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It's so hard to turn your thoughts on! Switzerland wasn't any help with that, but it was worth it to have been alive in every pore for a month! This night train should help me gather my thoughts, though. Here goes--time to assess the situation. I, Michael St. John Harrowby, thirty-five years old, have been made the Headmaster of Wintonley Grammar School, more by luck than merit. A person's first thoughts are naturally for his wife and children, and poor Frances had to scrimp too much at Appledore. My dear wife! I hope the stress is over for her now. She'll enjoy mothering the boarding students along with our own five children.
But here I go again, thinking about the same old thing we keep harping on ever since I got this post--about the personal benefits to ourselves and our children. There's nothing we haven't analyzed, even to the Butler Scholarship for Baby Tim, so why bother going over all of that again?
I'm as bad as Jack Horner, that spoiled child. Why do we all eat our plums in a corner thinking,
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'What a good boy am I'? Are effort and goals only for those others who were unlucky and missed their plums? Well, I have my thoughts, anyway, if only I could get at them. And they remind me that cake and punch aren't everything.
No, cake and punch isn't all there is, and now that I have a promising prospect ahead of me, I wonder what I'll make of all the thoughts that have been going around inside me for the past ten years! Three months ago, I felt like I could have revolutionized the entire educational system--just like Moses, who was enthusiastic enough about the exodus until it actually began. When I was finally given my chance, I started to feel intimidated, like everyone else had experience on their side and that the way things are must be what's best. But thinking like that is just sheer laziness and cowardice. Come on, Michael! You know, deep down, that this opportunity has come to you because you've thought out a few things that should be useful. That's what the world needs, because, somehow, people have gotten too humble and teachable that they can't think for themselves. These are wonderful, exciting times! We're all so open to conviction, so zealous for what's right and true, that's it's easy for us to be duped by false prophets who claim that they have the only truth, or theirs is the only answer. And yet, how ready we are to follow the lead of anyone who shows even the least gift of insight!
When it comes to education, we're hovering so close to the truth. The current proclamation is that education isn't merely to prepare us for life, but that education is the work and effort of a lifetime. And, with this much insight, it can't be possible that the education everyone means is no more than cramming a few text-books. Education is like religion--it's all or nothing, like a consuming fire in the bones. How is it possible for us not to see, through our hurry of eating, drinking, buying and accumulating, that
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our first priority is to raise up a generation who will be better than we are?
An old pamphlet I picked up at Offenbach declares, 'We need new schools for new times!" That pamphlet was what a congress of the 'German federal free thinkers' came up with twenty five years ago, which shows how long ago Germany first began her educational reform. It's good for us to know where we stand when it comes to certain urgent questions, and this pamphlet spells it out. There's nothing alarmingly new about the sentiment, 'Knowledge is power.' We're ready to admit that the people have a right to the power that knowledge can give, and that the knowledge that's needed is the kind that qualifies a person to live his life as a functioning member of society. But the burning question is whether the talent and genius that wastes away today in the heated rooms of a thousand factories, or chokes in a thousand moldy apartments, should be cherished by future schools for the infinite benefit of society. We're not sure that moldy apartments breed geniuses by the thousands any more than tastefully furnished suburban houses do, but that's not the point. The question concerns the poor masses and the 'inner city hoodlums.' It's shameful that we even use such a phrase. We're glad enough to have the poor around so that we can learn a lesson in righteousness through them, but what hope of health or beauty do we have as a nation as long as we have this cancerous kind of discrimination eating away at us inside?
Besides these 'untouchables' who we tend to classify as residue, how do we stand? I mean, so long as there are jobs and food, how do people manage for education? What kinds of chances are there for a blue-collar man's child who was blessed with talent or genius? It's not too bad in the larger towns.
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Generally, educational opportunities are limited by how long parents can afford to support their child. In fact, the law steps in and forces parents by setting a minimum standard so that a child isn't allowed to go to work until he's reached a certain age and learned a certain amount. He needs to be able read, although not fluently. He needs to know how to write, although not easily or even correctly. He needs to be able to do basic math: add, subtract, multiply and divide fairly proficiently. It's not much, but it opens the door just enough for the child who has some genius. If such a child has parents who are financially able and willing to feed and clothe him during his adolescence, he has a chance. He can earn a scholarship to go to a primary school (boarding school for ages 7-11), and that can carry him through middle and high school. Then he might get a scholarship that will allow him to get his degree at a university. I know of a dozen University men who worked their way up from the lower class--sons of skilled laborers [plumber, bricklayer, carpenter, etc.], or sons of factory workers and store clerks--and distinguished themselves with honor and praise, because schools and colleges seek brains. They know that their school reputation depends on what kind of men they turn out. This state of things is merely a last resort. We hear that other countries are doing better in the area of education than this. But at least educational reform is being discussed here. Our whole system is being overhauled. In the meantime, it's good to know that an education is at least possible for the gifted son of a poor man, if his parents will make sacrifices for him, and if he happens to be lucky enough to live in a town.
What do we have here? Educationalist Friedrich Adolph Wilhelm Diesterweg said, 'Nothing is more attractive for people than truth. To find truth, people will wander to distant lands, travel over deserts and mountains, search the depths of the earth, or climb up to the heavens. No effort is too great, no obstacle too daunting, no task too difficult.
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His soul thirsts for truth.' This suggests something, and the obvious conclusion is that schools ought to nourish children upon truth. But that leads us back to Pilate's famous question.
But Diesterweg is trying to tell us something. 'Moses, Moses and more Moses' is the bitter accusation. Diesterweg complains that, in Germany, a sixth or even more of the time spent in elementary schools is devoted to teaching religion--Bible lessons, psalms, catechisms, hymns. What time is left, he bemoans, to learn literature, metaphysics, ethics, etc. and all the treasuries of wisdom that should be presented to both poor and wealthy students? But Diesterweg's story is in the past. We in England are progressing and advancing forward very nicely. We don't have anywhere close to one hour out of every six devoted to religious instruction. We've banished psalms, hymns and catechisms. Our Bible lessons have been pared down so much that there's hardly a thread left. In our zeal to streamline, we don't notice that we're depriving our people of the classics, the metaphysics, the ethics, and even the religion that's part of their cultural heritage. Instead, we give students 'Readers,' which are mere scraps of science, history, geography. It's no better than sawdust. It's unable to take root deep down in a person's heart and bear fruit in the person that grows upwards.
But here's an issue that concerns us more directly. We learn for the benefit of our lives, not for the benefit of our schools. Yes, that's right, we already knew that. Here we have it: How?--says Professor Dodel-port in his latest brochure: Choose either Moses [religion] or Darwin [science]. Dodel-port may be a bit reckless, but that's the situation we have. What do you think about Moses? That's the key. The worst part of it all is that a grown man might have the patience to let his thoughts simmer while he mulls them over, but youths demand something more
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definite. You can't hide anything from them! Even if you don't say a word, they'll know what you mean as clearly as if you'd shouted it from the rooftop. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's not 'Moses or Darwin?' I think it needs to be both of them--and not in order to compromise, but in faith, with the faith that each of them has a revealed word from God to share, although in different degrees. But how do you explain that to the students? They can't resist taking sides, and they doubt your sincerity if you don't choose one side or the other.
We'll make loyalty our emphasis. In a home, children are living in natural conditions and they each develop along their own individual lines. But in a school, you need to have an enthusiasm, you need to strike a note that will touch and vibrate the heart of each student in order to have the common feeling that's necessary for there to be life. Loyalty will do it--chivalrous loyalty to each other, to the school, to their homes, to those in authority, and, highest of all, the loyalty of serving as a Christian. I'm not sure how to do that yet, but when a person has a determined purpose, he finds ways. And if that loyalty doesn't allow any dishonoring thoughts? What if a passion of loyal service burned in some of the students' hearts and affected all of the students to a greater or lesser degree. Would criticism be banned as disloyal? Does that mean that the students will be going out into the world totally ignorant about the questions that prick so many hearts, and that they'll be staggered when they face evidence and opinions for the first time that are opposite to their old thoughts? No, but I wish I could do for them what a great teacher did for me and others. It's hard to put it into words, but somehow, a person ends up on the other side of current controversial issues. They're very interesting, but not urgently vital. To compare more minor things with more important things, it's like a famous woman's husband
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listening to discussions about his wife's works or published letters. Are they hers or not? Do they really tell facts about her life, or are they just fabrications? Are the opinions that her characters espouse really what she believes? It's quite interesting and amusing to hear what everyone says about it, but it's different for him. He knows what the rest of them have to make guesses about. Anyway, that's not a vital issue--what really matters is her and the relationship between the two of them. And that's even more true about our comprehension of the Highest God, and our understanding of the supreme relationship between Him and ourselves. If we can reveal to youths a vision of God's infinite Beauty, and expose their hearts to the attraction of His irresistible Kindness, and let them know this about their intimate knowledge, that,
then all other knowledge and relationships and facts of life will take care of themselves. This is the only way that it's possible to live joyfully, purposefully and diligently. Without this, there's nothing but madness, or a foolish mime acting out foolishly in front of the eternal truths. Yet we have students who are brought up with religion and turn out indifferent, or even bad. That can happen when they have the outward visible signs without having the thing they're signifying inside them. Of all the useless sawdust there is, this kind is the driest. No soul, once it's laid open to the touch of God's kindness, can go away and forget it. A willful, stubborn soul might go away, but it feels compelled to come back. Well, anyway--it's one thing to see what needs to be done. It's another thing entirely to figure out how to do it. At any rate, once a person understands these things, he needs to go cautiously and wait for more enlightenment.
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Related to this, we have to face the attitude of public opinion when it comes to the Bible. 'Did God really say that?' is the question of the hour, and probably will be as long as world goes on. Those of us who teach need to have solid convictions regarding the Scriptures, convictions that won't be altered. Therefore, the ground we stand on needs to be deep, broad, and high. It needs to cover and underlie every point of attack. We need to know with absolute certainty that the Bible is revelation--its claim to be revelation rests only on internal evidence, on the quality of the truth that it reveals. Let's ask ourselves what the subject of revelation is. Is it the history of a race of people known as the Jews? Is it the history of the beginning, and predictions of the end of all things? We hear these days that light is thrown upon both of those [history and predictions] 'through storied windows richly decorated.' We hear that the garden of Eden and the apple have no more direct, literal interpretation than the verse about the 'tree that grows twelve kinds of fruit, whose leaves are to heal the nations.' We hear that 'He didn't speak to them unless He spoke in parables,' and that that applies to pretty much all of the history of what we call the Bible. Maybe the marvelous, inspired quality of Scripture stands out more as a result of attacks on its historic truth than in any other way. Whether people decide to regard the story of the Fall as a historic record, a poem, a myth, a parable or a vision, makes little difference--its inherent meaning is still the same. In this narrative we have the story of the decline and fall of every soul of man, and the hope of rising again.
And the enlightened critics say that the history of the Jews is nothing more than a collection of myths from the heroic age of a nation--an age when gods walked with men. These are nothing more than myths that are curiously closely paralleled to the sacred myths of other nations that we don't
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attribute divine inspiration to. But even in this, the history justifies itself because it's so close to human experience. Even now, the sun sometimes stands still long enough for us to complete some act of righteousness, or the Jordan River parts before us when we're in a tight spot. Whether it's by way of literal, historical truth or enlightening fables, these stories give us parables of our lives that need to be understood spiritually. And, even more than that, they give us an unfailing key to the way we should interpret the times we live in. This is by the inspiration of God.
The violent battles and slaughter of entire villages that are attributed to Almighty God, brought on directly by His hand or according to His will, are presented as if they're irreconcilable with our concept of God's goodness. These kinds of things still happen today, but we don't have the courage to ascribe them to God. Not very many of us could honestly say, 'Even if He kills me and my people, I will still trust Him.' We don't dare say, 'This is the hand of God,' so instead, we label these things with words that largely have pagan origins. Fortune, the stars, fate has dealt us a bad card. We suffer from misfortunes, mischances, casualties, catastrophes, disasters, or fatalities. Surely this is a more reassuring and more scientific way of describing events than the way the Old Testament described them! Is it true, then, that floods, famines, slaughters in war, are the will and work of a good God? That's what the Old Testament says, and the New Testament adds a sweet word about a sparrow falling to the ground, which proves, at any rate, that these things are at least permitted by God. Maybe life and death just aren't as momentous as we think. It's possible that death isn't at all final regarding opportunity or existence. What if it might even open a chance for us to try again? We can't know; revelation
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says nothing about that. As far as science, when it has anything definite to say about the physical facts of life that we can see with our very eyes, then we'll be willing to listen to what it has to say about these other mysteries. At any rate, in the heart of God where every pain finds pity, there was none for the three who tasted death. There was only pity for those who grieved and mourned for them [not sure who this is referring to; the quote above, 'even if He kills me,' is similar to a verse in Job.] As far as all of life's distresses, the miseries of an anxious mind, the writhing of a body in pain, who can consider his pain intolerable when he thinks about the Cross?
We teachers have to face the situation. We can't shirk anything, we can't take anything for granted. We need to fortify our students against attack, and prepare them to make a chivalric defense. As for specific tactics, let's stop for minute and, for the sake of argument, imagine that everything that is attacked is lost. Where does that leave us? The dirt mounds that we made for fortification are pitifully destroyed, but the fortress itself is still intact. Our panic dissipates and we begin to feel confident. No matter what happens, we feel ready. In fact, we feel confident enough to take up the offensive position! Our position is proof against all strikes; now it's the enemy who's exposed. I think this is very important. Defensive warfare is never carried out with the same kind of enthusiasm and conviction that inspires the side who makes the attacks. In fact, we refuse to yield even one iota of the sacred Scriptures, while we only say about the obscure or difficult passages the same thing we say about the Apocalypse:
But what about religious teaching, and the Bible? It's so hard to know what to teach when everything is an open question and potential for doubt. But take courage. Nothing has been lost yet, and the
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future is on our side. It's not the Scriptures that we're yielding. It's just one of the old traditional ways of interpreting it when Science proves it to be implausible. We look Science squarely in the eyes and interrogate it sharply. Most of all, we don't tolerate the assumption that Science is an infallible teacher because she's always erasing some conclusion she arrived at yesterday and replacing it with a new truth she discovered today. The ability to so readily change with new findings is the strength of Science. We're on the verge of a new criticism--a criticism that's not historical or natural, but personal. Physiology is hurrying to announce that every person can mold and modify his own mind. Education, not heredity or environment, is the final and formative power. Character is what defines the person, and education makes character, no matter how much she owes the material she has to work with to heredity and environment.
So, how should this affect the way we teach Scripture? By making us focus our criticism on the people related with the Scriptures rather than on the events recorded in the Bible. First, the authors, whether we know who they are or not. The lessons we learn about righteousness aren't any greater or lesser if they were penned by Moses or someone else, or Isaiah or another prophet. It isn't human nature, or natural for authors, to suppress themselves the way Biblical authors do. We don't see little affectations and vanities that usually crop up when learned men write. We don't see the usual verbose prose, or pompous egotism or flowery wordiness. Even Plutarch, the prince of biographers, can't resist giving you his opinion about the man he's writing about, adding his own delightful anecdotes. But presenting a person for the reader to judge without adding a hint of his own approval or disapproval is unusual. Not Plutarch or any other author has been capable of
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that--especially not biographers of our day and age! In all of the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, of prophet, priest, or king, there is no speech about morals. Instead, the principle that right and wrong are self-evidenced is made plain. Right and wrong are never praised or criticized. Unadorned straightforward narrative is enough if every reader carries the judge in his own heart. And then there are the people told about in the Bible stories. The well-springs of human behavior are evidenced clearly in them. They rise up from the pages, not like a gallery of peculiarly Hebrew portraits, but like a parade of genuine, living people--more real than the people we eat dinner with every day! How can this be, unless this is the work of God's inspiration? And some of them take shape so majestically as we read about them! Patriotism, enthusiasm, altruism and all the fine words we use today seem too feeble to express Moses, the law-giver of Israel, the prophet, the poet, the leader of men, a man with the same passions we have, but greater than we are. 'Moses, Moses, and more Moses!' Just the single man, Moses, is enough to inspire us to bring up godly and manly youths. In just two or three wonderful touches, his story presents before us the education that helped make him who he was, and all the time, there's no praise, not one story written just to make him sound good, nothing more than a clear narrative that simply tells about events as they happened. This is essential truth. This is double inspiration: first, it produces Moses as a man, and then it portrays him. But what about the 'evolution of history'? If a man is measured by the amount of praise and acclaim written about him, then our day and age produces lots of men who are not only greater than Moses, but greater even than Jesus! After all, what biography has ever been written that has less gushing praise than the four gospel accounts? How sweet the reasonableness
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of Christianity is, how sober was the sanity of the many authors who were elected to write the counsels of God for us!
Am I too fondly clinging to the things of the past rather than focusing on the exciting changes of the present time, and the promise of the future? No. I fully appreciate the joy of living in these times that are characterized by childlike sincerity, openness to conviction, readiness to try everything and choose what's best. Sure, we have our faults--and they're serious and depressing--but we're ready for better things. Indeed, we're ready for a great crusade if only some modern version of Martin Luther or Savonarola would rise up and tell us what to do. To push ourselves to work daily at education, to live, act, think and speak in front of the children so that they'll be better every hour because of our example, is a lot harder than making a single enormous sacrifice. But we'll be enabled even for this daily effort in these inspiring days, when it seems like people are being made willing during this, the day of His power. The outlook is very encouraging. We're beginning to see that education is the chosen servant of religion, and we're beginning to get a stimulating glimpse of the stature of the perfect man that's possible to redeemed humanity.
But the past has so much accumulated treasures of wisdom and experience to offer us--
There's not much that's more disastrous (or, unfortunately, more imminent) than suddenly breaking away from past traditions. Therefore, we need to gently connect the
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bonds that link us to the past generation that's dying out all too quickly. Without being disloyal to our own sincerest days, maybe some of us suspect that cultivated people of the 1850's had more depth and sweetness--and more delightful humor!--than we see in people living today. It's good for us to tenderly and reverently gather up whatever fragments of their insight and experience that come our way. After all, we want to be like a homeowner who brings forth treasures from his collection that are both new and old.