The Old Schoolmaster
Schoolhouse, Whitneyville, Maine
Soon, it will be back to school for Maine children. Once, it was to the one or two story village schoolhouse with its one or two story backhouse and a playground where there may or may not have been a swing, but there was a flag pole. There one teacher taught all subjects for up to three to eight grades, administered healthcare from a first aid kit, and even sang patriotic songs and prayed with students who ate bagged lunches at their desks or walked home where Mom had lunch ready.
Presently, free breakfast and lunch are served at cafeterias in consolidated school districts with subject-specific teachers, high tech toilets, well equipped playgrounds, expensive sports and performing arts programs, health clinics, social workers, complicated busing systems, and top heavy administrations. Even though some changes are good and students have wider cultural exposure and broader learning experiences, our current educational desires and values have arrived with a hefty price tag which isn’t just reflected in higher taxes. School boards, administrations, and educators are deluged with mandatory paperwork, performance evaluations, burdensome curriculum demands, and even fears of violence against them.
And the children…
Schools have always reinforced traditional values of hard work, integrity, respectfulness, kindness, and community pride, as well as seeking knowledge and truth! But educational values are shifting. Enticed by state and federal monies, communities now accept governmental supervision and overreaching demands which push the agendas of politically powerful special interest groups. Humanistic teachings, manipulative ideologies, and moral molding in education tend toward indoctrination rather than intellectual exploration. Mental health issues, antisocial behavior, and suicide in the young raise legitimate questions as to whether some current educational practices contribute to emotionally healthy, happy children or promote confusion, human devaluation, loss of childhood innocence, and diminishment of patriotism and parental authority.
Although social structures and world views and cultural norms may be shifting, our sensual and spiritual needs are unchanged. If we are to be physically and emotionally healthy, we will always require shelter, nourishment, and love . However, we have elevated our desires to needs which in some cases not only push but exceed moral boundaries. There is more than a whiff of arrogance in the air. Our self absorbed, entitled attitudes and behaviors are less constrained and more raw. Resultant lack of self discipline has led to increasing levels of anxiety, depression, addictions, violence, abuse, social detachments, lack of civility, moral confusion, and obnoxious, offensive language rather than greater happiness.
Moses reminded Israel that the guiding truth and the wisdom of God’s Law are fundamental to the stability and success of a nation. “And the LORD our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear him so he can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as he has done to this day. ” (Deuteronomy 6:24 ) The Book of Proverbs addresses the fact that our souls need protective barriers: “Like a city that is broken into without walls, is a man who has no control over his spirit.” (Proverbs 25:28) In those ancient days, a city without walls was completely vulnerable to the enemy and disaster. Although humans have an innate moral intuitiveness, we are prone to relativizing and justifying behaviors. The Law as a protective, moral gold standard does not allow either but clearly defines human weaknesses and shows how much we need redemption. We fall off the moral tracks without guardrails.
The Apostle Paul explained how the Law is a schoolmaster that brings us to Christ. Because of human reluctance and inability to keep the Law, Christ came to show and give us the righteousness we lack. His perfect observance of the principles of the Law were foundational to his redemptive ministry for us. He explained, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (Matthew 5:17 (NLT2) He did what we are too broken to do. In sinlessness, he met the requirements of the Law and atoned for our inability to keep the moral law. He paid for our transgressions. (Matthew 22:37-39)
Despite our world views and associated values, our spiritual needs are universal and unchanging. No matter what our perception of God is, He and His provision for us are consistent. He is forever good and transcendent. His ways are perfectly purposed for us to share in His goodness and to live as images of His character. The Law instructs us, and the school of life demonstrates to us that our spiritual need is unachievable apart from God’s gracious forgiveness and His redemptive, restorative powers released to us by the sacrifice of Christ and our repentance and faith.