This excerpt from the January 10, 1882, edition of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (now the Adventist Review) beautifully illustrates the progressive vision of Christian education that informed many books and articles by Ellen G. White. When she wrote this, the teaching profession was dominated by males; today, women make up nearly 75 percent of the K-12 teacher workforce.—Editors.
O WORK EVER UNDERTAKEN BY MAN requires greater care and skill than the proper training and education of youth and children. . . . Says the wise man, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The nature of man is three-fold, and the training enjoined by Solomon comprehends the right development of the physical, intellectual, and moral powers. To perform this work aright, parents and teachers must themselves understand “the way the child should go.” This embraces more than a knowledge of books or the learning of the schools. It comprehends the practice of temperance, brotherly-kindness, and godliness; the discharge of our duty to ourselves, to our neighbors and to God.
The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals. The brute has only to be accustomed to submit to its master; but the child must be taught to control himself. The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast, no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher. Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous. Children thus educated will be deficient in firmness and decision. They are not taught to act from principle; the reasoning powers are not strengthened by exercise. So far as possible, every child should be trained to self-reliance. By calling into exercise the various faculties, he will learn where he is strongest, and in what he is deficient. A wise instructor will give special attention to the development of the weaker traits, that the child may form a well-balanced, harmonious character.
In some schools and families, children appear to be well trained, while under the immediate discipline, but when the system which has held them to set rules is broken up, they seem to be incapable of thinking, acting, or deciding for themselves. . . . Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control; but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.
Both parents and teachers are in danger of commanding and dictating too much, while they fail to come sufficiently into social relation with their children or their scholars. They maintain too great a reserve, and exercise their authority in a cold, unsympathizing manner, which tends to repel instead of winning confidence and affection. If they would oftener gather the children about them, and manifest an interest in their work, and even in their sports, they would gain the love and confidence of the little ones, and the lesson of respect and obedience would be far more readily learned; for love is the best teacher. A similar interest manifested for the youth will secure like results. The young heart is quick to respond to the touch of sympathy.
Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become. Hence, his principles and habits should be considered as of greater importance than even his literary qualifications. He should be a man who fears God, and feels the responsibility of his work. . . . He who would control his pupils must first control himself. To gain their love, he must show by look and word and act that his heart is filled with love for them.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that Ellen G. White exercised the biblical gift of prophecy during more than 70 years of public ministry.