By W. C. Hammontree
(Editor’s Note: W. C. Hammontree reviews a speech entitled “Concern About Unconcern, “presented by James R. Cope, President of Florida College, stressing the need for guidance and discipline to begin in the home.)
In an unscheduled speech during the 1981 Lecture Programs held on the campus of Florida College, January 26-29, President Cope responded strongly and emphatically to a number of problems, attitudes and rumblings that plague both the College and the parents. The audience of over one thousand visitors interrupted his remarks with applause on several occasions as he presented numerous thought-provoking, and often challenging, comments regarding the conditions that prevail in the church, the home and colleges today. Because of the changes taking place in the thinking of the students who are attending, and more importantly, in that of the parents who are sending, the. College often finds itself under attack. President Cope said:
We need not expect that the foundations of Florida College will be exempt from the beating rains, stormy winds, and rising floods of years to come. Just as this school has known its “blood, sweat and tears” periods, so it needs be that to greater or lesser degrees the similar testing times will come. If the foundation stones laid 35 years ago are kept in place none need fear that this institution will not be standing a hundred years from now. We need to remember, however, that this school is run by men . . . poor, fallible though sincere, well intentioned sons of Adam. Furthermore, that these men are the products of a variable, changing, and often fickle society, affected by changing mores and value concepts which, even among religious leaders, are ever in a constant state of flux, characterized by varying degrees of liberal and conservative thought.
I regret to say that there have been numerous schools begun at just such fundamental and conservative foundations, as has this one, which have long since left the faith of their founding fathers. College halls which once vibrated and resounded respect for God, His word, and His way, have long since echoed the destructive echoes of worldly, even atheistic, owls and bats.
President Cope spoke of the apostasy that had taken place in the church and pointed out that when this happened, faithful brethren rose to form new and faithful congregations. Just as this happened in the church, he said:
If and when the Florida College you and I have known, loved, and preserved, so depart from its original moorings that it is unworthy of patronage and support, that same day faithful brethren should start another institution to serve the peculiar moral and educational needs of Christian parents and children who at that time believe in the ideals which gave birth to this one.
If I told you that I am not concerned about the future of Florida College, I would speak a falsehood. But hear this, my brethren: I am much more concerned about what is happening to parents who send them, and to the young people who come here, than I am about the stability and perpetuity of this school which exists to serve the alleged needs of both Christian parents and their children.
Many who are associated with Florida College have, for the last several years, heard parents and college supporters express concern that occasionally some students are reported to be doing things while at Florida College that are improper. President Cope expressed his deep concern that such things can, and do happen, but warned that the attitudes of parents and others often foster such problems, and responded with:
This school has lived 35 years because its patrons have believed this controlled environment, based upon biblical truth and enforceable moral regulations, is worth the price they must pay to have it for their children. All this time, most of these parents have had enough confidence in the administrators and teachers here to back them regardless of the restrictions and punishment of their own children when they have been severely disciplined …. 1 confess to you that within the last ten to fifteen years I see a definite reassessment of moral values and attitudes which were not spawned here, but were brought to this campus …. My brethren, God’s people have always lived in the midst of the worldly ways of worldly thinking and godless people. Christians are said to be “in” but “not of” this world. Nevertheless, when Christian parents tolerate in their children immoral practices generally characteristic of the non-Christian world, there is no way for such children suddenly to become lily-white simply because they are exposed to the controlled environment of this campus.
The audience responded with nods of approval and applause as President Cope put the blame and responsibility uncompromisingly upon that which he believes has created these conditions. He said:
I bring no wholesale indictment against any parent or child in particular. Yet, in both homes and churches I visit away from the campus, more and more I see a lessening of respect for the hoary head, less reverence where worship is taking place, and more scoffing at regulations imposed by both public and private school officials. I observe an increasingly sloven, “don’t care” attitude toward neat, clean dress habits and the type clothing worn in public. I observe scanty, sexually suggestive, and often shameless attire worn by both male and female, plus a disgustingly increasing fondling of bodies of the opposite sex, often in the presence of the youth’s own parents! I see a “don’t care” attitude toward what older and wiser heads suggest as proper behavior and all this coupled with a “nobody’s going to tell me what I am going to think, say or do” disposition. These are some of the things I continue to observe in families of men usually thought of, in many churches, as the leaders and feeders of the flock of God.
I suggest to you, my brethren, that all these conditions did not happen overnight. I further suggest that these attitudes have not been born on the campus of this and similar schools. They have developed elsewhere, yet somehow the most ardent boosters often expect faculty and administration to wash all these soiled and torn linens without rubbing somebody’s feathers the wrong way.
Just as these problems are often brought to, and do occur on, the campus of Florida College, President Cope emphasized that when it becomes known, action is taken to stop it. He referred to some who thought that things had taken place on the compus and believed that the College did nothing about it, by saying that too often those who know of such things . . .
. . . instead of coming to the official; who can do something about it, or going through student government channels designed for the correction of such matters, that they just talk to one another, stew in their own juice, often upset their parents by their reports, and, instead of helping the situation by reporting irregularities, allow the situtation to degenerate. The same thing is true off campus. Even our patrons and supporters sometimes talk to their neighbors, friends, and brethren about things happening thousands of miles from where they live but somehow never get around to writing a letter or making a telephone call to personnel in the college who can do something about a situation which may, admittedly, be bad. Even though I am head of the school and even though we have people who are giving their lives in an effort to help the sons and daughters of other Christians across this land, all of us frequently learn things away from campus that we do not learn on campus.
In a comparison of this college’s problems to other experiences in everyday life, he said:
I doubt if there is any parent who has grown children who has not also been the last to learn some things about his own children. Millions of marriages end in divorce every year because one companion knew nothing of the activities of the other till it was too late.
Perhaps most of us, as parents, would feel deeply hurt if we should learn that our children had been guilty of some serious infraction while away at school. It may even be somewhat natural to want to put the blame on others. It is obvious that serious soul searching and deep reflections were taking place as silence fell over the audience while President Cope stated forcefully:
Florida College is not a reformatory. Parents who have no realistic control of their teenagers while they are at home should not be shocked when these same children get into trouble here. It is even worse, and ultimately detrimental to the child and destructive of the home, when parents sympathize with and defend their children who disregard school regulations. It is not uncommon for us to learn that young people who get caught in their use of narcotics or alcohol here have been getting by with the same activities while in high school and living at home all the while the fathers and mothers never dreamed that their dear darlings were wild degenerates when ouside their parents’ immediate presence . . . . Increasingly, this type student comes to this type school only to learn after arrival that we mean what we say about our regulations. He is soon in trouble, is often suspended, and then it is known that in some cases both the child and his parents tend to carry a chip on their shoulders, become openly critical of school policies, and sometimes become hard, if not bitter, critics. Some parents don’t want their sons and daughters enrolled in the “do-your-own-thing” tax supported college, but these same parents sometimes become critical of this school’s officials for demanding respect for the very rules which distinguish Florida College from univerisites with such tolerant environments.
Obviously, such conditions and attitudes do exist and almost every parent and supporter of the College has heard something at some time that prompted deep concern. It seems that President Cope not only unveiled the problem, but struck at its heart when he said of parents’ discipline and training of their own children:
They cannot wait till they (the children) are ready for junior high, senior high school, or college, to start discipline. These same parents must learn that they must begin by loving and respecting each other as husbands and wives. We spend fortunes, and the first 20 years of our lives, learning to make a living, but precious little time learning to make a life together with the opposite sex. We spend years preparing for livelihood, occupations and professions and little or no time preparing our minds or those of our children, for love and tenderness, the patience and politeness, the thoughtfulness and unselfishness, the common sense and common decency, the mutual respect and the mutual responsibilities of marriage. Shall we never learn and shall we never teach our children that happiness is not discovered in sex alone? Shall husband and wife never learn that happiness is a state of mind created by two persons committed to God and to each other in the completing of each other’s whole being and personality?
Florida College would be derelict in its mission if it failed to support the home and hold before its students the sanctity of marriage and family life.
The time is now and the place is here for you and me to resolve anew to give ourselves, in the time we have left? to the building of faith and faithfulness into our own hearts and lives as parents and teachers. With an eye upon eternity, a heart prompting to action, a hand guiding the steps of those committed to our trust, by God’s grace and as His people cannot fail.
In his conclusion, he stressed the College’s role, and while pointing out its place in the moral development of each student, he made certain none could or would, identify the College as the church. He said:
Florida College is not the church of Jesus Christ, locally or generally. As I said earlier, it is not a moral reformatory to repair parental failures. It is not a missionary society to evangelize the world as an agent either of individuals or churches. It is designed, and continues, purely as a private educational entity… a human service institution. It sells human improvement services without financial profit to any stockholders, though it is dependent upon others than the parents and the pupils it serves. Though the graduate or non-graduate . . . the finished product . . . may not always have the finesse that a parent, or even the faculty itself, may desire, it should always be remembered that the raw material enrolled in September has much to do with the finished or unfinished product which leaves this campus at the end of a semester, a full term, or with a diploma two years later.
The thing that has amazed me is not the number which we have failed to improve, but the great number that Christians working here daily and prayerfully have succeeded in salvaging for useful citizenry, for both general society and the kingdom of God. Those who shall continue to operate this school need the constructive suggestions of faithful friends and they must have it to preserve what has thus far been wrought.
While the friends of Florida College will all view the approaching date of James R. Cope’s retirement with sadness, it is at least reassuring to know that through the years he has assembled within Florida College dedicated administrators, teachers, and general employees who uphold the same principles as he has espoused, and, who have the same love for truth and the desire to see Florida College strong, as does he.
Those who know the Board of Directors of Florida College, know that they are men who will not compromise on these principles. They are men who will see that no departure can suddenly overtake this institution and that, for the foreseeable future, we can safely continue to entrust the education of our children to this College.
President Cope has placed a responsibility upon each of us to help maintain the strength and purity of Florida College. Let’s all do our part! Be a helper, not a hinderer. We need Florida College for our children, and our children’s children through generations to come. Will it be there when you need it? Yes, it will be if we all work together today.
Guardian of Truth XXV: 18, pp. 277-279
April 30, 1981