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The Advertiser, April 10, 2003
An interesting covenant, between child and man (or woman), appears in The Advertiser's report on a school in the less economically affluent North of Adelaide. Students are encouraged to enter into agreement, duly signed, to show that they will NOT leave school for the dubious joys of unemployment relief, but will either continue schooling (somewhere) or take a job.
This is an interesting educational initiative; and there can be some comfort for the students in their resolve and determination, and perhaps for the school as well in its imagination in this matter.
Will they however be satisfied with this continuation ? Will the school give them an orientation to cover the needs of life, as distinct from having a job ? will it be more than expediency ?
In a period book of a different era, a very different approach to education than any we see in our country, is shown in A Bride for St. Thomas from Cynthia Nolan, published in 1973 by Reader's Digest. This covers a period in the 1930s leading to the outbreak of the second world war, in 1939. The title which is suitably imaginative, relates to the Florence Nightingale Training School at the ancient London Hospital of St Thomas. It intimates that it is as if this were their husband, such is the rigour, the discipline, the expectation, the demand on them in their training; and such is the religious sort of awe and aura which some of the traditionalist nursing Staff imparted to the scene. Or perhaps it is rather this, that forever brides, they are always to brim with expectancy and zeal.
Extreme is the contrast with the current age of School Contracts, sometimes far from disciplinary or useful, some of them being little more than negotiated peace settlements for unruly students, leading from and to indulgence, the myth of autonomy and the mouthing of precepts of mutual advantage and the like. In the Hospital of St Thomas, there was the sense of the history, times and approach for Florence Nightingale is famed, the sense of self-sacrifice, service at any cost, humbling oneself to the most menial of tasks in the most rigorous of manners. To this, there was added the sense of servility in inordinate appearing blames and requirements, of which half a day per week "off" was one. Expectations were often in the realm of appearance: for example, the nurse might be required by rule to stand erect and at attention during a surgical operation; and if not actually required, then her duty it statedly was to keep this stature and posture apparent perhaps for hours, with predicable effects on the feet, and maybe other anatomical areas!
One surgeon, taking pity on the nurse, in the account which while not biography, we are assured, is CLOSELY moulded to what is, asked her to sit down as he laboured on the patient before him. It is against the rules, was the nurse's required response. Such is the evoked atmosphere from the book.
Gloves could not be worn, even though in one case an infected finger might result from the enormous requirements on First Year Nurses, in the domain of washing up, washing down, rising, scouring, preparing and polishing. Methods were not merely rigorous and often vigorous, but traditional, and could be as much an offence to the creativity of the individual, as to any sense of simplicity. An aura pervaded; and a tradition prevailed; and though much of it could have owed its existence to earlier social forms and modes, yet it persisted. It carried the sense of Nightingale, and her era, perhaps in no small measure was exported alive to the London of the 1930s, as part of the 'deal'.
Consider now these two school situation, one secondary, the other vocational. It is not too difficult to realise the sort of forces working in both extremes, the ultra-indulgent and mini-disciplinary modern school and that ultra-disciplinary and minimally indulgent Nursing School; and there are of course, even in our modern era, some military or military style academies for younger students which, with other philosophic kin, require discipline in contravention of modern trends. Some may be reactionary, desiring something of the past with a sense of period tradition; some may be furious, some spurious. However the ultra-liberal theme song has set in with its pappy indulgence, and it soon sees some seething with desire to replace its palpable fecklessness, and amoral visionless dreariness.
It is not paradoxical, however, but illustrative of the underlying reality, that dreariness can come in both the ultra-traditional and the ultra-liberal school: the one through confusing the detail with the principle, and the principle taken apart from its biblical milieu, which includes mercy and love as well as industry and application. Meanwhile, the other may be found seeking to mould and model man (or youth) with psychological crutches, providing now for his 'ego', her pride, his touchiness, her past, his self-conceit (called self-esteem, very different from self-respect, which includes a respect for what one is given rather than what one is).
When the one extreme is followed, imagination can be stifled, originality drubbed, minds made wooden either with resentment, fatigue, the colossal waste or the needless pain; when the other is in the ruling position, order can be sacrificed, peace, quiet, a due sense of application and meaning, discovery and growth, in the very pre-occupation with the little striving selves and their psychological manipulation to some kind of pleasurable pleasantness (if found possible), or subdued horror (if this is all that is left, and the case is not merely putative!). You do not need to hypothesise what you have seen and heard.
Some research was reported in a wholly expected direction, that the most effective teaching, in terms of measurable academic progress, seemed to come where the school was heavy on industry and application, but light in modes of exacting it: in other words, where there was a pleasant sense of informality, one in the spectrum of rigors and easiness somewhere in the middle, and with this, a determined sense of academic effort.
However, the aim of education when one is speaking of man as he is, and not in some reductionist fallacy or fantasy*1, is not merely academic, though this must be a good part of it. It is also for the character of the student, the scenes which one hopes will inspire or enthrall, or at last uplift him or her, on the future path, for the instillation or inspiration of morals and the opportunities for their display, not for pride or appearance, but for the beauty of life; and ultimately, for the glory of the Maker of it, God Himself. It is apparent that mere duress (and religion can itself be supplied in this way as the Inquisition in its appalling horror shows at the crest of that sort of wave) is irrelevant in religion and can be peremptory in all; just as mere relativism is both logically ludicrous and a pap of pretence. IF all were relative, this could not be known, for its own principle is in the area of the absolute already, so that it falls, a writhing serpent in its own self-contradiction.
One method, in education, instead is this. It is to give an objective account of the claims of many moral systems, while REQUIRING for practice the needs of justice, concern, regard for truth, patience, probity, honesty and logic. To achieve this, one must realise that one is not dealing with angels; but on the other side, neither does one treat with servants or slaves.
Thus, better yet and by far, a Christian School can REQUIRE the models for the methods of inter-relationship (industry, patience, application, concern for others), SEEK for the eliciting of passion for truth, ardent and active seeking of it in every sphere, for this follows since Christ is the truth, PROVIDE a peaceable environment using such discipline as is both moderate, restrained and just. It can do this in the presence of understanding and mercy but NOT of mere indulgence or psychological play, and DEMONSTRATE the love of Christ in its watchful manner of treating students and their affairs, INFORM of the wonders of Christ and the criteria of the Bible, dispersing ignorance, STIMULATE imagination in students by valuing their contributions where originality or notable honesty of thought appears, and without prejudice, and yet avoid the too customary horror which false religions so often evoke. And that system, structure and style ? It is one of force, oppression, mistreatment, discrimination.
By contrast and in righteous terms, in the Christian school, there can and should be that elevation of spirit which would NOT merely avoid seeking to force in any way, psychological or social, the beauty of the truth which is operative IN the school, ONTO the student*2. It would realise its irrelevance. What need of force when the reality is self-declarative and known. Even Satan was not forced, indeed FAR from it, though he could not occupy the control of the universe, his minions in politics showing the way of evil when it is enthroned; though of course, when his appalling course is finished, and all his devices and programs have been disastrously worked out and shown in that magnificent laboratory called history, he will receive the very destiny which is in the nature of the case, fitting. Deprived of light by choice, he will endure without it in a devastation which mere power could never achieve. Truth is more blighting than any force, just as it is more delicious in stirring exultation in the exaltation of the Lord whose it is.
Thus is provided in history, the EXPERIMENTAL attitude, meaning in this case that this particular approach, though some might see it as merely heuristic, is in fact displaying what works. It is willing to show by its FRUITS what it IS! The student can look and see; but is not required to pretend to acceptance, nor retarded in such a thing if so moved but readily given all facilities for all good. The integrity of personality is honoured, not as if students were not sinners, but in this, that whatever the disposition of their moral forces (and no man lacks his own sense of what is good, call it what he will), it is within the requirements of the operation of the system for all, very much the personal business of the one concerned.
A question however arises. One well remembers the Principal of a Sydney Anglican School advising one that this school was NOT a mission field (for which reason one did not go as a teacher to it).
Why not ? Is a mission field a place of force then ? or of demonstration and appeal, provision and grace, where the people are given rich opportunity to find the truth, seek the Lord, know His mercy and become friends of God, but in no way coerced, subdued or manipulated! A mission field is a place where Christ is presented, and when ever in the history of this world did HE force Himself on anyone. Even the rich young ruler who came (of his own will) RUNNING to Christ to find how to obtain eternal life (Mark 10:17ff.), who went away sorrowing when Christ diagnosed his riches, in his case, as his stumbling block: even he was not reportedly pursued. If his spirit was astray and away, after facing the Truth, violence did not form part of the agenda. Passion is for truth, not its imposition in violation of the nature of man's construction in the image of God: it is for the liberation of and the donation of a prize for souls, but not for their imprisonment even in the citadel of Truth, when their heart is elsewhere.
The kingdom of heaven, as Christ declared it, is WITHIN YOU, in your midst, not over you, to enforce an alien thing on unwilling hearts (cf. Colossians 1:27, Luke 17:20). It is not a merely visible thing, equipped with the methodologies of human power. It starts with the heart, being convicted, repentant, converted back to God; and it continues with LOVING God with all your heart. If someone desires to save his/her life, then as Christ so forcibly put it, the life is lost; but when it is yielded to its source, then of course it is found and kept forever; for while love knows no bounds in its provisions, it does not in order to be fulfilled, deny itself and become something else.
Despite the horrors of forced marriages and male domination, especially in much of the Muslim tradition, love is never forced. That is against its nature as much as roses differ from dumps.
Power without domination; gentleness without indulgence; love without injustice; mercy without disorder; ease without laxity; comfort without manipulation; inspiration without dissipation; open-faced delight in the truth and its pursuit with passion, not direction into theory as occurs in the South Australian Education Department Schools, bound these 14 years by the highly immoral and educationally listless folly of organic evolution and religious relativism, jointly spelled out in one of the most infamous documents in Australian educational history. What cannot, as there, be freely investigated, and met with logical collision if need be, is not worthy of the name of education.
There is what is of the earth, earthy in its due and clear testimony to man in fallen condition, using force to forestall true discussion, open exposure of what best the criteria, and student access to the same. It is of the genre unhallowed, contrived, with so many others of its ilk. How different is the Christian School in its fearless exposure of what is wrong, its ready expression of what meets scientific method, its endeavour to stimulate minds to ascent. The celestial need not wait for heaven; its tang and testimony should commence now! and it awaits the opportunity, with God fearful in praises, glorious in holiness able to do wonders not in the heart alone, but in the mind of man. No wonder it is with BOTH of these He is to be loved.
That is why Christianity, with its ultimate stress on what GOD would like*3, without duress*3A, but if you reject Him, what YOU MAY CHOOSE (John 3:19, 36, Proverbs 1), is in education as elsewhere, a very pinnacle. It provides but does not force; it faces all things, but is imperious against none; it welcomes truth and is never afraid of it, rather counting it an ally as the last millenia have empirically attested with verifications innumerable, always showing the way, whatever man may do with it, continuing to show it, even when as now, the predicted consequences follow: always compassionate, never yielding. The sovereignty of God in no way changes the nature of His love; it does however leave out of the light what abhors it; and in Him, all is known as man cannot know without Him, from the first, to the last: yes, even the soul of man in its moorings, and beyond itself*4.
Nothing is lost (cf. John 13:1, Ephesians 1:4), but much is gained: truth is resplendent but love is never sacrificed; mercy is profound, but is never abased; judgment is according to truth in the end, just as life is its record on the way.
In this way, one may learn as an image-bearer of God, not in the iron communist mask, with the Nazi-bound swastika, or the Darwinian Dunce's Cap (he is now monumentally downcast despite much lip-service, as 'the sudden' now is replacing 'the gradual' with its time-serving inanities of dysfunction*5): but in the laboratory of life, open to truth, knowing it, showing it, the empirical and the doctrinal forever in accord.
*1 See for example,
Little Things Ch. 5, esp. at
*2 Thus in the volume "No Thanks for Angst..." Ch. 2, there is a coverage of the situation as reported for Pakistan, with thousands of schools said to operate with funds from abroad not least, such as those of rich Gulf States, so that students for whom food is a boon, may be freely fed with doctrine and diet as well. Stated to be virtual training grounds for assailants on the behalf of Islam, and hence quite possibly against Israel, these students have little other than the Koran, the normal school curriculum pre-empted in favour of this inculcated violence vision from the long muted mouth of Muhammad. See More Marvels Ch. 4.
*3 See The Kingdom of Heaven ... Ch. 4, Colossians 1:19ff., II Timothy 2:1ff., Ezekiel 33:11, Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., Psalm 106:7, II Chronicles 36:15-16, Psalm 95:6-11, Jeremiah 51:9, Hosea 7:1, Acts 7:51-53 and Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Ch. 4.
*3A The Inquisition is one of the most manifest of the outcomes of the long exposed errors of Romanism; and as it is, so it has done. What seeks dominion in this world is so far from Christ (John 18:36), that its ways obviously will accord with its divergent aims. See SMR pp. 1032-1088H, Biblical Blessings Ch. 2. Other bodies have also followed this distorting principle, but do not inhere in the truth any more than what calls itself mathematics, but insists that 2+2 = a lemon, inheres in mathematics. If it is increasingly unusual to point this out, it is nevertheless both scriptural and required from scripture to do so (cf. Matthew 23, Mark 7, Ephesians 5:11, Titus 3:10, 2:6ff., II Timothy 4:2ff., I Timothy 4:1-6, I Thessalonians 5:14). See also Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Ch. 14.
*4 Cf. SMR Ch. 8 at the outset, together with the diagrams. Also consult Marvels of Predestination... Ch. 2, Romans 9. God's foreknowledge is essential, and ultimate, not resting on this or that, but as becomes Him, illimitable, immeasurable, uncontained; and with love, which God is (I John 4), it is never unmixed, either to abort love or to abort reality in the lives of those before Him, whom He has made.
*5 See for example Spiritual Refreshings Ch. 13 and Wake Up World! ... Ch. 5, Ch. 6.