One of our members gave me a copy of an eighth-grade final exam given in Salina, Kansas in 1895. The test covered grammar, arithmetic, U.S. History, orthography, and geography. Here are a few questions from the grammar section of the exam:
• Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
• Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
• Define verse, stanza, and paragraph
• What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of “lie,” “play,” and “run.”
• Define case; illustrate each case.
As I looked at these and other questions, I wondered how many eighth-graders today could answers these questions. In fact, I wondered how many seniors in college could pass this test. Americans today think they know more and know better than previous generations did. We look at old pictures of students in poor clothes in front of a worn one-room schoolhouse and feel sorry for them. But in spite of our technology and the billions we pour into public education each year, we should pity ourselves. Young people today are so dulled and distracted in their intellect by cell phones, video games, the internet, music, and movies that they are far behind the mental and moral acumen of their ancestors.
In The Bible Lessons of John Quincy Adams for His Son, the introduction states
“In 1800, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned a national survey conducted by Dupont de Nemours to determine the status of literacy in America. The results were phenomenal. Better than ninety-seven percent of American citizens could read and write. The stated reason for this success was that, from Boston to Atlanta, American fathers practiced daily Bible reading with their children around the breakfast table. Long before the creation of government schools or the National Education Association, faithful fathers proved that the simple act of teaching the Holy Scriptures to their children at home would lead our nation to become the most literate in the world.”
Nemours said at that time “in America, a great number of people read the Bible.”
Long before the forefathers of this nation discovered the value of teaching the Bible in the home, Moses wrote:
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:6-7).
Josephus said teaching children the law of God should be “the first thing which they are taught, which will be the best thing they can be taught, and will be the cause of their future felicity” (Antiquities, IV, 8.12). A young preacher named Timothy was the beneficiary of this practice among the Jews. Paul reminded him that “from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15). Timothy’s father was a Greek (Acts 16:1), but his Jewish mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, who were both women of sincere faith (II Tim. 1:5), had taught him the Scriptures when he was a little boy. They could not have known at the time the masses of people Timothy would some day teach, and they would never have imagined that millions of us would still be reading about him with admiration two thousand years later.
What more fertile ground for the Word of God can you find than the hearts of little children? What better education can you give them than a knowledge of the Bible? Time is getting away from us. Teach them now. Teach them at home. Fight for the time you need to do this and guard it with your life.
-Kerry Duke