and forgiveness. Again, however, it destroys the very possibility of discipline; only as we believe that God by grace has established a covenant with His people can we hope for success in disciplining our children. That covenant of redemption He has established with us and our seed and upon that promise we can depend in the exercise of discipline in correction and training. Only within the sphere of the covenant lies the possibility of true Christian discipline. Outside of the Grace of God, man always remains what he is by nature—totally depraved and as such prone to all evil; loving, desiring and willing sin.

Upon these two great principles of sin and grace must rest the discipline in the Christian School. Many lesser principles and practical rules and consequences might be pointed out but they are all implied in them. There are, for example, the principles of love, grace, forgiveness and also of punitive measures to enforce obedience. The practical difficulties in the working out of these principles are, undoubtedly, numerous and would require clarification by an experienced educator. Pupil-teacher relationships, classroom and home environment, parent-teacher relationships, parent-pupil relationships, all enter in here. We do believe, however, that these two basic principles, do, broadly point out the objects, aim, content, and methods of distinct Christian School discipline.


* Quoted from: “The Foundations of Modern Education”, pp. 593-599—E. H, Wilds, Ed. D. Farrar & Rinehart, New York.