Magazine Article

Adventist Schools: “Yes” or “No”?

Should Seventh-day Adventists establish and maintain denominational schools?

William Warren (W. W.) Prescott
Adventist Schools: “Yes” or “No”?

As part of our 12-part series celebrating 175 years of the Adventist Review, we share what would be representative of a feature during the period of 1878-1897. This article appeared 132 years ago in the March 1, 1892, edition of the Advent
Review and Sabbath Herald. The Review was still largely using selections from other Christian publications as its features, but as the journal entered the late 1800s, one can find more Adventist authors. This feature encourages readers to enroll their students in Adventist education. Interestingly, the message remains an appropriate message for today.

This question (seen in the title) has already been answered in fact. Denominational schools have been established, and are being maintained. The work began in 1874 by founding Battle Creek College, and has been extended, until there are now three colleges and two academies in which instruction is being given to about twelve hundred students. But it costs money and involves much hard work. Does it pay? That depends upon the value attached to the results accomplished. Does it pay to give a Christian education instead of a secular one? Does it pay to give the young people a thorough course of instruction, both theoretical and practical, in the Word of God? Does it pay to maintain schools which lead their students to a knowledge of God in His created works, and His constant care in upholding all things He has made? Education is not a thing of a day or a year, and its results are correspondingly permanent. It is not a question of so much language, mathematics, and science, with the ability to pass certain examinations. It is a question of character, of preparation for the work of life, and its results reach over into eternity. The tendency of modern education is to shut out God and a simple faith in His Word from the student’s mind; and so it happens that many, who leave home for some seminary or college with an earnest zeal for the faith of their fathers, return in a few years with their minds filled with doubts and questionings, and their hearts cold and hard.

Many Seventh-day Adventists who have cherished the hope that their sons and daughters might grow up to fill places of usefulness in the cause which they love have seen them drawn away into worldly pursuits, as the result, directly or indirectly, of their education. Is this necessary? When education and culture come in, must faith in God and love for His work go out? Fearing this outcome, some have thought best not to give their children an education, preferring to let them grow up in comparative ignorance, rather than to run the risk of their making shipwreck of their faith. But when knowledge of God as revealed in His Word, in His works, and in His dealings with mankind, is made the leading idea in a scheme of education, the results should be favorable to Christian growth. Especially is this true when the value of a personal experience in the things of God is brought home to the heart of every student, and the general sentiment of the school leads in this direction.

Christian schools are needed in which to educate students for Christian service, and a Christian school is not one in which the Christian religion is merely believed in, or assented to, in a sort of passive way by the trustees or a majority of the instructors, or one that is conducted in a nominally Christian community, but one in which the religion of Jesus Christ in its purity is the living, active principle which directs and molds the work—one in which the presence of God’s Spirit is earnestly sought and the power of His grace depended upon as the only means of accomplishing the desired results—the conversion of souls and the development of Christian character. In an institution of this kind all the teaching is in a sense religious teaching, and all the instructors are engaged in religious work, both in and out of the classroom.

Those who have been called in the providence of God to lead out in the special work committed to Seventh-day Adventists have felt the importance of denominational schools as an agency of great value, and have provided them just as fast as means could be secured for this purpose. Are the people who constitute the denomination in sympathy with the idea? Do they feel that it makes any special difference to them or to the work of God, whether their sons and daughters attend these schools? Are they ready to consecrate their children to God, and send them to these schools to be trained for His service? Will they sustain these colleges and academies by their sympathy, their prayers, and their means? They need all three. There should be a closer connection between the people and the schools. These institutions exist for the sake of the people and the work of God. They are not private enterprises established for personal gain. Those who teach in them do so, from a love of the work, for the sake of doing good, and at considerable personal sacrifice. They sometimes feel that their labor is but little appreciated, and their motives sadly misunderstood, when those who ought to stand by to encourage listen so readily to those complaints and criticisms which are set afloat by unworthy or thoughtless students. Shall not a spirit of sympathy take the place of harsh judgment? Where rests the hope for the future of the work among Seventh-day Adventists? Is it not in the young men and the young women? But where is the great army of young people now? Some are at their homes, growing up in comparative ignorance. Some are in high schools, the normal schools, and the colleges of their several States, receiving a training which is gradually, perhaps almost imperceptibly, but none the less certainly, leading them away from God and His work. Who is responsible? Let the parents answer. Shall there not be a determined effort on the part of all who can exert any influence in this matter, to bring about a radical change? The future will show.

William Warren (W. W.) Prescott

William Warren (W. W.) Prescott was an educator, church administrator, and served as editor of the Review from 1903 to 1909.