THE FOUNDATION OF RESPECT AND DISCIPLINE
Written by: Paul Wipf on Thursday, November 1st, 2012
(The following article is rather interesting and thought provoking, it is based on remarks presented by an Amish Minister, a former teacher, at the fourth annual Indiana Amish parochial teachers’ class held in Parke County, Indiana, on July 13, 2000.)
Though most teachers’ dream-come-true would be a classroom filled with respectful, well disciplined students, who are eagerly responsive to their teacher’s leading, there is a wide range in the degree of success among teachers in achieving this goal. Naturally we ask, “Why the great disparity? Why is it that some teachers are only a step or two ahead of chaos in the classroom while others achieve a commendable level of success? Is it the teacher’s attitude that lies at the heart of the problem? Is it the teacher’s skill or methods? Could it be the student material or the parents? Might the problem be comprised of a combination of these issues, or is it something yet more basic?
Today’s publishing media inundates us with self-help books promising to give us programs by which one can achieve almost every imaginable goal. Here, we’re going to be talking about a different approach. This is not about a quick and easy 7-step formula to success, nor is it a comprehensive fix-it-yourself encyclopedia. We’re not going to hear about the mechanics of teaching respect and discipline, but about the basis, the foundation, upon which one can build a system of teaching respect and discipline. That foundation is God.
The closer one adheres to God’s word and God’s principles, when administering a system of teaching honor, respect, and discipline, the greater ones probability of success. On the other hand, the further we remove our system of teaching from the foundation of God’s word, the more likely we will encounter serious difficulty in the area of respect and discipline.
Let’s take a look at why this is true. First, the Bible tells us that God is everywhere. Psalm 139 reads like this:
Where can I go from Your spirit?
Or where can I flee from Tour Presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold You are there,
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me,
As we can see from Psalm 139, there is no place in the universe where we can say, “God is not here,” for God is everywhere. There is not so much as a speck in the universe we can visit and think, “God doesn’t see me. God doesn’t know about this,” because god sees, and God Knows, everything, everywhere.
We are accountable to God’s word at all times and at all places. His word is in effect everywhere without exception. His word and His principles are always the right foundation to build upon, and an attempt to build upon a foundation other than God’s word is nothing less than an invitation to disaster. This is as true inside the classroom as it is anywhere else on earth.
There is no neutral position with respect to good and evil. In Matthew 12 we are taught that a spirit lives within all of us. That spirit living within us is either the spirit of God, or it is the spirit of Satan. There is no neutral ground. There is no “safety zone” exempt from God’s rule. Either we are working for God wherever we are, or we are working for Satan. Without exception, our allegiance is with one or the other, and this is as true within the classroom as anywhere else. The classroom is no exception.
Now, what does all this mean to you as a teacher? A lot! What difference will this make in your classroom? It could make a world of difference.
Remember, there is one foundation- and one foundation only – upon which you can truly build a relationship of honor and respect among your pupils, or between you and your students. That foundation is the rock of God’s Word and God’s principles. In Matthew7: 24-27, Jesus spoke of both the wisdom of building upon anything else:
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine,
And does them, I will liken him to a wise man who
Built his house on the rock:
And the rain descended, the floods came, and the
Winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not
Fall, for it was founded on the rock.
But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and
Does not do them, will be like a foolish man who
Built his house on the sand;
And the rain descended, the floods came, and the
Winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell.
And great was its fall.
How is all this meaningful to you as a teacher? We’re going to try answering that question with an historical approach. We’ll begin with looking at how people in the past considered the issue of God’s word as it relates to discipline and respect, and we’ll observe how this affected society. We’ll start with Christopher Dock in the early 1700’s, then move forward in history up to the present time, and show what has changed and why.
Of course the object in all of this is to learn from history, to avoid the mistakes that people in the past have made, and to build upon what they have done right. After all, that is the chief value of history.
One of the earliest schoolteachers of this country, that we have much record of, was Christopher Dock, a man of Mennonite origin and faith.
Though we don’t know exactly where and when Christopher Dock was born, it appears that he was born somewhere in central Europe, in the late 1600’s. From what is known that could have been in today’s northern Switzerland, southern Germany, or eastern France.
From Christopher Dock’s writings it appears that he taught school for about four years in Europe before he came to America. We know that he was in America by 1718 and that he was about 20 years old when he landed.
Like many early immigrants in this country, Christopher Dock landed in Philadelphia. He then traveled inland to Germantown and on to Skippack. He settled in Skippack, which is in today’s Montgomery County, just north of Philadelphia.
After he settled in Skippack, Christopher Dock taught school for 10 years. For some Unknown reason he then stopped teaching; he bought a 100-acres from William Penn and farmed for 10 years.
Christopher Dock later regretted those years of farming instead of teaching. He once said, “I neglected that profession for 10 years, for which I often felt the smiting hand of God, which before then had served me well.”
After 10 years of farming, he went back to teaching and taught for the rest of his life.
HOW DID CHRISTOPHER DOCK TEACH?
Christopher’s school was biblically oriented. He built his whole curriculum around the Bible. The Bible itself was his primary, his most important textbook. The Bible was used not only to teach his students how to read and understand what they read, it was also used to teach them how to live. The Bible was use d as a foundation for morality and ethics.
Christopher Dock once encapsulated his history of education in one sentence, “The purpose of education is to make us as Christ-like as possible.” I believe that Christopher was correct; I believe that the purpose and the goal of education should be to prepare students to walk in the footsteps our Master. Education should help us, and direct us, to leading a life that Christ would approve. After all’ glorifying God should be our chief aim in life.
Next to the Bible, the hymnbook was the most important book in Christopher Dock’s school. He used it as a reading book. His students memorized hymns from it and Christopher taught them to sing those hymns and Psalms.
Apparently Christopher had a gift for music and poetry. He not only taught his students to sing and memorize hymns, he wrote some of the songs himself. Two of the songs he wrote are still printed in the Unparteisch Gesangbuch. On page 292 we can find Mein Lebensfaden Lauf zu Ende, and on page 281 we can see Ach Kinder Wollt Ihr Lieben. Christopher Dock wrote both of these songs.
Christopher Dock believed that God placed the responsibility of educating and training children upon parents. He was a firm believer of the biblical mandate, “Parents are to raise their children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4),” and in Moses’ commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear, O Israel” The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, When you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorsteps of your house and on the gates.”
He also believed that if parents delegate part of that responsibility to a teacher – then that teacher is given the responsibilities to a teacher, but that does not nullify God’s requirements for teaching His ways. The parents are primarily responsible end teacher is to assist the parents in raising their children in the discipline admonition of the Lord. Her teaching should be a seamless extension of the Scriptural foundation already taught by the parents.
Christopher Dock taught than the 3 R’s: He taught biblical morals and principals. He wrote a booklet of guidelines for his students titled A Hundred Christian Rules for Children. To give you an insight on his philosophy I’ll cite a few examples from that pamphlet:
6. … pray to God daily to strengthen thy good
intent and to preserve thee sinless.
7. Beside such daily prayers, watch constantly over
thyself. Do not trust thy heart too much, for it
is very deceiving. Be careful which way thy
thoughts and desires tend, and keep eyes, ears,
and tongue in good control.
12. Let not a day pass without reading and
considering some part of Scripture, as you would
not go a day without food or drink.
16. Learn especially through Scripture to know Jesus
Christ, thy dear Savior, that you may believe in Him
And understand Him.
17. Impress deeply upon thy heart and divine
qualities taught in the Scriptures.
38. All that thou wouldst have others do to thee,
do also to them. And what thou wouldst not have
others do to thee, do not to them.
44. Avoid all bad company, as a very dangerous wile
of Satan, and pray God daily to preserve thy soul
These are examples of Christopher Dock’s mindset and practice of a teacher. To him, God was an integral component of education. He would have not dreamed of separating God and teaching. By virtue of Christopher Dock’s philosophy on education, combined with his talent, he became a very capable teacher and was widely recognized in his time for his outstanding success as an educator.
Christopher also had a habit of praying for each of his students, every evening, He would kneel with his roll book in front of him and pray for each student in turn. He died praying for his students.
One evening, in the fall of 1771, Christopher Dock didn’t return from school. A search was made and he was found in school, dead, on his knees, with his roll book in front of him.
WILLIAM HOLMES McGUFFEY
Moving forward in time to the 1800’s there was another man who made a significant contribution to education, not just locally like Christopher Dock, but nationally. That man’s name was William H. McGuffey.
William’s grandparents emigrated from Scotland. They too landed in Philadelphia, but then settled in York county, PA. They later moved to Washington County in western PA. William’s parents eventually moved on west to Ohio where William McGuffey was born.
William McGuffey grew up on the Ohio frontier. His mother came from an well-educated family, and from her William got his love for books and learning, He took to books like a duck takes to water.
William started teaching when he was only 14 years old. But he also continued his education and eventually became a college professor. Later, he was ordained as a minister.
McGuffey had two consuming passions: teaching children and preaching. But, of the two professions, he thought that teaching provided a greater moral value to society. In his era, teaching was very highly regarded as a profession.
William McGuffey eventually developed and idea for creating a complete series of books for use in teaching children how to read, from the beginner level, all the way to college entry level. In 1830 he began to compile stories he wrote. Some of the stories he collected from other sources. A large number of the stories were taken right out of the Bible.
His method for selecting stories for the 1st reader, 2nd reader, etc., is quite interesting. On many occasions he gathered together children from his neighborhood, separated them into age groups, and read his stories to them, As he read, he observed the children’s’ levels of interest and comprehension, and made notes of how the various age groups responded to his stories. By careful observation of the children’s interest, and questioning for story retention, he determined which stories were appropriate for the various readers.
What type of stories did William McGuffey select? They were stories that appealed to children while teaching moral principals found in the Bible. For example, they taught honesty, not only because people think it good to be honest, but because people think it good to be honest, but because God ordained it so. His stories taught morality of industry, thrift, self-denial, modesty, submission to authority, etc., again, not only because people think this is right, but because God ordained it so. The underlying premise of the Readers was that education is primarily a moral and only secondarily an intellectual matter.
This reading series became so popular that, in its prime, it out sold all other books, except possibly the dictionary and the Bible. His reading series educated more Americans than any other series ever printed. For the better part of a century the McGuffey Readers were widely used in schools across the country and it was one of the greatest successes in the history of publishing in America- more than 122,000,000 copies were eventually reprinted. Recently, the original 1830’s edition was reprinted and it is still being sold at the rate of about 120,000 copies per year.
THE PURPOSE OF SCHOOLS
The philosophy of education embraced by these two men is more than merely an isolated example that was picked out to try and prove a point. Their thinking may seem strange to many people in this country today, but in their time such thinking was prevalent. Christianity was central in almost all education. Even the Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth were all founded with the intent of teaching God’s principles in all of life. Over half of the 17th century Harvard graduates became ministers.
The deep philosophical convictions on education held by Dock and McGuffey were common in many denominations, which rose out of the Reformation. Martin Luther, father of the Reformation, once expressed his concerns about school: “I am much afraid that schools will prove to be great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in thee hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt.”
On the Anabaptist side of the Reformation, Menno Simons Believed, “The purpose of all education is to know God and his Word and live a Christian life.”
Peter Rideman, a Hutterrite, wrote in defense of their schools on 1545: They (the Hutterites) do not permit their children to attend other schools since there they teach them the wisdom, art, and practices of the world and are silent about divine things; the (the Hutterites) teach the will of God and the words of God’s testimony to their children.
Such educational sentiments carried the day in the formative years of this country. Shortly before the Pilgrims set foot upon the American continent, they drew up and signed the Mayflower Compact in which they stated that they would create schools so that their children will be taught to read the Word of God.
The Massachusetts School Of Law (1647) justified their existence stating: “It being one chief prospect of that old deluder Satan to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures,”
William and Mary College in Virginia (1727) wanted to accomplished three things:
1. Youth should be educated in good morals.
2. Churches should be supplied with good ministers.
3. Indians should be instructed in Christianity
In those days it was taken for granted that teaching- both morally and academically- was the duty of the church; schools were church schools. In the1600’s most of the teachers were ministers. Teaching was part of their ministerial duties; Church and school were two inseparable institutions.
In support of this, Rufus Choate (1844) said, “I would not take the Bible from the school so long as a particle of Plymouth Rock is left.”
John Vincent (1886) said, “Our people, young and old, should consider educational advantages as so many religious opportunities. Every day should be sacred. The schoolhouse should be God’s house.”
Commenting on the necessity of a Godly education, Daniel Webster (1823) said, “if truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy.”
THE PARADIGM SHIFTS
Such thoughts and statements were typical of 16th and 17th century Americans on the subject of education. But, by the mid 1800’s the ill winds of atheism were blowing with a devastating effect. Charles Darwin had just published his book, The Origin of Species in which he proposed his theory of evolution.
The theory of evolution predated Darwin by at least 2000 years, but it never became widely popular until Darwin presented it with a new twist. Until Darwin, most people categorically rejected the theory of evolution by virtue of what they called common sense. People noticed that there was a structure and an organization in nature, and therefore reasoned that where there is a structure there is a design, and where there is a design there must be a designer. That designer was God. On that basis they rejected the theory of evolution until Darwin added his new twist.
Darwin theorized that the organization and structure of nature came into being out of chaos, by mindless chance, by random mutation and survival of the fittest, ever millions of years. By the terms of this theory men could now explain their existence without God. This was attractive to unbelievers, because they no longer had to concern themselves with God’s righteousness. They could live as they pleased. They no longer had to worry about an eternity in hell. Man had finally became his own God.
This was a new experiment. For over a thousand years Europeans had assumed the existence of God. Until about 1850, virtually everyone within the orbit of European culture agreed that a superman power was somehow responsible for the universe and that this fact determined the purpose of life.
Their faith in God may have been orthodox or heretical, simple or complex, easy or troubled, but it was genuine faith in a deity. Unbelief was so rare that it was a bizarre aberration. Before the middle of the nineteenth century, atheism was consider absurd, but shortly afterward unbelief emerged as a “reasonable” option and millions of Americans and Europeans abandoned their belief in God. This simple assumption, “There is no God,” had tremendous intellectual importance.
Darwin’s theory pervaded the hearts and minds of men in Europe and America like nothing else had ever done, except the Bible. As men descended down the slippery slope of atheism their outlook on everything changed, education included. One of the first things that had to be changed was the connection between church and school. Their plan was to move in through the side door of education and destroy the Christian foundation of this nation.
If you read history books published for use in public schools, you will find that Horace Mann is presented as a hero, the father of the American public school system. But he is not a hero to me, because he worked hard to drive a wedge between church and school. Under the guise of neutrality, he worked hard to wrest the control of schools away from the church and place such control in the hands of the State. Granted, Mann wanted morality in his school, but he wanted that morality to be determined by man’s decree, popular thought, and not by orthodox Christianity.
Here’s what one of Mann’s proponents, Francis Ellingwood Abbott, said in 1873, “We demand that all religious services now sustained by the government shall be abolished; and especially that the use of the Bible in the Public schools, whether ostensibly as a textbook or avowedly as a book as a book of religious worship, shall be prohibited,” In other words, “Get the Bible out of the Classroom!” Let’s make no mistake, the whole point of state-controlled education is to turn children away from their parents, church, and God, and give to the government the power to shape the souls and write on the fresh slates of young hearts, and to make them wards of an all-powerful State.
Such thinking prevailed. Slowly, but surely, God was removed from the classroom. What happened?
McGuffey’s readers were revised in 1850 and 1879 to conform to the new “progressive” atheistic faith. The 1879 revision was so radical that it bore very little resemblance to the original 1830 edition, but William McGuffey had no control of the process, for he sold the publishing rights shortly after completing the series. The publisher’s purpose for making these revisions was to make them palatable for unbelievers. The books still contained good moral stories, but with very little reference to God. Only a few passages from the Bible were left. Honesty was good and right, however not because God ordained it so, but because people think so.
This is a dangerous way to approach morality and ethics. Why? While this approach to morality may conform to the evolutionary theory regarding morality, it is in direct conflict with God’s Word. The evolutionary theory gives man the right to determine for himself what is right or wrong, since everything is evolving on its own anyway, without the hand of God. With this Approach whatever people as a whole think is right, then that is right whether it agrees with the Bible or not.
Such thinking is foolishness. God’s standard does not change, and the Bible is God’s standard. The Bible is our benchmark by which we measure all things, and it is the only way by which we can ever know right from wrong.
But thinking that God has no place in the classroom prevailed. Over time practically all reference to God was removed from all textbooks, whether math, science, history, or whatever. Reference to God was replaced by atheistic and evolutionary thinking – in other words, there is no God, and there is no fixed standard for morality.
Today, in many cases, even reference to God is prohibited. It is so bad that in recent years teachers have been forbidden to hang a copy of the Ten Commandments on the wall of their classroom. Teachers have been forbidden to have a copy of the Bible on their bookshelf where the children could access and read it. Teachers have been forbidden to read the Bible quietly to themselves at recess time. But what were the moral Consequences as God and Reference to God was systemically removed from school and the curriculum?
The following illustration is certainly anecdotal and perhaps even apocryphal, but it is a fair representation of the moral spirit in its era. Fifty to seventy-five years ago, when teachers gathered and their conversations turned to classroom problems, as they invariably do, Whispering during class time, chewing gum in the classroom, turning around in their desk, walking too loudly in the hall, and homework assignments not completed. Today such teacher conversations are of a much more serious nature: Assault, guns and knives carried by students, gang fights, drug sale and use, student pregnancy, and student suicide.
The removal of God in classroom was the result of unbelief, and such unbelief has had, and is still having, serious moral consequences. The prevalence and magnitude of moral depravity in schools has become progressively greater since atheism replaced the God-centered curriculum of the early 1800’s. Remember, God is not mocked and there is no moral neutrality. Either we are guided by God’s morality or Satan’s morality, and our choice of morality produces a behavior that is not only distinctive from the other, the consequences will be at opposite ends of the moral spectrum.
As we track the removal of God from the classroom, we see that disrespect of authority and the crime rate went up. Can one assume that there is a direct correlation between the general increase in crime and disrespect, and removal of God and school? I believe so.
Though there may always have been some element of antagonism toward Christianity, most schools in the early days of this country were rigorously Christian. However, the thrust of their curriculum was not evangelical, bit instructional. (Explaining salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ was the work of the church, not the school.) Students were instructed in Biblical ethics. The Bible was used as a reading text, and the students were taught and trained in basic Biblical law. They were not trained to steal. They were trained to be honest, to practice the golden rule, etc. the students were trained to be productive law-abiding citizens.
Many early American schools were established for the sole purpose of teaching immigrants. Do you recall the poem by Emma Lazarus which was inscribed on a tablet in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty? Part of the poem reads:
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, temptest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Those huddled masses heard the call to freedom, and they came, homeless, penniless, illiterate, and many of them theologically bankrupt. Concerned that these riffraff would have a demoralizing effect on society, Christians established schools to educate them in academics and Christian morals, so that they could become productive, law-abiding citizens. Many of these students had no training in Biblical law before entering school, and little or none after leaving. But, after leaving school, it took a long time to forget this acquired training. As a result, in 1815 the average age of the first time-convicted criminals was 45 years old. Imagine, 45 years old!
By 1960, the average age of convicted criminals was down to 19 years old. By 1960, Biblical law was long gone as a basis for morality in public schools. Should we be surprised that he drop in the average age of the first time convicted criminals was directly, but inversely, parallel to the drop in teaching of Biblical law in public schools? No, we should except that as the reference to God goes down, disrespect and crime rate does up, for there is no moral neutrality and God is not mocked.
The purge of the sacred did not begin with an abrupt removal of the Bible; that would have instigated a firestorm of opposition. The process of removing God from the classroom was a subtle, but gradual and relentless, elimination, of reference to God on textbooks, over a period of several generations. By 1913 there was enough support to pass a Federal law which prohibited public school teachers to reference Scripture with one exception: A perfunctory reading of a Bible passage, without comment, along with a ritual recital of the Lord’s Prayer, as part of the opening ceremony. Prior to that, teachers were permitted to make reference to Scripture to support their rules for behavior and discipline.
To many of our plain people this new law was just another sign that the public school system was now totally corrupt, according to Repot of Committee of Plain People which further states, “… this is what causes us to abhor this present schooling and wonder why the Bible has been officially rejected as a text book and merely read at the opening exercises.”
Fifty years later, in 1963, another law was passed, going one step further; it was now illegal for a teacher a teacher to read the Bible aloud in the classroom. Part of the reasoning presented in support of this law was, “Hearing the words of the New Testament can be psychologically damaging to students.”
What does this have to do with our own schools? More than we would like to believe, perhaps. Is it possible that we have sold our birthright for a pot of heathen message without realizing it? Do you think it is possible that we may be following a path, which will eventually lead to respect, and disciplined problems now experienced in the public schools? Think about it. In 1913 the law forbidding comments on the Bible was seen corrupt, by our people. Today, what people in 1913 saw as corrupt, we see as normal. Today teachers in many of our schools read the Bible in the morning, make no comment on it, make no further reference throughout the day, and we consider that normal. Obviously we have been following the same path the public school system has taken. Granted they’re ahead of us. But the obvious question now is: How long can we remain on this path without reaping similar consequences in the area of respect and discipline? Remember, God will not be mocked, there is no neutrality, and there is no facet of life outside of God’s jurisdiction.
Opening our reading with Bible reading, but without comment, and without any further reference to it throughout the day, seems innocent enough on the surface. The reality, however, is that by doing so we are implicitly denying God. We’re alluding that God has nothing to do with discipline or subject matter. But, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Foe example, even mathematics is more than just another secular subject: it a reflection of God’s created order in the universe. If we say that 2+2=4 because it just is, we are being something less than honest; 2+2=4 because God created and ordained it so. Man learned that 2+2=4 from observing God’s created order and harmony in the universe. God is the foundation of all knowledge, not just “spiritual” knowledge.
Perhaps the fallacy of teaching history without God is more easily understand than teaching the subject of mathematics without God. If we take God or reference to God out of history books we will never truly understand history, for history is a record of how the hand of God moves, in time, through men on earth. And yet this is precisely what publishers of history books have done to books being used in public schools. Consequently, without understanding the role of God in history, students will never understand what motivated people in the early days of this country, or why the United States was established.
For example, do you know what Christopher Columbus’s greatest desire was for Native Americans? His wish was “The conversion of these people of holy faith of Christ. Let Christ Rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost,”
Do you know who he gave credit to for success of his voyage? Columbus wrote, “Therefore, let the King and Queen, and our Princes, and all their most happy kingdoms, and all other provinces of Christendom render thanks to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who was granted us so great a victory and prosperity.”
The story of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower is another one that cannot be understood without the religious element. The document known as The Mayflower Compact reveals a strong reliance on the providence of God. The Pilgrims’ ship the Mayflower, was blown north of their intended destination, and due to inclement weather and contrary winds, they were not able t o sail south to the Virginia Territory, their original destination. It was getting late in the year considering they would have to build shelters before winter. They decided to settle in the north, but here they had no charter from the king, and therefore they were not under the jurisdiction of the king. Knowing they were outside of the king’s jurisdiction, some of the more rowdy men intended to lead lawless lives on this on this new continent. Fortunately, wisdom prevailed. A covenant was created forming a political body from among the men to govern the settlement. Before disembarking, all men signed the covenant known as The Mayflower Compact, and consented to be governed by the political body created by the covenant. The document began as follows: “In the name of God, Amen. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith… a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these present, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic…”
From this document, it is apparent that God was central in these men’s lives. To ignore that fact is to misunderstand history, and this is true in innumerable events that are no longer deemed worthy of mention in today’s history books and classes. On a similar vein, just like one will never understand without the religious element, ones ability to teach respect and discipline is seriously compromised without referring to God and God’s word.
A hypothetical example of a boy named Johnny shows why it is impossible to be consistently successful in teaching respect and discipline without the foundation of God. As a small boy Johnny grew up with his parents, and for the most part he was fairly well behaved under his parents’ tutelage. During the years that he attended school, Johnny was a pretty good boy and he was generally obedient to his teacher. However, Johnny was never taught that God’s word was the foundational bedrock under his parents’ or teachers’ rules; for all he knew they were pulling their rules out of thin air, on a whim.
Unfortunately, Johnny did not remain a child forever; he grew up. When he became of age Johnny’s thought process worked something like this: “When I was a small boy at home with my parents, they told me to do what they wanted me to do and I did it. When I went to school, my teacher told me to do what she wanted me to do and I did it. Therefore, now that I am of age I am going to do what want to do and no one is going to stop me.” Johnny reasoned that his own ideas, pulled out of thin air, were just as valid as those of his parents or teacher.
Johnny did not realize that there was an authority higher than himself, his teacher, or his parents, and therefore he became his own authority. Man becoming his own authority, or became his own God if you will, is the root of all rebellion, lawlessness, and unbelief. Man becoming his own god was the original sin of Adam and Eve, and nonbelievers today are still following their path. On the other hand, faith in the transcendence of God, and faith in the law of God, is the foundation of all social order. If we parents or teachers desire our children to be well disciplined and respectful, long term and not just while under our supervision, it is imperative that we base our teaching on God’s law not just man’s law, or man’s ideas. For, without a spiritual foundation, our children may show a semblance of sound morality, but without spiritually roots they will easily be toppled by temptations and adversities.
As a way to illustrate the result of a Biblically based system of teaching respect and discipline, I’ll briefly relate what happened to the congregation of a church in Louisville, Nebraska. This happened in the fall of 1982. They were meeting in their church one Sunday when the sheriff knocked on the door and displayed a search warrant. Armed policemen surrounded the church and no one was allowed to leave the building. Everyone inside was photographed while the sheriff rifled through the church records. Needless to say there were a lot of sacred people. Their crime? They ran a parochial school. In 1982, the issue of the unlicensed parochial schools without certified teachers was not yet settled. The sheriff declared that unless the school was shut down the pastor would be arrested.
It was not that the school wasn’t doing its job. In fact the state had tested the students and found them to be ahead of children in public schools in the same grade. They were so far ahead that the judge did not allow the report to be filed in the court records.
The congregation persevered in maintaining the operation of their school in spite of intense legal pressure. The school was not closed until the pastor was arrested. On the way to jail pastor Siliveen said, “Sheriff, I’ve got a question for you. Have ever arrested any of our students for underage drinking?”
“Have you ever arrested any of our students for possessing drugs?”
“Have you ever arrested any of our students for theft, or vandalism, or disorderly conduct?”
“Sir, I have never arrested any of your students for anything.”
“Sheriff, I’ve got a suggestion. I think that we should bring all the children in this county to our school and you can go fishing.”
How many of you teachers can say that? How many of you can say that none of your students, or former students, have never been arrested for underage drinking, or possession of drugs? How many can say that none of your students have ever been arrested for anything? Perhaps you can say that, but many of you who have been teaching for a while can not. Why? If it can be done in Louisville, Nebraska, why not here?
Because we have removed our rules and regulations too far away from the foundation of God’s word, and many of our students do not naturally make an association between the two. For all they know we are pulling our rules and regulation out of thin air. They think we are making the rules arbitrarily, at our own discretion, and therefore, when out of our sight, they have no qualms or hesitation about doing it too.
What can a teacher do it correct this? Of course teachers are not the only authority figure in children’s lives; the parents are primarily responsible, but you as a teacher have an opportunity to make a difference. You have a chance to be a possible spiritual influence in the lives of your students, and you should take advantage of it.
How? By utilizing appropriate Scripture references as a basis for the rules in your classroom. Your students need to know that you, the school board, and the parents are not just making this up. They need to understand that there is a God, a sovereign Creator that rules over everything and that your rules are not arbitrary, but a reflection of His law for people on earth.
This doesn’t mean that you will spend a lot of time expounding passages of Scripture. You were not hired to preach the students, nor would it be proper. I like the following story as an illustration of how to place all this in its proper perspective”
A famous British schoolmaster was once asked:
“Where, in your curriculum, do you teach religion?” “We teach it all day long,” answered the school-master. “We teach it in arithmetic by accuracy…in language by learning to say what we mean…in history by humanity… in geography by breadth of mind …in handicraft by thoroughness… in astronomy by reverence… in the playground by fair play. We teach it by kindness to animals, by courtesy to servants, by good manners to one another, and by truthfulness in all things.”
“Do you talk to them about religion?” the interviewer asked. “Not much,” he said, “Just enough to bring the whole thing to a point now and then.”
Making reference to Scripture as a basis for your rules only needs to be done as an occasional reminder. But that, “Just enough to bring the whole thing to a point now and then,” may not be neglected. It is imperative that our students understand the connection between Scripture and their behavior, and your attempt to maintain order.
How is a teacher to proceed? Fortunately, God does not leave us without direction on this issue. There are literally dozens of Bible verses suitable for use in a classroom. I will mention a few and show how they might be used.
Do you have pupils who question the necessity or value of neatness, organization, and cooperative orderliness? Remind them with:
Let all things be done decently, and in order (1 Cor.14:40).
Are there pupils who are impolite to others, or become disgruntled when they don’t get their own way? Get them to understand that the basis for your rules about manners, cooperation, and fair play is:
“…all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, so also you should to them… (Mt. 7:12)”
The book of Proverbs is a virtual treasure-trove of wisdom that is ideal for a teacher’s purpose. Solomon, the author of Proverbs, loses no time in telling us at the beginning of the first chapter that the book was written for teaching God’s wisdom and morals to children:
For attaining wisdom and discipline;
For understanding words of insight.
For acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
Doing what is right and just fair;
For giving prudence to the simple,
Knowledge and discretion to the young…
Let the wise listen and add to their learning… (Pro. 1:2-5)
Following are a few verses from the book of Proverbs that are suitable for use by teachers at school:
Do your students understand the value of industry, thrift, and self-motivation?
Go to the ant you sluggard?
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer of ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest (Pro. 10:4).
Are your students aware that attaining wisdom and knowledge is commendable in the eyes of God?
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting,
Get understanding (Pro. 4:5-9)
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
Discretion will preserve you:
Understanding will keep you,
To deliver you from the way of evil (Pro. 2:10).
Wise people store up knowledge, But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction (Pro. 10:14)
There is one, who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn aside from the snares of death (Pro. 13:15).
Also see, Pro. 2:1-6, 9:10, 8:10-11, and more.
Do your students understand the importance of choosing their friends carefully?
The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray (Pro. 12:26).
For teaching self-control, consider: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty (Pro. 16:32).
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold (Pro. 26:12).
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him (Pro. 12:19).
Is love, thoughtfulness, or consideration lacking?
Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins (Pro. 10:12).
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
Than a fatted calf with hatred (Pro. 15:17).
These are only a few appropriate verses form Proverbs that you could use; there are many other equally suitable. Read and study the book of Proverbs until God’s wisdom becomes like an old, familiar friend; encouraging, pleasing and comfortable to be around. Most of your teachers are probably having your students do memory work; have your students memorize suitable portions of Proverbs. Memorize them in English and in German. Use appropriate verses as a foundation for your operating rules and regulations at school. While it is overly optimistic to expect that perfection will follow, this will have a profound effect at school and in the lives of the students, far beyond what you, the teacher, will ever see.
If, after carefully considering all of this, you’re beginning to think that teaching is a heavy responsibility, you’re right. If you’re starting to realize that a teacher can have a profound effect in the development of children’s character, you have the right idea. If you believe that you need God’s wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to achieve what God requires from a teacher, you are correct. It is, indeed, a daunting task, but it is not impossible.
To show you how this is possible, I’d like to tell you what Charles Laughton once experienced. Charles Laughton, an actor, was well known for the many things that he could recite. Of all his recitations none was more beautiful that his rendition of the Twenty-third Psalm.
Once when visiting in a little town in southern California he attended church with his host and hostess. The church was small and very informal. Someone asked Mr. Laughton if he would like to recite the Twenty-third Psalm, and he generously agreed. He stood up and in his deep, resonate, articulate voice he kept everyone spellbound during the recitation. In fact, it was so good that the entire audience burst into applause when he was finished.
This was also a favorite Psalm of Peter, an elderly member of the congregation with a serious impediment of speech. Another member, in gentle fun, said, “Peter , wouldn’t you like to recite the twenty-third Psalm too?”
Everyone was embarrassed. Church was no place fun of a devout old gentleman with such a serious speech defect that he could hardly make himself understand. Even the best of them wouldn’t have considered following Mr., Laughton in repeating the Twenty-third Psalm.
But to the staggering surprise of everyone, Peter agreed that he too would like to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. Before anyone could stop him he was walking up the aisle to the front of the chapel. People blushed, but no one wanted to offend the old man by trying to stop him.
But something happened which mystified everyone. As Peter took his stance, folded his hands, and began, haltingly, to stammer his words with reverence, the congregation froze at what they saw and heard. For a full minute no one uttered a word. The only action on the part of anyone was the use of handkerchiefs. There wasn’t a single dry eye in the church.
Later, at lunch that day, someone asked Mr. Laughton, “Mr. Laughton, I still don’t understand what happened in church this morning. When you finished your masterful recitation of the Twenty0third Psalm everyone applauded. Yet when Peter stammered and stuttered his way through it there were tears in everyone’s eyes.”
Mr. Laughton paused and said, “I haven’t thought of much else since it happened. I, too, have wondered why. I believe that it is because, while I know the Twenty-third Psalm, Peter knows the Good Shepherd.”
For all you teachers, knowing the Good Shepherd is the key. Knowing the Good Shepherd is of paramount for long term success in any venture, and it is especially important in teaching.
You may feel that there is much lacking in your own experience, knowledge, or talents, but like Peter, with faith in God along with sincerity, dedication, character, and hard work, you can be assured that you will be reasonably successful, in spite of yourself. Jesus encouraged His disciples with this principle in Mt. 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” With that Jesus assured His disciples that God would provide for their basic natural needs of food, clothing, and shelter, and their primary concern should be faith in God, and obedience to God. I have no doubt that this principle holds true with teachers’ work in the classroom. As Peter’s story illustrates, faith in god, and sensitivity to god’s word, will have a profound effect, far beyond your knowing.
I will leave you with one last note of encouragement: teacher’s work affects eternity; you can never tell where your influence will end.