Priorities In Education
Bob F. Owen, President Of Florida College
Temple Terrace, Florida
In our society, few people question the value of formal education. Those who continue beyond high school commonly have careers in n-dnd as they enroll. Some seem to be motivated solely by monetary considerations - costs of attendance and/or prospects for good paying jobs. Financial considerations are obviously valid, but Christians should not let these be the sole or even the primary considerations in life-goals.
Having spent thirty-nine years as either a student or an employee in colleges operated by Christians, I'm sure my views reflect some biases. On the other hand, these years afford some insight and multiple examples as to the values of "Christian Education." Admitting these biases and not devoting much space to perennial doctrinal questions about schools operated by Christians, I would like to note some values I have found through my experiences.
Most, if not all, of the special values of this type of education stem from the basic education purpose of the institution. In the Charter of Florida College, the founders stated the object is, "To establish and maintain a college wherein the arts, sciences and languages shall be taught and also to provide opportunity for young men and young women to study the Bible as the revealed will of God to man and the only sufficient rule of faith and practice, while they are educated in the liberal arts. . . . " With this as the governing philosophy for the institution, it really matters what courses and programs are offered and who will teach them. Rules and regulations, both academic and social, are developed in light of this purpose which becomes primary in the school's appeal for students. When these factors combine, they make a unique educational program and provide an uncommon opportunity for students.
Sometimes critics discount the value of this type of education because the lofty goals are not achieved without exception. Faculty members sometimes make shipwreck of the faith or show human frailties of anger or prejudice. Students violate regulations or demonstrate behavior that is unbecoming. "If students there cheat in class or if a student there uses drugs, I could just as well attend a state school," some have reasoned. This overlooks a very important factor called to my attention many years ago.
My older brother did not attend college but he has keen insights and extremely good judgment. When I was leaving home to attend Freed-Hardeman he told me I would probably find students who would not live up to the ideals of the school but this would not negate the influence of the school on me. There's a difference, he pointed out, between students doing questionable (or wrong) things without the sanction of the school than in doing them with sanction.
He was right. The fact that the school stands for those things that are wholesome and good and that it adopts rules and regulations toward this end does have a bearing on the students - even if they do not observe all these rules. The student knows that this behavior is not condoned - that his action is disapproved by this teachers and counselors.
My recognition and appreciation of this principle has grown through the years. In the school where I work (Florida College) we have had staff members and students who have not lived up to the standards we espouse. The influence of the school is damaged by such behavior, and this is regrettable. However, because the groups (administration, faculty and the students) advocate wholesome standards and because these standards are generally practiced by the group and because violations are not condoned but, when possible, are disciplined, there is a positive influence for good on the campus.
I remember my own experiences on the campus of Freed-Hardeman College in the late '40's. These same factors existed, and I certainly knew of violations of the standards espoused by the school. These violations did not prevent a strong and positive influence on me that came from the large group of teachers and students. I'm still indebted to these people for this help in my life.
Through the years I have seen similar experiences in the lives of hundreds of young people. I feel my own two children have benefitted in this same way. Many students and parents of many have expressed this same feeling.
Hurriedly let me say that I do not believe a person must attend Florida College to be faithful to God. Neither do I believe that all who attend this school will reap the same or even similar benefits. I am convinced, however, that the overall impact of two years in this kind of environment will be beneficial to most young people, particularly those who already have high ideals and who enjoy wholesome things. Frequently, students who have little interest in spiritual things are stimulated toward these higher values, but the greater appreciation probably rests with those who already are more spiritually minded.
What then are the values of this type of school? There are many. Academic standards are high but not extraordinary. Classes are usually small and teachers care about the work of their students. Varied extracurricular activities give opportunities for all in sports and social activities. Along with these regular college activities each student has a class in Bible each day - taught by able and qualified men who care for them as fellow creatures of God.
The greatest value, however, is the fact that respect for God and His Word is publically advocated and commonly demonstrated throughout the institution. Teachers are not cursing in the classroom or endorsing immoralities in order to seem "cool" to the younger generation. Belief in God is supported in all the courses - not just in Bible classes. Students are able to be with these same teachers on the ball field and in the local churches. They see them as practicing Christians and not just professors. Commonly, warm friendships develop with teachers and their families that continue through the years.
The rearing of children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" is a vital task. All of us recognize that it is a difficult task. We have long known that it takes more than just "taking the kids to church" or "sending them to Sunday school" to develop in them spiritual values by which they will chart their life's course. Training and guidance must begin in the earliest days. Children need to be shown a proper respect for spiritual values in every day life. Their parents and other Christian friends must exhibit a devotion to God and an appreciation for the higher and nobler things in daily activities as well as in public worship. Parents who are truly concerned about the spiritual welfare of their children will seek positive means by which their children can be instructed and guided in the way of the Lord. Personal Bible studies, family prayers, associations with other Christians, and congregational Bible classes are some of the means for this kind of influence. Florida College supports parents by offering another avenue of similar help for young Christians. Being in an environment where most of the other students are Christians and where the Bible is taught and respected does not guarantee proper behavior by an individual: neither does it assure a life-time commitment to God, but it does provide a rich opportunity for spiritual growth.
For most students, going away to college is the first step in their break from home and parents. During these years, life-long friendships are often formed. Experience shows that high school associations are not as permanent as those from the college years, probably because the college years are the early years of real maturing. What a good time this is for young Christians to be in association with other young Christians and in an environment built upon a respect for God and His Word! These are the factors that have meant much to me personally and have prompted me to spend as much of my life as I have working with other Christians in college education. Unhesitatingly, I encourage Christian young people and their parents to seek and to benefit by these same opportunities.
Guardian of Truth XXX: 19, pp. 592-593