Is Education Harmful

Is Education Harmful?

Question No. 108:

What is wrong with education? Why does it turn out so many misfits? Am I not taking a dangerous chance in sending my children to school? {ABN5: 5.1}


The trouble is not with education itself, but rather with the kind of education one receives. Yes, there are two kinds of education–the human and the Divine, the natural and the spiritual, the wrong and the right. As man is born with desires to love the natural and to hate the spiritual, naturally, then, the human method of education has been highly cultivated, and the Divine greatly, if not altogether, neglected. Thus the reason for “so many misfits.” {ABN5: 5.2}

It is a recognized fact that the former is actually calculated to train the student, not to produce, but to consume–to be grasping and selfish; whereas the latter is designed to train the student to produce more than he consumes–to be benevolent and unselfish, living for others, not for self. {ABN5: 5.3}

Then, too, it must be realized that even if the schools were giving the right kind of training, it would be counteracted by parents who allow their children to squander away time, rather than teach them how to lighten someone’s burdens and to make a living. So, if there is no mutual co-operation between the school and the home, then despite even a right educational system in the schools, the children would nevertheless be trained to become a burden to themselves, a liability to their parents, and a detriment to the world. {ABN5: 5.4}

Rather than making their schooling a preparation for life, most students make it a vacation from life. Then when graduation day arrives they consequently have no idea of what they should do next! And even when they do “have a vocation in mind, it often takes them years to acquire the basic work habits required in their fields.” {ABN5: 6.1}

It is a tested fact that during their schooling, students enjoy sponging, a thing that has become a vice. And the longer they go to school the stronger this selfish habit seems to become. And that is why “employers no longer,” asserts Dr. Henry C. Link, the psychologist, “fall over each other in their haste to employ college graduates. Moreover, in making their selections, they are often more influenced by a student’s extra-curricular activities and his achievements in dealing with his fellow students, than by his success with his professors.” {ABN5: 6.2}

What the present generation needs to learn most in school is to stop sponging and to start producing, the very thing it increasingly dreads. Children should be taught that, after all, the only way for one to be worthy of life is to be primarily a producer, producing more than he consumes, and to be anxious, not to get, but to give, and to realize that such an unselfish, beneficient habit is the very gate to success and happiness. {ABN5: 6.3}

It was at the time Abraham demonstrated his truly generous and kind hospitality by cordially inviting and then forcibly persuading the three strangers to stop for a rest and a meal, that the promise of a son made years before, became a reality. And Lot’s faithfully compelling two of these same strangers to stop overnight in his home, delivered him from Sodom’s fiery destruction. {ABN5: 7.1}

Let us not forget that the embodiment of these Divine principles is the first step toward one’s conversion to the religion of Christ. To overlook these necessary requirements while attempting to become an altogether-Christian, is no less absurd than to invite the minister to perform a marriage ceremony without having a willing partner to marry. {ABN5: 7.2}

On the subject of personality, Dr. Link writes: “Minds are not born, they are acquired by training. Personality is not born, it is developed by practice. But we have no library of scientific books on the latter. The greatest and most authentic textbook on personality is still the Bible, and the discoveries which psychologists have made tend to confirm rather than to contradict the codification of personality found there. Psychology differs from all other sciences in this important respect. Whereas the other sciences have taught us that our previous ideas and beliefs about nature were wrong, psychology is proving that many of the ancient ideas and precepts about the development of a good character and personality were right. {ABN5: 7.3}

“The keynote which runs through the elements or habits of personality included in this test is this: The child develops a good personality, or at least the foundations of such a personality, by doing many things which he does not do naturally, and many things which he actually dislikes. Eating with a knife and a fork may become natural to him in time, and even enjoyable, but not until his parents have spent four to eight years of laborious effort in getting him to use them properly. Children vary, of course, by nature and heredity; but no matter how good they are, the basic habits must be inculcated by a process of discipline. In view of the inevitable resentment toward discipline which children develop and their inertia in acquiring many desirable habits, every available influence, pressure, or device which will hasten their acquisition of these habits must be utilized. Most parents need every source of help or support available in this process.”–The Return to Religion. {ABN5: 8.1}

Necessarily, to make a real success in life, one must acquire a predominance of skills, superiority in a few, and distinct superiority in one; also a longing desire to please and bless others first, and only secondarily to satisfy himself. God so loved the world that He gave His only son. Men therefore ought also to be liberal to the extent that they, too, freely use their time and energy in serving the interests of others. “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Phil. 2:4. In such a happy course they will be benefiting themselves even more than others. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness,” commands the Lord, “and all these things shall be added unto you.” The one who fully comprehends the operation of this Divine law, and unhesitatingly obeys it, is the only one who makes a real success of life. And the fact that those who make their employer’s interest the chief business of their lives are the only ones who receive promotions and who achieve high and responsible positions, shows that this Divine law operates even among non-Christians. {ABN5: 9.1}

The progressing student needs to test the theories as he goes along and before he learns new theories. That is, instead of applying himself solely to the pursuit of knowledge, he needs to apply the knowledge he has acquired to the pursuit of a livelihood. Besides, the longer a person is shielded from the realities of a working life, the less capable he is to meet them when the necessity confronts him. Such an education can turn out only misfits–social parasites. But true education “prepares the student for the joy of service in this world, and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”–Education, p. 13. {ABN5: 9.2}

Hence, parents who would help their children make life successful and worth living, should not neglect to thus train the youth. Then they will plainly see that the right kind of education is not only a fine thing, but that it is everything in the development of good character. None can afford to leave their children without this indispensable education. So if your children are not receiving such a training in school, then inevitably they should receive it at home. {ABN5: 10.1}

And in assuming this responsibility, parents should ever bear in mind that humans are natural-born spongers. A baby does nothing to help itself. Everything necessary to its existence is done by others. And the only way completely to wean a child from these introvert habits, is to begin as early as possible teaching him to help himself, until finally he becomes master of all his wants. As soon as a bird is out of its nest, the parent birds teach it to fly and to make its own living. Parents who fail to thus train their children are less intelligent than the dumb animals, and most certainly their children’s worst enemies. {ABN5: 10.2}

A certain father failed, as did Eli the priest of ancient Israel, to assume this responsibility and was consequently having great difficulty with his seventeen-year old son. To Dr. Link he confides his own situation: {ABN5: 11.1}

“My son, I believe, has a good mind, but during the last few years his work in school has become increasingly poor. This term he failed in three of his subjects. However, what worries me more, even, than his school work, is his attitude toward life generally. He seems to think that the world and especially his parents, owe him a living. It happens that we live in a well-to-do community. Many of the families are more wealthy than we, and while I have been quite liberal with my son, giving him a generous allowance, good clothes letting him drive the family car, etc., he is far from satisfied. Now he wants his own automobile, and keeps talking about the many boys in town who have their own car. {ABN5: 11.2}

“When I ask him to take care of the furnace or the lawn, or to do some other jobs, he tells me that the other boys don’t have to do this sort of thing. Although I sometimes get him to do a job, I can never depend on his doing it properly. He has no sense of responsibility or obligation, but he considers his family responsible for making possible anything he wants to do. In fact his one idea in life is to have fun, and his idea of a good time, so far as I can see, is to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, regardless of anybody else. I am terribly afraid he is developing a character which will make him unfit for the world; just as it has already made him unfit for his studies.” {ABN5: 11.3}

There are thousands of such unfortunates of various ages, whose failure in life is traceable to their parents. By doing entirely too much for their children, they robbed them of the opportunity to acquire habits of self-reliance. Instead they have gotten the idea that either their own or another’s parents owe them a living, an education, and luxuries which they seriously regard as necessities. {ABN5: 12.1}

While material advantages conspire to make one’s life easier, they make his character weaker. The parents’ unrestrained desire to do well by their children, plus the means to do it bring upon them irreparable harm. And thus the sins of the father’s foolishness and of his unwisely directed prosperity are visited upon the children. In this connection is seen more and more, the truth in the Divine reproof: “Behold this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” Ezek. 16:49. {ABN5: 12.2}

It is a well-known fact that as a rule the most learned men are the most hesitant to accept the gospel of Christ, and among the last in keeping pace with the Truth. In this respect more than in any other applies the saying, “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20. {ABN5: 12.3}

Parents may rid their children of the desire to come into possession of riches which have been earned by others, only if they very early in the child’s life start uprooting its introvert habits and inculcating extrovert ones in their stead. In the struggle for character, personality, and usefulness, the children of poor parents have the advantage over those of wealthy parents. {ABN5: 13.1}

The world’s most honorable and its most indispensable men and women, who have left the world something worthwhile, came from poor families. By way of example, we shall remind the reader of but a few such characters: {ABN5: 13.2}

Jack London’s childhood was seared with poverty and hardships, yet obsessed with a driving ambition to become a great writer, he became the famous author of fifty-one books, as well as countless stories. His yearly income became twice as much as that of the President of the United States. {ABN5: 13.3}

And Helen Jepson, once so poor she could not afford to take music lessons, became one of our greatest singers. {ABN5: 13.4}

Andrew Carnegie started working for two cents an hour, and he made four hundred million dollars. {ABN5: 13.5}

The late John D. Rockefeller, who amassed probably the greatest fortune in all history, started out in life hoeing potatoes under the boiling sun for four cents an hour. {ABN5: 14.1}

Thomas A. Edison, who has been called the most useful citizen of the world, began his career as a newsboy on the Grand Trunk Railway. His first laboratory was set up in a compartment of a baggage car. {ABN5: 14.2}

Benjamin Franklin was a man distinguished in almost every field of endeavor. Inventor, scientist, author, statesman, philosopher, printer, diplomat, humorist–surely few other men ever ventured on so many careers and worked them out so successfully. Yet he was born into the poor family of a tallow chandler, and had no special advantages as a child. {ABN5: 14.3}

Luther Burbank, called the “Plant Wizard,” was unable to go farther in school than the town academy, and while young began working in a factory. {ABN5: 14.4}

The life and history of Dr. G. W. Carver also exemplifies the fact that to build character, to acquire an education, and to make a real success of life, it is necessary that one start from scratch, help himself, and pay his own way through school. {ABN5: 14.5}

We quote from a biographical sketch of this great scientist, as published in The Reader’s Digest, December, 1942, just prior to his death: {ABN5: 14.6}

Born in Missouri around 1864 Dr. Carver never knew his father and mother–they were carried off by slave raiders when he was a baby. A white planter, Moses Carver, raised the child, gave him his name, and because of the boy’s poor health let him do women’s work: cooking, sewing, laundering. {ABN5: 15.1}

But a strange fire burned in him. The only book he remembers in the Carver home was Webster’s Speller. He memorized it. Having fallen on hard times themselves, the Carvers were unable to send him to school. He went on his own; slept in barns and haylofts; worked for his food at whatever jobs turned up, took in all the learning that the one-room schoolhouse had to offer. “White folks’ washing” paid his way through high school. {ABN5: 15.2}

He was admitted by mail to the University of Iowa only to be rejected, when he arrived, because he was a Negro. Whereupon he opened a small laundry and at the end of a year had accumulated funds enough to obtain entrance to Simpson College at Incrianola, Iowa. He washed, scrubbed and house-cleaned his way through three years at that school and went on to finish four years of agricultural studies at Iowa State College. There his genius with soils and plants won him, on graduation, a place on the faculty. {ABN5: 15.3}

Down in central Alabama, at about this time Booker T. Washington–founder and president of Tuskegee Institute–was dreaming of economic emancipation for the Negro farmer. The dreams needed a man. Washington chose young Carver. {ABN5: 15.4}

When Carver arrived in Tuskegee, in 1896, there seemed to be little for him to work on and nothing to work with. Washington wanted an agricultural laboratory; there was neither equipment nor money. He wanted a school farm; the soil was defiant. He wanted grass on the Tuskegee campus; there was only sand. {ABN5: 15.5}

Today, in a glass case in the museum are the materials with which Carver made his first laboratory. For heat he rigged up a salvaged barn lantern. His mortar was a heavy kitchen cup, he used a flat piece of iron for a pulverizer. Beakers were made by cutting off the tops of old bottles rescued from the school dump. He turned an ink bottle into an alcohol lamp and made his own wick. {ABN5: 16.1}

The soil on his 16-acre “experimental farm” was sandy, eroded and impoverished. He sent his students into the swamps and woods armed with baskets and pails. Day after day they brought back muck and leafmold and covered the ground with it. On those acres he demonstrated that the South’s worst soil can be made to produce–not one sweet-potato crop per year but two. There also he harvested one of Alabama’s first bale-to-the-acre crops of cotton. {ABN5: 16.2}

“Everyone told me,” he says, “that the soil was unproductive. But it was the only soil I had. It was not unproductive. It was only unused.” {ABN5: 16.3}

He found other uses for it. From Macon County’s multicolored clays he made pottery, wallpaper inks, coloring for ornamental cement blocks. An inveterate enemy of waste, he turned corn, cotton and sorghum stalks into insulating boards; produced paper from the branches of wistaria, sun-flowers and wild hibiscus; wove decorative table mats from swamp cattails; made table runners, using bright clay dyes for color, from feed and seed bags. {ABN5: 16.4}

To carry his Green Pastures gospel to the farmer he converted a secondhand buggy into a mobile agricultural school, loaded it with exhibits, borrowed a horse and made regular tours of the countryside. This was the first of the “movable schools” which today, housed in truck and trailer and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cover all of Alabama. {ABN5: 16.5}

Macon County then, like most of the South, grew cotton and little else. To save the soil and add to farm income Carver advocated growing sweet potatoes and peanuts. Today the sweet potato is a southern farm staple; and our peanut farmers of the South will this year get close to $70,000,000 for their crop. More than any other person, Dr. Carver has helped to break cotton’s throttle-hold on southern agriculture. {ABN5: 16.6}

In his Macon County pioneering, he found scarcely any vegetable gardens, few pigs, chickens or cows. Pellegra–produced by an unbalance diet–was widespread. He therefore preached kitchen gardens and worked out recipes showing how to prepare and preserve vegetables. Today, according to the county agricultural agent, there is hardly a Negro farm in Macon County without a vegetable garden, pigs, chickens and at least one cow. Pellagra has virtually disappeared. {ABN5: 17.1}

Dr. Carver insists that the start-where-you-are formula will work anywhere. Some years ago he spoke before a Negro organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For illustrative materials he spent an early morning on Sand Pipe Hill, near Tulsa. He came back with 27 plants, all containing medicinal properties. {ABN5: 17.2}

“Then,” he said, “I went to Ferguson’s Drugstore and bought seven patent medicines containing certain elements found in those plants. The medicines had been shipped in from New York. They should have come from Sand Pipe Hill. ‘Where there is no vision the people perish.’” {ABN5: 17.3}

* * *

He has been called–this man whose parents were Negro slaves–“the first and greatest chemurgist.” Million-dollar businesses have been built all or in part from his discoveries–largest among them being a $200,000,000 a year peanut industry. His crop-pioneering puts many millions every year into the pockets of southern farmers. {ABN5: 17.4}

He has been showered with honors. Thomas Edison invited him to join his staff at $50,000 a year. Henry Ford has given him a laboratory for wartime food research. Last June “The Progressive Farmer” gave him its annual award for “outstanding service to southern agriculture.” The Theodore Roosevelt Medal came to him in 1939 as “a liberator to men of the white race as well as the black.” {ABN5: 18.1}

“What other man of our times,” asked the New York Times “has done so much for agriculture in the South?” {ABN5: 18.2}

The world that thus seeks out Dr. George Washington Carver still finds him in the scientific parish where he has worked for 46 years: Macon County, Alabama, and the campus of Tuskegee Institute, famed Negro school. {ABN5: 18.3}

It is his own philosophy that keeps him there: his belief that there are no greener pastures than those nearby. Science-wise he has reduced that belief to a formula: “Start where you are, with what you have make something of it never be satisfied.” Now, approaching 80, he is still making that formula work. {ABN5: 18.4}

He took me recently through the George Washington Carver Museum at Tuskegee–built from his savings to house the results of his nearby explorations and discoveries. He still wears the familiar battered cap and the frayed gray sweater. His voice is frail and his shoulders stooped. But there are no signs of frailty in his mind and spirit. {ABN5: 18.5}

In a small field behind the museum he pointed out half a hundred strips of pine board exposed to the sun. They were freshly painted: bright blues, yellows, reds, greens. {ABN5: 18.6}

“The reason farmers down here don’t paint their homes,” he said, “isn’t because they are lazy or don’t care. It is because they don’t have cash money to buy paint. The paint that’s weathering on these boards costs next to nothing. The color comes from the clays right here in Macon County. The base is used motor Oil.” {ABN5: 18.7}

This home-grown paint, made and proved by Dr. Carver at Tuskegee, is now being used by the Tennessee Valley Authority in a demonstration of rural home beautification in 14 TVA localities. {ABN5: 19.1}

Dr. Carver was the first and still is the greatest exponent of the use of the South’s idle lands and waste products to balance the southern farm diet. This required more than agricultural knowledge, so he learned to be an expert dietitian and cook. His “43 Ways to Save the Wild Plum Crop” is a collection of Carver-proved recipes: marmalade, syrup, vinegar, soup, croquettes. {ABN5: 19.2}

His famous experiments with the peanut led to the production of more than 300 useful articles. Among those now being commercially manufactured are his peanut butter and peanut flour, besides various oils and fertilizer. Widely used is a pamphlet for the farmer’s wife: “105 Different Ways to Prepare the Peanut for the Table,” including recipes for peanut soup, bread, patties, piecrust, doughnuts, cheese. With such wider use the peanut crop increased from 700 million pounds in 1921 to 1,400 million in 1941. {ABN5: 19.3}

Last March Dr. Carver published his own Victory Garden bulletin: “Nature’s Garden for Victory and Peace.” Its frontispiece quotes from Genesis: “Behold I have given you every herb…to you it shall be for meat.” Inside is a list of more than 100 grasses, weeds and wild flowers which can be used for food, and recipes showing how to use them. They include chickory coffee–“some prefer it to real coffee”–pie “similar to apple or rhubarb” from sour grass; “asparagus tips” from the stalks of silkweed, wild clover “for delicate and fancy salads”; grass-salad sandwiches which have a considerable vogue on the Tuskegee campus. {ABN5: 19.4}

* * *

The Bible, Dr. Carver told me, is as important to his work as is his laboratory. He has two favorite Scripture verses. One of them he calls his “light” passage. It is Proverbs III, 6: “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” The other is his “power” passage. It is Philippians IV, 13: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” {ABN5: 19.5}

“This is the only question colored people have to answer,” I heard him say to a group of Negro preachers: “Have we got what the world wants?” He told about hearing a group of white men in search of a man who could locate oil. “They forgot to say whether they wanted a white man, a red man, a yellow or a black man; they said only they wanted a man who could locate oil. {ABN5: 20.1}

“Don’t go looking for Naboth’s vineyard,” he said. “Every one of you probably has all the vineyard he needs.” {ABN5: 20.2}

Let parents now answer this pertinent question: What made Dr. Carver a great scientist, and his indispensable accomplishments possible? Was it not what impoverished circumstances taught him and what his all-consuming desire to bless humanity urged him to do? {ABN5: 20.3}

It is evident that from the very out-set of their training, children should be taught the value of time and the value of a dollar, and even forced, if necessary, to help themselves and to respect the rights and the property of others–to be builders, not destroyers, not spongers, wasters, or squanderers. Slipshod work-habits result in bad personality. {ABN5: 20.4}

In the light of the ten commandments, these principles, more than any others, should day by day be instilled in the minds of the young. {ABN5: 20.5}

“Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul,” bids the Lord, “and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them as the days of heaven upon the earth.” Deut. 11:18-21. {ABN5: 21.1}