Early founder and enthusiastic proponent of Adventist education Ellen White spoke at length about what Adventist education should look like. It involves three distinct pillars that support each other and offer a unique value proposition.
1.Adventist education prepares students for the future demands of the world of work.
According to White, education “should tax the mental powers; every faculty should reach the highest possible development” (White, 1923, p. 373). Today, this demands a broad, future-focused, inclusive form of education that includes the intellectual, professional, practical and entrepreneurial. It includes both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, work ethic and adaptability.
2. Adventist education prepares the whole person for ‘the whole period of existence possible.’
According to our founders, this includes the harmonious development of spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social dimensions. The purpose? To help young people mature with strong character and a heart for service to others (White, 1952, p.13). This is somewhat countercultural to modern education, which is largely about giving individuals the best possible advantage over others. Education in Adventist schools transforms young people into individuals God can use as a “positive force for the stability and uplifting of society” now and for eternity (White, 1952, p. 29,30). It’s in line with Jesus’s life and teachings, which transformed people into crew rather than passengers, players rather than spectators, contributors rather than just consumers. Individuals educated in Adventist schools have a singular advantage.
3. Adventist education offers a bold faith.
Without this third pillar, Faith, Adventist education falls out of balance. If there is one thing I know from international travel, it’s that people everywhere are searching for meaning. Christianity explains human nature without, as author and Christian apologist Nancey Pearcey says, “internal division or contradiction.” Young people crave good, logical, academic reasons for their faith. They want a faith that engages the intellect and holds up under examination.
Is it possible that Adventist education is now even more significant and relevant than ever? I believe so.
Modern society has, for several decades now, been described as VUCA. This is a world characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Coming at a cost to individuals in society (especially young people), VUCA finds expression in rising tides of anxiety and depression. It results in confusion, uncertainty, and a growing sense of distrust within and between communities. Unpredictability and competition affect every aspect of our lives, which can result in vagueness of purpose and direction for individuals and institutions.
We could get confused here, too, if we didn’t stay mission-true to the principles envisioned for Adventist education. Let’s protect our spiritual underpinnings and influence others with our culture instead of allowing competing cultures and ideologies to influence us. While we might find new and exciting ways of interpreting the vision, let’s be confident in applying the heart of what has sustained us for over 150 years. True Adventist education offers something of unique value for people facing complex and uncertain times.