The True Object of Education
by Ellen White
IN the education and training of youth, the great object should be the development of
character. Every individual should be fitted rightly to discharge the duties of the
present life, and to enter at last upon the future, immortal life. Moral, intellectual,
and physical culture must be combined in order to have well-developed, well-balanced men
Education in book knowledge alone prepares the way for superficial, shallow thoughts.
The neglect of some parts of the living machinery, while other parts are put to the tax,
and wearied and overworked, makes many youth too weak to resist the temptation to evil
practices. They have little power of self-control. The physical machinery being untaxed,
the blood is called too liberally to the brain, and the nervous system is overworked. The
brain is overworked, and Satan brings in his temptations to engage in forbidden pleasures,
to "have a change," to "let off steam." Yielding to these temptations,
they do wrong, injuring themselves, and doing mischief to others. This may be done only in
sport, but someone must undo the mischief which they do under temptation. While studying
authors and lesson books part of the time, students should study the human machinery with
the same application, and at the same time use the physical organs in manual labour. Thus
they answer the purpose of their Creator, and become useful, efficient men and women.
The student should place himself in school, if he can, and through his own exertions
pay his way as he goes. He should study one year, and then work out for himself the
problem of what constitutes true education. He should set himself to work. The learning
heaped up by years of continued study is deleterious to spiritual interests. Let teachers
be prepared to give good counsel to the student who enters school. Let them not advise him
to give years exclusively to the study of books. Let the youth learn, and then impart to
others the benefits he has received. If the student will humbly seek Him, the Lord of
heaven will open his understanding. The student should take time to review what he has
gained in book knowledge; he should critically examine the advancement he has made in the
schoolroom, and he should combine physical exercise with study. Thus he will acquire an
education that will enable him to come out with solid principles, an all-round man.
Had teachers been learning the lessons the Lord would have them learn, there would not
be a class of students whose bills must be settled by someone else, or they must leave
college with a heavy debt hanging over them. Educators are not doing their work faithfully
when they know a young man to be devoting years of his time to the study of books, not
seeking to earn means to pay his own way, and yet do nothing in the matter. Every case
should be investigated; every youth should be kindly inquired after, and his financial
Many would be glad of the privilege of spending a short time in school, where they
could be brought up on some points of study. There are those who would consider it an
inestimable privilege to have the Bible opened to them in its pure, unadulterated
simplicity; to be taught how to come close to hearts, and how, in simple, straightforward
lines, to teach the truth so that it shall be clearly discerned.
One study to be put before the student as most valuable should be the exercise of his
God-given reason in harmony with his physical powers. The right use of one's self is the
most valuable lesson that can be learned. We are not to do brain work, and stop there, or
make physical exertion, and stop there; we are to make the best use of the various parts
that compose the human machinery--brain, bone, muscle, head, and heart. No man is fit for
the ministry who does not understand this.
The student who has neglected the training of the muscles proportionately with his
mental powers should seek to obtain an all-round education. If he feels it beneath his
dignity to take hold of the unlearned parts, and catch up the science of true education,
he is unfitted to take hold of the work of educating youth. He need not think himself
qualified to act as a teacher; for his very teaching will be superficial and one-sided. He
does not understand that he lacks the very education that would make him a blessing, and
would secure to him in the future, immortal life the benediction, "Well done, thou
good and faithful servant." Matthew 25:21.
Every student in our schools should begin his character-building upon the Word of God.
He is to study for time and for eternity. Paul's charge to Timothy was, "Study to
shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing
the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15. We cannot, in this day of peril, accept teachers
merely because they have been in school two, three, four, or five years. The question is,
With all their acquisition of knowledge, have they obtained a knowledge of what is truth?
Have they searched for truth as for hidden treasure? or have they seized the surface
rubbish in the place of pure truth, thoroughly winnowed? We cannot consent, at this period
of time, to expose our youth to the chance of learning a mixture of truth and error. The
youth who come from school without feeling the importance of making the Word of God the
first study, the main study, are not qualified to become teachers.
That course of study which is not dictated by the Holy Spirit, which does not embrace
the high, holy principles of God's Word, will open before the student a course unmarked by
the approval of Heaven. It will leave gaps, and mistakes, and misunderstandings all along
the road he travels. Those who will not give themselves to a deep, earnest, prayerful
study of the Scriptures will hold ideas contrary to the principles that should control the
Will parents who believe the truth, and who realise the importance of knowing the truth
that is to make us wise unto salvation, trust their children to schools where error is
believed and taught? Who will expose these precious souls to a conflict of changes, and
place them where their highest interests are not made the first consideration?
If the Lord's will is done, students will not be encouraged to remain in schools
continuously for years. This is the devising of man, not the plan of God. The student is
not to feel that he must take a classical course before he can enter the ministry. A large
number who have done this have disqualified themselves for the labour which it was
essential for them to do. The long study of those books which should not be made study
books, unfits the youth for the work to be done in this important period of the world's
history. These years of study cultivate habits and methods that cripple their usefulness.
They have to unlearn many things which disqualify them for efficiency in any line of the
work to be done for this time.
Students are to bear in mind that their life is a talent, to be highly appreciated and
dedicated to the Lord. Those who attend school are to study the Book of books, and through
prayer, and close, deep research, obtain a Bible education. They are to learn lessons in
the school of Christ; they are to work in Christ's lines.
The right use of one's self includes the whole circle of obligations to one's self, to
the world, and to God. Then use the physical powers proportionately with the mental
powers. Every action derives its quality from the motive which prompts it, and if the
motives are not high, and pure, and unselfish, the mind and character will never become
well balanced. Those who come from their school life without having educated the muscles
proportionately with the brain, will seldom recover from the harm they received in their
one-sided education. On the part of such, there is seldom a deep, earnest purpose that
leads to deep, earnest work. They are not fit to train other minds, because their own has
never been trained. They are fitful in their movements. They cannot reason from cause to
effect. They will speak when it would be eloquence to keep silence, and will be silent on
those themes on which they should speak--themes that should occupy the heart and mind and
regulate the life.
The talents entrusted of God are a sacred treasure, and should be put to practical use.
Useful work is a valuable education. If either this practical education or the study of
books must be neglected, let it be the study of books, and let the student take up the
real, practical duties of life. The youth who have been educated to consider the best
plans for doing good at home will extend their work to the neighbourhood, the church, and
every line of missionary work.
God calls upon us all to render obedience to the principles He has revealed to us in
the work appointed to Adam in Eden. There will be employment in Eden restored. Our dear
young students who have not been trained at home by their parents, need to have an
education that will counteract their home education. Until they learn the first principles
of proper education, they cannot be trusted as teachers of the youth. They are to engage
in a career that requires settled purposes, high principles, and holy aims. If they do not
learn anew, they will bring into their religious life a superficial work which will
disqualify them to teach the Word of God. Their minds grasp at ideas that lead to error.
Capricious fancies may for a time supply the place of truth; but the thoughts grasped have
no foundation in truth. Their minds do not penetrate deep enough to see the outcome of
assertions that will counterwork the work of God.
The study of Latin and Greek is of far less consequence to ourselves, to the world, and
to God than the thorough study and use of the whole human machinery. It is a sin to study
books to the neglect of the various branches of usefulness in practical life. Never can
one who is ignorant of the house we live in, have an all-round life.
Exercise should be taken, not in play and amusement merely to please self, but exercise
that will teach the science of doing good. There is a science in the use of the hand.
Students who think that education consists only in book study, never make a right use of
their hands. They should be taught to do the work that thousands of hands are never
educated to do. The powers thus developed and cultivated can be most usefully employed. In
the cultivation of the soil, in building houses, in studying and planning various methods
of labour, the brain must be exercised, and students can apply themselves to a much better
purpose when a portion of their time is devoted to physical taxation, wearying the
muscles. Nature will then give sweet repose.
Students, your life is God's property. He has entrusted it to you, that you may honour
and glorify Him. You are the Lord's; for He created you. You are His by redemption; for He
gave His life for you. The only begotten Son of God paid the ransom for your deliverance
from Satan; and for His sake you should appreciate every power, every organ, every sinew
and muscle. Preserve every portion of the living machinery, that you may use it for God.
Preserve it for Him. Your health depends upon the right use of your physical organism. Do
not misuse any portion of your God-given powers, physical, mental, or moral. All your
habits are to be brought under the control of a mind that is itself under the control of
If young men and women would grow up to the full stature of Christ Jesus, they must
treat themselves intelligently. Conscientiousness in methods of education is as essential
as in the consideration of the doctrines of our faith. Unhealthful habits of every
order--late hours at night, late hours in bed in the morning, rapid eating--are to be
overcome. Masticate your food thoroughly. Let there be no hurried eating. Have your room
well ventilated day and night, and perform useful physical labour. Tight lacing [clothing]
is a sin, and will bring its sure results. The lungs, the liver, and the heart need all
the room the Lord has provided for them. Your Creator understood how much room the heart
and liver require in order to act their part in the human organism. Let not Satan tempt
you to crowd the delicate organs, so that they shall be trammelled in their work. Do not,
because the fashion of this degenerate world requires it, so crowd the life forces that
they will have no freedom. Satan suggested all such fashions, that the human family might
suffer the sure results of abusing God's handiwork.
All this must be a part of the education received in school; for we are God's property.
The sacred temple of the body must be kept pure and uncontaminated, that God's Holy Spirit
may dwell therein. We need to guard faithfully the Lord's property; for any abuse of our
powers shortens the time that our lives could be used for the glory of God. Bear in mind
that we must consecrate all--soul, body, and spirit--to God. All is His purchased
possession, and must be used intelligently, to the end that we may preserve the talent of
life. By properly using our powers to their fullest extent in the most useful employment,
by keeping every organ in health, by so preserving every organ that mind, sinew, and
muscle shall work harmoniously, we may do the most precious service for God.
The Youth's Instructor, March 31 and April 7, 1898.