Education—What It Costs, What It Offers
WOULD you like your children to have a good education? ‘Of course,’ you say. ‘A good education equips a person for a better life. An educated person has many advantages over someone who has little education.’ This is true. Christian parents, as well as others, want their children to get the best education possible.
But what does the “best education possible” include? A Christian knows that it includes both secular and spiritual learning. Spiritual education continues through our lives, but how far should formal secular education go? Should a Christian youth be satisfied with a basic secular education? Or should he attend a college or university? This is not an easy question to answer because, while all education offers benefits, it also costs something. In what way?
A Basic Education
Education begins before a child goes to school. A wise Christian parent trains a child right from infancy. What should he be trained in? The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that he had been trained “from infancy” to know the “holy writings,” the portion of the Bible that existed then. (2 Timothy 3:15) Hence, parents can teach their children about Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, the importance of God’s kingdom, and other Scriptural truths, while the children are still young.
If a young child is able to learn these things, then obviously he can also start to learn reading and writing, and wise parents take time to teach these too. Thus, the education of a child should start early.
Does this cost anything? It costs very little money, but it costs more time and energy. However, it is well worth it. With such early education, a child can develop heartfelt love for Jehovah and quickly develop basic learning skills.
In most lands the state provides a basic secular education for children when they get to be about six years old. Even though this education is paid for largely with tax money, there may well be another cost involved. Influences that parents cannot control begin to mold the child’s thinking. For the first time in his life, the youngster is separated from his parents for several hours a day. He may mix with children who have not been taught truly Christian ways, and, hence, his parents have to be sure that he does not forget his early training.
Is it worth the cost? Most parents think so. In the schools, children get a broad education in many fields of knowledge. They may also start to learn skills that will be valuable throughout life. And, though living at home, they have opportunity to demonstrate their love for Jehovah away from the watchful eyes of their parents.
There is, however, a price that wise Christian parents are not willing to pay. They do not pressure their children to study so hard that they have little or no energy or time left to study the “holy writings” or to serve God. Why not? Because, while the secular education has a certain value, only education based on the “holy writings” can make a person “wise for salvation.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Which is more important: a secular education that equips one for a few years of life? or an education that prepares one for eternal life?
Colleges and Universities
In many lands, after primary schooling young folk normally continue into secondary education. At this point many Christian parents, remembering how Jesus was trained to be a carpenter, encourage their children to obtain some kind of vocational training. (Mark 6:3) They know that when the youngsters grow up, they will have responsibilities, and now is a good time to start equipping them to handle these.—1 Timothy 5:4, 8.
Some wonder whether they should direct their children toward a university education. Why? In a poor country, a university education may seem the best way to get ahead. It may appear to offer financial security, and even more. A Nigerian educator said: “Fathers . . . want their children to become medical doctors, engineers, architects, accountants in order to raise the social status of their families.”
However, are these the things a Christian parent should put first when planning the education of his child? Many parents think not. They prefer to explore alternative ways to prepare their children for life. Why? Because the benefits of a university education are often not worth the cost.
The Nigeria Daily Times referred to the financial cost: “Communities have taxed . . . themselves heavily; parents have forgone luxurious and sometimes badly needed items, while gainfully employed youths have put in substantial parts of their earnings, all in a bid to ensure that their children, wards and themselves partake of the fruits of higher education.”
Would it be wise for Christian parents to make such sacrifices to send their children to a university? Perhaps you can afford the financial cost. Is there another price that has to be considered? Often, yes. For example, one young man’s parents allowed him to travel to Europe to attend university. Did his attendance there lead to his having financial security, or raise the status of his family back at home? No. At the urging of his new “friends” at the university, he took drugs and died of an overdose. Another young African went to a university in the United States. He was brought home with suspected brain damage, from drugs and alcohol. What a price the parents of these young men paid!
Other Christian parents have also paid heavily. A young man enrolled in a university in his own country, but far from home. He stopped associating with fellow Christians and ceased to serve Jehovah. All the things he had learned “from infancy” left him, and now he even questions the teachings of the Bible.
Unfortunately, this young man is not alone. There are others who were brought up to serve God who are now evolutionists, atheists and critics of Biblical truth. Is this because the Bible is wrong and modern philosophy is right? Not at all. It is because they were subjected to a constant onslaught of ungodly ideas at college while separated from other Christians. As a result their faith weakened and finally died. The sad thing is, they were often put in that situation by their parents.
“Bad associations spoil useful habits,” said the apostle Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Some of the worst associations possible for a Christian—spiritually and morally speaking—have been found on university campuses. The above experiences show what can happen when inexperienced young people, away from their families, are thrown into an environment of immorality, drug or alcohol abuse, perversion, and rebellious political ideas. Is increased family prestige or the possibility of a better-paying job worth the price that might be paid?
A Balanced Viewpoint
But, it may be objected, not everyone who goes to university loses his Christian faith or dies of a drug overdose. This is true. Some graduates have become valued and hardworking members of the Christian congregation. But consider, it is also true that not every child who plays on a busy street will get killed by a passing automobile. Some survive to grow up. But would you let your children play in the street in traffic because of that?
Does this mean that it is wrong to attend a university? This is something each parent should decide for his own child. However, in doing so, he should consider the above facts. It may be that the student can stay at home and attend college. Or perhaps he can stay with relatives who will keep a close watch on his associates and strongly encourage him to keep active in his Christian responsibilities. But considering all circumstances, will it be worth the time and effort? Will it equip him the better to serve his God?
Many parents feel that the potential benefits of a university education are not worth the possible horrendous costs, especially where the children would have to go unsupervised to another city or country. Instead, they direct their children toward some trade. For example, while in secondary school, are there courses in various trades that could help a youth to learn a skill that would enable him to make a living after he graduates? In some lands there are specialized trade schools of about a year’s duration where skills can be learned, or those begun in secondary school can be more highly developed.
Such parents have also given serious thought to what they want their children to do with their lives. Do they want them to bring honor to the family? to get rich? or to be able to look after the parents in their old age? For a family without a Christian faith, such goals are understandable. But surely a Christian has higher goals.
The apostle Paul warned: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” (1 Timothy 6:9) Jesus also warned: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matthew 6:24) Do you not agree that one reason so many university students lose their faith is that many of them are ‘slaving for Riches,’ or are “determined to be rich”? Failing to take to heart Bible counsel on their attitude toward material possessions, they make themselves vulnerable to other faith-destroying ideas and conduct.
The apostle John said: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) If you believe that, then you will give your child an education that will primarily equip him to do the will of God. ‘But,’ some might say, ‘life today is hard, and a young person—particularly if he comes from a poor background—needs all the help he can get.’ That is true. But God has promised us that if we put his kingdom first in our lives, all the things we need will be added to us. (Matthew 6:33) Can we ask for better help than that?
King David, before he became king, was forced to live as a fugitive in the wilderness. Hence, he knew what it meant to suffer privation. Yet he said: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.” (Psalm 37:25) God is just as able to help us now as he was in David’s day if we put his kingdom first in our lives.
Surely, then, the best education we can give our children will balance spiritual and secular teaching. Secular education has value. But if pursuing it means sacrificing spiritual things, then it is not worth the cost. In regard to the education of our children, it is good to follow the apostle Paul’s advice: “The time left is reduced. Henceforth let . . . those making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.”—1 Corinthians 7:29-31.
The results of a balanced education make all Christian parents happy. Children grow strong in faith, praising God and honoring their parents. Many young Christians, brought up in this way, are now serving as full-time preachers or missionaries, and their lives are truly satisfying. How proud their parents are of them! They really ‘remember their Grand Creator in the days of their young manhood,’ and thus show their faith in Him, rather than in this world.—Ecclesiastes 12:1.
When this system finally ends, young folk who have received and responded to a balanced, godly education will survive, along with their God-fearing parents, to serve God forever. Is this what you want for your child? Then help him to get an education that will benefit him for eternity.—John 17:3.
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Are the possible benefits of a university education worth the price that might be paid?
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Parents, what do you hope your children will do with their lives?
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If pursuing secular education means sacrificing spiritual things, it is not worth the cost