The Blueprint for Christian Education - Why 'Harper Bell'?

“The first appeal for Seventh-day Adventist schools of which there is record is found in a Review editorial, written by James White: ‘What can be done for our children? There is no use in concealing the fact that but a small portion of the children of Sabbathkeepers are forming characters for eternal life in the kingdom of God.’ ”—Lessons in Denominational History, p. 176; quoting Review, August 20, 1857.

 

Let me take you back to the 1800s, when a young man, by the name of Goodloe Harper Bell, was was chopping logs outside the Review and Herald building, in order to regain his health. Edson White, a late teenager at that time, decided to approach him and ask if he could educate both Edson and a few other youths. In a room of a rickety old building, Harper Bell’s ‘classes’ grew, and after Mrs. Ellen G. White urged the conference for the need of a denominational school, they adopted his school; and there lay the beginnings of our educational system.


A few years later, the school moved into a building in Battle Creek, notwithstanding the request by Mrs. White that the school be located on a forty acre property in the country. She wept when she heard that they chose the Battle Creek property, which had only twelve acres. In order to pay for the school, they had to sell a few of their acres, reducing it to only seven.


Eventually, the conference decided to employ Mr. Brownsburger to be the President of Battle Creek, for he had a degree. Harper Bell didn’t have a degree, and that was an issue for the church, for it just wouldn’t look good.


Despite the prejudices of the conference against this advocate of true education, he was an excellent teacher, whom the students loved, and his method of education was in direct line with Ellen White’s blueprint of education.


Ellen White worked with him in making sure that this blueprint would be the SDA’s educational system, and when it was followed, students excelled greatly, and many were converted among them. Unfortunately as time went on, our schools did not stick to the revealed will of God for the education of our young people, and we have suffered loss as a result.

Ellen White urged for blueprint schools which looked like this:


*Some scholastic studies

The education of the day was classical, the main emphasis being placed on a knowledge of the classics, mathematics, ancient languages, philosophy, and certain sciences. Her message called for an education that would include practical training and character training. Just how to accomplish this baffled many of the early educators of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”—Lessons in Denominational History, p. 181.

 

It is not well to crowd the mind with studies that require intense application, but that are not brought into use in practical life. Such education will be a loss to the student, for these studies lessen his desire and inclination for the studies that would fit him for usefulness and enable him to fulfill his responsibilities. A practical training is worth far more than any amount of mere theorizing. It is not enough even to have knowledge; we must have ability to use the knowledge aright. {CT 387.4}

 

“The popular method of filling the student’s mind with that which is not practical and hurrying him through a certain course, in order that he may obtain a diploma, is not true education. True education begins on the inside, at the core, with that which is practical. It builds up and strengthens a symmetry of character that by and by, in this life, will show itself in some grand, good, and noble work for the world. The school at South Lancaster seeks to attain to this ideal.”—G.H. Bell, Review December 26, 1882.

 

 

*Manual labour in the place of competitive sports

It is not well to crowd the mind with studies that require intense application, but that are not brought into use in practical life. Such education will be a loss to the student, for these studies lessen his desire and inclination for the studies that would fit him for usefulness and enable him to fulfill his responsibilities. A practical training is worth far more than any amount of mere theorizing. It is not enough even to have knowledge; we must have ability to use the knowledge aright. {CT 387.4}

 

Vigorous exercise the pupils must have. Few evils are more to be dreaded than indolence and aimlessness. Yet the tendency of most athletic sports is a subject of anxious thought to those who have at heart the well-being of the youth. Teachers are troubled as they consider the influence of these sports both on the student’s progress in school and on his success in afterlife. The games that occupy so much of his time are diverting the mind from study. They are not helping to prepare the youth for practical, earnest work in life. Their influence does not tend toward refinement, generosity, or real manliness. {AH 500.2}

 

Gymnasium exercises may in some instances be an advantage. They were brought in to supply the want of useful physical training, and have become popular with educational institutions; but they are not without drawbacks. Unless carefully regulated, they are productive of more harm than good. Some have suffered life-long physical injury through these gymnasium sports. The manual training connected with our schools, if rightly conducted, will largely take the place of the gymnasium. {CE 211.2}

 

Teachers should give far more attention to the physical, mental, and moral influences in our schools. Although the study of the sciences may carry the students to high literary attainments, it does not give a full, perfect education. When special attention is given to the thorough development of every physical and moral power which God has given, then students will not leave our colleges, calling themselves educated while they are ignorant of that knowledge which they must have for practical life, and for the fullest development of character.... {CE 212.1}

 

“The influence of manual labor upon the students’ department has been very wholesome and in no way has it impeded mental progress, but rather accelerated it.”—Brownsburger, Signs, May 17, 1883.

 

 

*Bible History

“The Course of Study will embrace English Language; Mathematics; Geography; Human Physiology and Hygiene; and Bible History; together with practical instruction in Tract and Missionary Work, and in the most useful of the Agricultural, Domestic and Mechanic Arts . . But of all studies, the Bible ranks highest . . A practical knowledge of the laws of health is all-important . . Pupils will be expected to take but few studies at a time, thereby mastering them the more rapidly.”—Review, March 7, 1882.

 

*Trade training

‘Goodloe Bell was solid for Spirit of Prophecy principles and a strong advocate of vocational training, which he also highly recommended. Not once did he ever deviate from them. Not only were the students to learn book knowledge, but also how to work at various skills and trades.’ {The Broken Blueprint}

 

*Situated in a country setting

Again and again I have described such places, but it seems that there has been no ear to hear. Recently, in a most clear and convincing manner, the advantage of establishing our institutions, especially our sanitariums and schools, outside the cities, was presented to me. {7t 81.2}

 

*Situated on land to cultivate

It would be a great aid in educational work could every school be so situated as to afford the pupils land for cultivation and access to the fields and woods. {CH 190.4}

When  Mr.Mclairn became the president in place of Brownsburger, he didn’t embrace the blueprint and that caused a split in the school. Uriah Smith, who was then the Bible teacher, took sides with Mclearn, while the rest stood on the side of Harper Bell. The following words were directed to Uriah Smith, by Mrs. White:


“I am pained to find you, my much-esteemed brother, involved in this matter, on the wrong side, with those whom I know God is not leading.”—EGW to Uriah Smith, March 28, 1882; 5 Testimonies, p. 45.

 

 

 “If our people had wholeheartedly set themselves at the time to carry out God’s simple plan of education, we might now be in a very different position than we are today. But our leaders, to a very great extent, urged the selling of land attached to the schools and doing away with a large amount of our physical work. This has been true at Walla Walla, Union College, and Washington Missionary College at Takoma Park. It has also been true in other places in a smaller degree. You have felt pained and saddened at all of this, and my personal belief is that you have honestly done your best to stem the tide. But as I see it, you have not been able to put your ideas across with our educators generally anymore than E.A. Sutherland and I in earlier days.”—Percy T. Magan, letter to Warren Howell, January 13, 1926.


At Harper Bell Educational Books/Harper Bell Academy, we seek to imitate the application of the blueprint that we see demonstrated in the work of Goodloe Harper Bell.


For a detailed description and history of the blueprint of Christian education, go to this link: http://www.helpinghandsministry.info/pdf/Broken_Blueprint.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 




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