Adventists have always been about excellence: excellence in character, excellence in life, excellence in health, excellence in spirituality, and the list goes on to no end. But one of the things that we as a Church have striven to provide since the very beginning was excellence in education. Our matriarch, our prophet Ellen White vehemently opposed public schooling. Conditions were horrible, classrooms were cramped, and children were being taught the ways of the worldly wise men. She decried public education for cultural as well as theological reasons, and said that children were better off waiting until age eight or nine to attend public school so that the families could set their children on the right path before they went to school. Then as a response to public education, we came up with Adventist schools.
These schools strove to promote Adventist ideals, teach children about God, and prepare them for life. That is what Adventist schools strive to do today, and I believe that in modern day society we need a good quality Adventist education more than ever before. Modern day society teaches us that we will never be good enough to do anything. We idolize models and movie stars, swooning, "I could never be as good an actor as [for instance] Ben Affleck," and "I could never be as pretty as [for instance] Kate Beckinsale." But God teaches the contrary, that everybody is unique, has unique gifts and talents, and that everybody is equally capable. I admit myself to fawning over Thomas Tallis and Sir John Tavener, two composers with amazing, God-given abilities that have immortalized them (Tavener is still alive, too!). God, though, has given me a love for composition, and these great composers are merely sources of inspiration and enjoyment. Why is this? I believe it's due to the fact that I have gone through Adventist schooling almost my entire life.
Adventist schools, when they do their job properly, encourage the downtrodden, empower the powerless, and educate the uneducated. They are, or should be, warm and friendly atmospheres that make learning into something more than just memorizing facts. Adventist schools teach ethics, life lessons, and use care in teaching children what they need to learn. This environment is like the womb, a place for children to develop in safety.
Many parents choose not to send their children to Adventist schools because they can't justify the cost. All Adventist schools are private institutions because they are parochial schools. By definition, the Government cannot teach one particular religion in any given school (nor can they prohibit the exploration or exercise of Christianity, but that's a different issue for another time). The fact that they are private schools makes them run on tuition instead of being funded by tax dollars. In order to keep the budget in line with operating costs, tuition is quite high, with some schools running hundreds of dollars per month per student. In this economy it makes perfect sense to pull the children out of private school and send them to public school to save money, while giving them the spiritual education at home. This will easily satisfy any theological qualms that prevent us from sending our children to public school. But what about the other side of the coin? White's reasons for disapproving of public schooling were twofold, as I mentioned earlier: theological and cultural.
Public schools are far from a wholesome environment. Harsh language is rampant, sexual promiscuity is shrugged off, and God is notably absent from the culture. Children are taught not by their teachers, but by their peers to conform to society. Musical choices, acceptable body shapes and weights, lifestyle decisions: peers affect all of these. We've always been told that we should choose carefully the people we make our friends. In public schools, Adventists' conservative values could be seen as weakness or weirdness, making students unpopular. The quest for popularity may lead the students to make choices that go against their beliefs. Peer pressure is a powerful force that Satan uses to snare today's youth.
So what do we do to keep our kids on the straight and narrow? Even in Adventist schools we see teen pregnancy and sexual promiscuity, language, underage drinking, disbelief in God and a plethora of other stains. But attending an Adventist school gives students the opportunity to make the right decisions, with encouragement from teachers and peers. They are more likely to take the right path if they are in an environment that is conducive to it. Ellen White was absolutely right: it's better for children to stay home and be grounded in their faith and lifestyle before going to public school. But Adventist schools strive to eliminate the qualms we have about public schooling. The immense cost of educating a child in Adventist schools from elementary to post-secondary is a pittance compared to the potential for making the right choices versus making the wrong choices. Parents, think about it: if you're so worried about money that you're willing to rob your children of the wholesome environment of an Adventist school, are you really trusting God? He wants the best for us, and Adventist education is the closest I have come to finding the ideal. I am here at Walla Walla University because God moved mountains for me to be here. Why? He wants me to have this wholesome Adventist education. And if He moves mountains for me, then why not for your kids? It just makes sense: an Adventist education will be better, bottom line. You want the best for your kids, and so does God. If you can afford Adventist schooling, I highly suggest you take advantage. Even if you have to tighten your belts and count every penny, it will be worth it. Remember, this world is not our home. And when we prepare our children for the bigger picture, God will smile and He will take care of it.
Your Brother in Christ,