Adventist Education in North America

Editor’s Note: This article appears in the latest issue of Spectrum (volume 49, issue 3). If you’re not already a member of Adventist Forum, click here to join today and become a subscriber.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11496

Years ago, while living in South Korea, as an Army chaplain, I was notified that I had been selected to attend a graduate school of my choice to obtain a graduate degree. All of my expenses would be paid, and I would continue on full salary while attending school, In addition, I had a specified time in which I would have to complete my study for the degree.

My immediate task became to select a school and to be accepted into that graduate program. At that time the Internet was not as fully developed as it is today and I needed to correspond with the various Universities by postal mail. I contacted a number of schools and enquired about their graduate program and my possible entry into that program. In that communication I informed the school that I was living in South Korea and could not reasonably communicate by telephone.

The Adventist University informed me that all of my questions could be answered by reading their informational material. In addition, any questions about my entry into their program would be answered after I made a formal application to apply for entry.

Chapman University responded with a letter from a PhD. in the department that I needed to enter. He informed me that he had been appointed to work directly with me to facilitate my entry into the program. In addition, during my entire time at Chapman, he would assist me in any issues with entry into the classes, scheduling and any other issues related to my study at Chapman.

Guess which school I attended. In addition, the Professor kept in touch with me while I was a student. If I could not enroll in a required class due to it being full, one word to him, and I was immediately admitted to the class.

I became a student at Chapman University due to the fact that it was willing to meet my required needs and wanted me as a student. It did not relax its academic requirements. I was required to take an undergraduate class before I could be granted my graduate degree. The Adventist University could not give me the time and effort to respond with answers to my questions. I am a firm supporter of Adventist education. My education in SDA schools has included all education through a graduate degree from one SDA University. If our schools are to succeed today, they must meet individual student needs. It is because of Adventist schools that I am not only a SDA member, but I am SDA clergy. I support SDA education.

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Several years ago, as a U.S. Army Chaplain, I was due for assignment to another location in the U.S.; I contacted a local SDA elementary school in the location to which I would be assigned. I asked for information about their school and mentioned that I would enroll a so n at their school.

Shortly thereafter, I received a letter informing me that the School Board had met in special session and had voted not to accept my son as a student. It should be noted that I had not made a formal application to enroll him.

We moved to that location. I enrolled my son in the local public school. I filed a complaint with the Conference over the rejection of my son as a student.

The school informed the Conference that they did not want to enroll my son as a student. So, the Conference appointed a committee of three people to give an in-depth study of the situation. The Committee did its work and determined that the school did not have a valid reason to reject my son as a student. The Conference ordered the school to admit my son.

This process had taken several months. I decided that making this change in my son’s schooling at this late time, and forcing him into a school that did not want him, would not serve a useful purpose. So, he continued in public school.

I do not expect perfection in our SDA schools. They are administered by imperfect humans. But, if we are to be competitive, our schools, on all levels, must meet individual needs.

In another location, an elementary school, run by the Pillar of Fire denomination, competed for SDA students. It did so by assuring SDA parents that it understood their needs and their education fully met those needs in every way.

What reason did they give for not wanting to enroll your son?

The reason that they gave was personal and private. The Conference determined that their reason was not valid and in addition had not been based upon any objective fact. I had not formally applied to enroll my son.

The Conference Committee was comprised of qualified educators. It determined that the school had room to admit him to the grade level that he was at, that the teacher of that grade was qualified to teach my son, and that my son was a standard student who did not rquire more educational support than would any other student in the class of the teacher. In addition, my son had never been a disruptive student in any of his prior educaiton.

If itis of any interest: That son of mine has become a Federally Certified Police Officer. The Governor of the State in which he lives has formally honored him in a public ceremony for his official conduct in a specific situation. On another occasion, he was formally honored for entering a burning building and evacuating people from that building.

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Thank you for the response. Did your son return to SDA education at a later date?

Your son sounds like a great asset to his community.

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To catch up on several issues and thank you for your comments.

  • Aat the time my son was rejected from that one SDA School he had previous experience , successful, in a SDA School.
  • I only know what the school told me in rejecting him. I do not know what it told the Conference. The findings, that I posted, of the Conference Committee that investigated, covered what I was told, plus additional issues that had not been brought to my attention.
  • When the Governor publicly honored my son, he did not publicly disclose several issues which he kept confidential. So, I also have not disclosed them.
  • My son did not always live with me. His education included both SDA schooling, including times when he did not live with me, and public schooling. His graduation was from a public High School.
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I talk to parents. I talk to their kids. And I recommend Andrews University. But what I have learned is that you cannot force someone to succeed in life. Part of the problem is spiritual but a much larger problem is the bell curve. Many SDAs are bottom-dwellers and their kids, sadly, are not college material. For many SDA kids, going to an SDA institution of higher learning is as unthinkable as going to the moon.

I wish that everyone off our colleges would have a summer program that taught students how to succeed in college.

Further, I hope that our SDA colleges never come to the place where they accept only those near the top of the Bell Curve, as applied to grade point average (GPA). My GPA would probably place me at the mid-point of the Bell Curve. Yet, I have obtained two Masters degrees. I have served on the teaching faculty of a Federal school training people who already had a Masters degree. I feel that I have served both God and my Church within the limits of my abilities.

In my thinking, our SDA colleges should never limit their education to people with a GPA in the top part of the Bell Curve.

As per his usual, Phillip Brantley presents an incredibly offensively worded truth. As to the universities and colleges, most are the size of medium to large public high schools and have taken on much more of a progressive atmosphere in recent years. As much, they are increasingly indistinguishable from their peer institutions except for bad vegetarian food in the cafeteria. But they are much more accepting of the LGBT community and far less conservative than they were in the past. This is great progress, but they are now not going to attract the traditional Adventist students and are not good enough to attract progressive Adventist students.

Overall they are better but now have to compete on a larger stage and more will probably fail because they’ll never get to the level of the state schools and actual Ivy League institutions with which they now compete.

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I agree with your idea of providing opportunities for the average Adventist youth in our own school system. I’m a product of that kind of philosophy of education. Sadly, among other things, we’ve laid a heavy burden on our educational leaders by expecting increased enrollment year after year as a measure of their success. This is wrong, in my view.

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As an Adventist teacher for 26 years, not teaching now because I am battling leukemia and lymphoma, I see the struggles in our schools and wonder what will help us regain the passion for our students. Yes, things need to change on the collegiate level, however, we need to look at our total program. Some things that have discouraged me is the derision from some church members for our schools. This dangerous attitude is shared with school age children and their parents. Every level is attacked at some point, Kindergarten through post graduate. We need to promote the positives of our educational institutions. A rethinking needs to take place! I believe the time has come to stop thinking about schools as a particular conference or union school has passed. Much refocusing is needed, yeas we need to focus on educating students to work, to learn a trade, have educational excellence, new curriculum to teach Adventist history, and most importantly a renewed Bible centered curriculum.

There is more on my mind, but that’s years and years of frustration!

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If you were to design a greenfield system of higher Adventist education in the United States you likely would not design what we have. You’d have fewer institutions, for one thing, and thought would be given to where to place the few that would be needed. However, for many reasons, it is not realistic to bridge from where we are to whatever that might look like: cost, alumni, Union governance structure, current funding models, and more. So we will continue on in the current configuration with certain colleges surviving and certain failing. The moral dilemma is created when a weakening school can no longer offer a quality education, despite dedicated and passionate teachers, and yet it stays open.

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I completely disagree with the statement " Cutting costs is not really an option." We just need to change the model of Adventist education. We don’t need, for example. and engineering department at each school. Just pick one school that is best equipped to have an engineering program, enable it there, and cut it at the rest of the Adventist schools. Do this for each program that doesn’t bring in self sustaining numbers of students.

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I have not known the SDA colleges in the US to be terribly picky about who can be admitted, as long as the money comes in. During the 70’s, California had a good program of state scholarships, enabling many of us to attend PUC who would never gave been able to afford it. These scholarships also contributed to more students of color to attend (friends I knew from Golden Gate Academy). Those days are long gone though, and student loans/debt force msny to seekmout the best and most affordable post-high school experience.

After I was divorced, it became harder for my children to participate in the Adventist system. My daughter (then at public high school but headed for SDA college) wanted to work at camp, and my son wanted to go as a student missionary; they were passed over several times, as they came from a ‘Non traditional’ background. This was low, mean, and cruel to them, but both eventually were allowed in and had good experiences. It’s one thing to protect kids from bad influencers, but quite another to be unreasonably judgy if a kid is the least bit different from the so-called family norm.

it seems to me the main concern for most people considering an adventist education is the cost, particularly with our post-secondary schools…but where the money works out, the concept of adventist education can’t be beat…I spent my undergrad yrs on three campuses, one of which has gone under…honestly, it was a wonderful time…I remember all of it like it was just yesterday…there were sensible rules and expectations, a clear, balanced structure and schedule, and everybody was paddling in the same direction…I always felt like I was part of something successful that was going places, and that motivated me to do and be my best…

I still have friends from those yrs…I have memories of incredibly dedicated and competent professors that I consider even now…the strongest values I took from that time are integrity and independent thought…AUC was especially big on independence, and knowing what you think and believe because you’ve done your homework…

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