The present temper of American education is such that prominent Christian influences at work a generation ago in the establishment of the National Education Association are now all but forgotten. Buried in scattered historical collections, however, remain irrefutable evidences that American education was founded by men of Christian idealism and character. Their conception of “world citizenship” and of the “American way of life,” to use contemporary phrasing, involved no suppression or obscuring of great Christian beliefs. On the contrary, these founders shared a vital concern for spiritual and moral priorities as integral elements of adequate schoolroom instruction.
A Century Of Activity
In 1957, National Education Association celebrated the centennial of its founding. Nearly 20,000 teachers from 48 states and outlying territories met in Philadelphia to discuss principles and problems of education in the march of freedom.
If we search the records, we can discover from the founding educators the foundations of our American education. The year 1857 was a period of social, financial, and religious depression. Abolition and secession were fanning heated passions toward the inevitable crisis. But the Spirit of God too was moving toward revival, not only in preaching and prayer, but in the rebirth of simple people like Finney, Moody, Sankey, Fanny Crosby, and of leaders in Christian education. Horace Mann, “father of American education,” was educated in the Christian tradition of New England. William H. McGuffey’s Bible-centered Readers were going into extra editions. Charles W. Sanders’ Readers were popularizing new hymns of the Church. An obscure musician, Lowell Mason, discovered by Horace Mann, pioneered in music education. Christian ...1
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