|Vol. 1, No. 10||Page 10||October 1999|
We shall recall those early days and how things used to be, how they are now and, most importantly, what can be done to rectify the situation.
When I commenced my career forty-one years ago, I kept a Bible on my desk at school. Every morning “Opening Exercises” consisted of reading a few verses (either by a student or myself) from God’s Word, followed by the class repeating the model prayer, commonly called the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13). We sang a patriotic song and concluded with all of us reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in unison.
During the course of the day, as we studied various subjects, I felt that I could (and I did) freely mention God’s part in our lives. For example, I recall in Health class that we studied the human body as, according to our textbooks, “a masterpiece of engineering design.” We would discuss how well-suited our various systems are to do the jobs intended, how we have back-up features, such as two eyes, two ears, etc. From there, the logical conclusion I would guide my class to reach was that all these wonderful features could not have “just happened.” Where there is design, there must be a designer. Psalm 139:14 states, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
In Social Studies, I always emphasized that the founders of our great nation were God-fearing Bible believers. For example, when we studied the founding of the original thirteen colonies, some of which were established for religious freedom, I pointed out that the Pilgrims and the Puritans felt that people should be free to worship as they pleased, but I believed (and still do!) that we should worship God as HE desires.
I utilized several opportunities in the science curriculum to point out God’s part in the concepts we studied. I used fossil evidence, such as fish fossils high up the sides of the Grand Canyon, and the folding and faulting of the earth’s crust, to substantiate the Great Flood of Noah. Please, do not misunderstand – I did not teach religion as such, but I used every opportunity I could to demonstrate the hand of the Almighty in our lives.
When we studied dinosaurs, I played portions of the tape from Dr. Bert Thompson’s Christian Evidences lectures in which he so ably describes those mighty animals and proves that dinosaurs and man walked the earth together.
Another activity which occurred each year was the visit by members of Gideons International, a group of businessmen who gave free Bibles/New Testaments to our students. In the fifties and sixties, each child received his/her own copy and one of the gentlemen made a short speech comparing the Bible to a road map, telling the children that the words contained therein would point them toward heaven. How true!
As the years passed, the school authorities (by law) had to require students to return signed permission slips allowing them to be given a free copy of God’s Word by the Gideons or anyone. The next step was that the Bibles could no longer be distributed in the classrooms, so students who were to receive Bibles needed to report to the office. When I retired, no Bibles were given in any manner. How sad!
Near the finish of my teaching career, we had no opening exercises; therefore no Bible or Bible story reading took place. We said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, although I was required to announce that even that was optional. We ceased saying any prayer, even giving thanks before lunch. I reminded my students that they could offer their own silent prayers any time, anywhere. No one can keep us from thinking our prayers to God.
Slowly but surely came the decline of discipline, evidenced by student use of foul language, disrespect for teachers and other school personnel, lack of support from parents, irresponsibility for homework, poor work habits – manners went down the drain, too. The following quotation appeared in USA Today, July 22, 1999, in which DeWayne Wickham stated, “Discipline is a key to learning, and good manners breed discipline.” I agree whole-heartedly. Discipline must exist in the home, before we can expect mannerly behavior in school.
What can be done about this sorry state of our schools? First, I must make it clear that not all children and parents came under the indictment I have just presented. I instructed some children whose parents totally supported me, students who showed respect, worked hard and tried to do right.
We are familiar with the description of education as the study of the three “R’s” – “Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.” I believe we need three more “R’s” – Respect, Responsibility and Right-doing. The school is an extension of the home: we send our children there to be further educated, building upon the instruction we have provided in the home and the church. Let us examine some Scriptures that teach these character traits.
When we read in Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” we understand this to be the bedrock for our first “R” – Respect. Teachers, in effect, become the “parents” of the students while they are in school. Does it not follow that boys and girls must respect their teachers? The first commandment with promise is “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Exodus 20:12). We read of many persons who are great examples of respecting their parents, grandparents, elders, civil government, etc. Think of young Timothy who evidently listened to and obeyed his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. (See 2 Timothy 1:5 and Acts 16:1-2).
Also, Paul and Timothy and their close relationship (1 Timothy 1:2) quickly come to mind. Do you suppose Timothy respected Paul? I am sure we will agree with an emphatic “Yes!”
The second of our new “R’s” is Responsibility. This concept can be illustrated easily, using the Scriptures. Abel, in Genesis 4:3-5, certainly felt responsible to offer the sacrifice God called for, while Cain did not. Joseph quietly and unassumingly displayed the same trait in bad as well as good situations, climaxing with his promotion to second in power in all Egypt. Wow! What a responsibility he had then, but he accepted it and eventually was able to bring his father, Jacob, and his eleven brothers and their families into the land of Goshen. Read Genesis 37-50 for the complete account of this great Bible character.
A New Testament figure who did not flinch at accepting responsibility is Stephen, who preached the truth even though it cost him his life (Acts 7:54-60). Perhaps the finest embodiment, next to our Lord, of both respect and responsibility was Paul. Read about his persecution and you will be impressed with his steadfastness (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Now, we will consider the third and last of our “R’s” – Right-doing. Every biblical example referred to thus far certainly did what was right. Just one additional character will I mention – Lydia. In Acts 16:13-15 we learn she worshipped God, obeyed the Gospel and led the way for her household to do the same.
What can we parents do to instill these characteristics in our young people? First, we must be good examples in all things. We must diligently strive to train our young ones to develop these attributes. Of course, this begins with our own Christian conduct. We need to become involved in our schools: support, encourage and cooperate with teachers who try to reinforce the values we are endeavoring to instill at home. We can contact our legislators insisting that they work to change the laws when necessary and we can write letters to the editor. Most of all, we must teach the young ones to go to Bible class, worship services, practice good morals, behave in a mannerly fashion and urge them to become Christians when they reach the age of accountability. We, above all, must pray!
The most frustrating circumstances of my teaching career came when I was required to teach morals without teaching morals. I will explain this doubletalk. How could I teach that smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs is wrong when I could not give the best reason in the world? First Corinthians 6:19 reads, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you . . .” As we went through all the workbooks, lectures and activities, I stressed that it is wrong to do anything to harm our bodies.
There have been some rays of hope in the news recently. In at least one district in Kentucky and West Virginia, officials hope that placing Ten Commandments plaques in classrooms will help prevent violence and other problems. This is an effort to bring good morals back into schools. In June of this year, the United States House of Representatives passed a measure allowing such placement of the Decalogue. The bill is now in the Senate. The above-mentioned school districts’ attorneys believe the action is lawful because volunteers paid for and placed the plaques. Students are not required to read the plaques, nor will they be tested on the content of them. However, at least God’s name and some of his principles of better behavior and morality will be available to the students.
Another exciting development concerns the teaching of creationism as well as evolution. The Kansas State Board of Education has approved new standards that allow each district to decide which concept will be taught, if not both. Evolutionists are very upset. Good!
Finally, we must start in the home and continue in our
schools to teach our children that we do not make decisions because they
are easy, cheap or popular. We make them because they are right.
Remember our three “R’s” – Respect, Responsibility
and Right-doing. After all, “Freedom is not the right
to do as you please, but the liberty to do as you ought.” (From Good
News Calendar, Heartland Sampler).