Some Second Thoughts

On the Educational Program in Our Church

CHARLES B. HIRSCH, Secretary, Educational Department, General Conference

 A FEW months ago at the General Conference session in Detroit, some major changes in de­nominational leadership took place, the results of which are still being felt in chain reactions set up throughout the world. The successes and the failures, the accomplish­ments and the frustrations, which may have been experienced during the past quadrennium by the previ­ous administration are not to be judged or debated by those who are new in positions of leadership today. They should be left to the historian to evaluate if he should have the opportunity. He will be best able to record for posterity, after additional in­formation comes to light, the significant contribution of the past two decades in the history of our church.

What is of greater importance to those who are occupying positions of leadership in the church today is not so much the problems of the past, but more truly, the problems of the present. It is to the con­temporary scene that we must relate our­selves and determine how and where, with God's help, we are going to direct this church organization toward the fulfill­ment of the challenge that is presented in the last chapter of Matthew.

The "Heart"

While the church at large must be con­stantly aware of this, it is no less a concern of the educational program of the church. It is quite commonplace for us to speak of the medical missionary work as "the right arm of the message," but much more im­portant to the anatomy of the church is the heart. Can there be serious doubt among any that the educational program is the pulsating organ which circulates, through the arteries of the church, the trained and educated teacher, minister, physician, and nurse? It also engages in the most successful form of evangelism this church offers in keeping our young people within the tenets of our faith. Statistics make this statement a proved one.

One Third of Working Force

Latest figures reveal that about one third of the denomination's working force is engaged in the educational endeavor, covering more than 5,000 schools from the elementary to the secondary level. How often do we hear expressions of pride in regard to this work, and yet would not a closer analysis reveal that this is based more on the quantitative than the qualita­tive aspects? Is it not time that some second thoughts should be given to this facet of the educational scene? Should we not drop anchor while we are giving serious con­sideration to our position? Would not some in-depth analyzing help us to meas­ure the drift to determine whether or not we have veered several degrees from our planned destination? Would not a survey or study, as undertaken recently by the Roman Catholic Church, resulting in its "Catholic Schools in Action" report, give us a better picture of our own position? The result might be harsh, but would it not be better than groping about in ig­norance?

Our current statistics reveal that during the past twenty years the number of colleges and secondary schools has increased from 265 to 634; our teachers from 2,140 to 7,049; and the enrollment for these lev­els from 27,000 to 73,912. On the elemen­tary level the number of schools increased from about 3,000 to 4,534; teachers from 4,800 to 10,078; and enrollment from 129,­000 to 294,352. And parenthetically we should add that the number of persons in the department of education was the same in 1966 as it was two decades ago. During this period our investment in church school buildings and equipment alone has jumped from about S4 million to more than S52 million. In 1965 the church had some $198 million invested in education.

"Niagara of Cash"

These statistics, I believe, are quite dra­matic, and they reveal that a Niagara of cash has been poured into the school pro­gram of the church. And as stewards of God's banks, must we not ask ourselves the question, Have we gotten the most for our denominational educational dollar? Edu­cation today is big business. It is mush­rooming and booming, not only in our country but throughout the world.

Some years ago our church body was highly rated in the number of young peo­ple going through college, but that fact in the light of educational pressures today is fast becoming a fact of the past. The edu­cational horizon today is much broader than it was twenty years ago, and we are deceiving ourselves if we feel that our young people are not aware of this. Yester­day's educational program is just as inade­quate as yesterday's highways. There is need for a constant assessment of our es­sential task and the resources that are nec­essary for meeting the current and future needs adequately.

The needs for today and for tomorrow call for greater changes at every level, from the kindergarten to the graduate school. It is not just problems that we must solve, but more important, we must exploit op­portunities.

We must gear ourselves for higher qual­ity in our instructional program. It is com­monly understood that when education is inadequate at one level, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make the transition to the next. Capable youngsters, especially from underprivileged or disadvantaged backgrounds, too often lose their way be­tween high school and college or between college and the graduate school, chiefly be­cause of a lack of proper preparation.

We must learn how to better work to­gether, not just from one eschelon to an­other, but perhaps more important, on a horizontal level—colleges with colleges, academies with academies, churches with churches, and so on.

We must recognize that the call from Macedonia today is a more sophisticated one. It is for teachers with Master's and Doctor's degrees. It is for accredited schools. It is for four-year colleges. Our be­lievers overseas, too, are seeking quality education. They are not satisfied with sec­ond-rate education.

Distinction or Extinction?

We must constantly be on guard, if we are to maintain our distinctiveness, against those practices of our contemporary cul­ture that are contrary to our basic beliefs. We must not compromise ourselves in the present moral crisis where sexual promis­cuity appears to be the common denomi­nator on all levels.

We must stress the world mission of our church in all the rungs of the educational ladder. This means a greater emphasis on foreign languages, history of non-Western civilizations, international relations, and the role of mission in our contemporary society. In response to Christ's commission to us, we need a world view for our stu­dents and a better understanding of the great forces at work in our present world.

Unscrewed Heads

We must recognize that fundamental in our love of God is the love of truth. In es­sence, this means that intelligence and brains go along with faith and religion, else we must accept what a church critic once wrote: " 'Whenever I go to church, I feel like unscrewing my head and plac­ing it under the seat because in a religious meeting I have never any use for any­thing above my collar button.' "—Quoted in Christianity Today, Aug. 19, 1966, p. 3. This is certainly true if we are serious about operating two university programs.

As Richard Hammill stated in an article in the Review, October 6, 1966, page 5: "We need much charity, much understand­ing, and much compassion one for an­other. The purpose of education and the purpose of a university is to seek for truth. Particularly, as a seminary branch of the university, our task is to seek for truth through the revelations God gave through His prophets, through His Son, and through the servant of the Lord. We must search with diligence, and with confidence in one another, being certain that God's truth in these last days will triumph."

Much has been written lately about church-related schools, especially the Christian college and its ability to survive. There are even some who are asking the question, Should the church-related college survive? I am sure that in our own midst there have been some who have raised similar questions. How far are we going in education? Is there need for vertical as well as horizontal expansion? Can we af­ford such a program? Our consensus of opinion may be that for the future growth of the church and for the sake of our young people, our schools must continue, and if our conviction is strong in this re­gard, then we must be ready to support that conviction.

We must support it in the face of in­creasing inflationary costs, the increasing number of community and junior colleges, and the tremendous amount of Federal aid, which is more and more spoonfeeding education in the United States. Appar­ently there is no end in sight to this dra­matic acceleration in spending. This steady downpour of funds from Government agencies is not merely to provide more ed­ucation but to produce better education for the youth of the nation. Certainly the church cannot have a lesser aim for its young people.

(To be continued)

 

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CHARLES B. HIRSCH, Secretary, Educational Department, General Conference

February 1967

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