The book Education by Ellen White is a true gift to Adventist education and our Church. It is a book that I keep returning to time and time again, to find fresh thoughts and inspiration. Its pages continue to inspire Adventist educators who seek guidance and clarity regarding our mission. The principles provided transcend time and place and provide a true North for Adventist educators.
Recently, Dr Peter Kigour and Beverly Christian, from the School of Education at Avondale University College conducted a comparative study regarding the educational philosophy of Education and current pedagogical practices in areas such as neuroplasticity; differentiation; holistic education and wellbeing; metacognition; education for employability, visible learning and heutagogy. Their article Old school or cutting edge? An examination of Ellen G. White’s views on education from a best practice twenty-first century perspective is insightful regarding the value of Ellen White’s guidance and instruction. It was no surprise that the study identified that the educational approaches outlined by Ellen White are at the cutting edge of best practice today.
This reality was further reinforced in my mind recently when I received a call from an excited school principal. He shared with me that Nick Salmon, President of the Collaborative Learning Network and an internationally recognized consultant in the area of Project Based Learning had spent time at his school providing strategic support and guidance regarding the development of their facilities and learning program. As Nick left the school, the principal felt impressed to give a gift – the book Education. The consultant politely accepted the gift and headed to Sydney airport. On the long flight home, Nick read Education. He underlined page after page and typed quote after quote into his computer. Upon arrival in America he sent an email to the principal thanking him for the gift and outlining how inspired he was by Education and how aligned the educational concepts developed by Ellen White over a century ago were with current educational practice. To say that he was impressed would be an understatement.
I never become tired of mining gems from Education. From the first paragraph forward I am inspired by what constitutes ‘true education’. Ellen White reminds us that we need to see the big picture, that education is much more than academics. It encompasses more than the here and now.
“It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come”. (p. 13)
Adventist education is education for eternity! This is what makes it unique and the reason why more than two million young people attend Adventist schools and tertiary institutions around the world each day.
If this ultimate purpose of Adventist education is to be achieved, we as leaders and teachers need to contemplate the advice given regarding how we may be even more impactful than all twenty-first century advice and learning theory. In Education Ellen White pens:
“This is the secret of power over your pupils. Reflect Him.” (p. 282)
Just as the moon only reflects light from the sun, so we as Adventist educators will only achieve our purpose as we prayerfully connect with the Son and reflect His love and grace into the lives of young people under our care.