Chapter 1

The Origin of Modern Education

From the booklet Education With Vision
By Stephen Flurry

There is no shortage of knowledge in this information Age. King Solomon was inspired to write in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “[O]f making many books there is no end ….” And if that was true three thousand years ago, what about now? We are living in the midst of an incredible knowledge explosion.

Even before Solomon, by about a thousand years, Bible history tells us of another knowledge explosion of sorts. After the Flood, many of Noah’s descendants gathered in the plains of Mesopotamia. They multiplied greatly and gathered themselves in cities to expedite knowledge production. They built a giant tower in the city of Babylon. This brick skyscraper stretched high above the Earth’s surface, much like its modern counterparts in large cities today. Genesis 11 says they built the tower to make a name for themselves. It is clearly implied that they did it to defy God.

This got God’s attention. “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (verses 5-6).

Here is how the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary interprets this passage: “They will shrink from nothing, however hard or presumptuous, which they may wish to accomplish; so that the evil already in the world will be fearfully increased, and its diffusion accelerated, by this ungodly association, unless means are taken for its immediate dissolution” (emphasis mine throughout). The Babylonians had made significant progress—acquired much knowledge. But their evils had also multiplied greatly. And God knew their sins would only get worse if this knowledge explosion continued unabated. So He intervened to slow down the acceleration of evil.

We are reliving that same history today—except that God has yet to intervene.

The awesome amount of knowledge man has produced, especially in the last century, makes the head spin. But it has not solved the problems of this world. In fact, our problems have only gotten worse.

For every two marriages in America this year, one will end up in divorce. Yet, since World War ii, we have been flooded with movies, programs, books, pamphlets and articles on the subjects of love, marriage and sex. Why so much divorce?

Most young people become sexually active before they reach 20. And each year, one out of 10 teenagers contracts a sexually transmitted disease. Almost 1 million teenagers in the u.s. become pregnant each year. Just over half of these pregnancies end in births, about one third in abortion, and the rest in miscarriage (1999, Alan Guttmacher Institute). No amount of modern sexual “education” seems to be curbing these alarming statistics.

Each year, about 20,000 Americans are murdered within the country’s own borders. The u.s. has been in wars abroad where the casualty count was much less, yet the public outcry far worse!

America is the richest, most prosperous nation in the history of civilization. Yet, in 2001, 11.7 percent of Americans lived below the poverty level. One year later, that number increased to 12.1 percent (34.6 million people). That is a paradox. And what of the abysmal conditions in Third World countries?

One certain reason for widespread poverty is the fighting and war within nations. Saddam Hussein’s regime is but the latest example of a government that abused and tortured its subjects. He killed thousands of his own people—some with biological weapons. Rwanda is another fairly recent example. In 1994, that Third World nation lost close to one million of its citizens to genocide! Think about that—one million people. And of course, many pages could also be written about modern military conflicts between nations.

Yet mankind’s climb toward worldwide annihilation has been closely followed by the persistent acquisition of massive amounts of knowledge. In the prosperous nations of the West, more students are going to college than ever before. In the u.s., since the 1950s, the number of colleges has almost doubled! Over 45 percent of all Americans over age 25 have gone to college. A hundred years ago, only four percent of men between the ages of 18 and 21 were enrolled in college.

All of this knowledge. All of these unhappy, miserable, violent conditions. Why the paradox?

For decades now, many of the most educated scientists have insisted that the solution to all of the problems of society could be found if only we were given sufficient knowledge. It seems the great educators and politicians of the day still cling to such faulty logic. It is time for the great minds of this day to face facts. World evils are increasing as fast as knowledge! Why the paradox? Can the increase in knowledge and the skyrocketing evils possibly be connected? Could the one be the cause of the other? The fact is, every effect has one or more causes. So what is the cause of the unhappy conditions found in society today?

Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote concerning this paradox: “That does not necessarily mean that the knowledge produced caused the evils. It does mean that the knowledge produced did not cure existing evils or prevent new evils” (The Missing Dimension in Sex, page 9; request your free copy of this vital book). In other words, there is something missing in the knowledge man has acquired.

Elsewhere, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “What is wrong? Is it wrong to acquire or possess knowledge? No, but there are two kinds of knowledge—true and false—right and wrong—good and evil. In pursuit of knowledge man has used one source—the ‘scientific’ method of experimentation, discovery and reason” (Plain Truth, August-September 1970).

Furthermore, he wrote, “[E]rrors almost always come from a false basic premise …” (The Missing Dimension in Sex, page 10).

Man started off in the wrong direction, and, even though some of the knowledge acquired along the way has been good, it’s all based on the wrong premise. Therefore, man has yet to arrive at the desired result, or effect!

The Scientific Method of Knowledge Production

We can actually trace this faulty direction in this world’s knowledge accumulation right back to the first book of the Bible.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26). Do you suppose that knowing who you are and why you exist has anything to do with the right kind of education? It does if you are interested in starting off on the right premise.

Man was created out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), yet God placed within him a human spirit (Job 32:8; request our free booklet What Science Can’t Discover About the Human Mind). After placing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God began to reveal a certain set of guidelines or boundaries. Notice: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Right away we see revelation from God; the revealed knowledge of what is right and wrong. God revealed a certain set of boundaries to Adam and Eve. He told them what they could and could not eat. God was educating them! And they had to trust Him—to believe that what He was teaching was right.

But in Genesis 3, we see where false education began.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:1-4). Whom would they believe? God or Satan? To this point, Adam and Eve only had God’s word that they were mortal and could die. The devil tried to convince them that there were no God-ordained boundaries and that they could not die.

Verse 5: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” In effect, Satan said, “You can know good and evil, you can set your own boundaries, by experimenting for yourself!” Adam and Eve were confronted with two choices. They could know good and evil by taking God’s word for it, or they could know by experimentation.

They chose the latter. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (verse 6).

Mr. Armstrong wrote, “They pioneered in deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong—what is righteousness and what is sin! And humanity has been doing what seems right in its own eyes ever since.

“And how did they do it? They 1) rejected revelation, 2) used observation, 3) used experimentation and 4) used human reason. And that is precisely the ‘scientific’ method used by modern science today!” (ibid., page 16).

Adam and Eve rejected God’s word, observed the fruit, experimented with it by deciding to taste it, and then reasoned that it was pretty good and would not cause harm. They decided that the way to know if God was right or wrong was to put it to the test—by experiment. Webster’s defines experiment, “test, trial, experience; to try out a new procedure, idea or activity.”

In other words, Adam and Eve conducted the first scientific experiment. And once they rejected God’s revelation as the foundation of all knowledge, God cut them off from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). That knowledge, which is still cut off from the majority of mankind today, is the missing dimension in education. That missing dimension is revelation from God!

Why would God do such a thing? Is that fair, to cut off something that is good? Later, we will see why He did it.

It is because this missing dimension has been cut off from man that there has been so much suffering today. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “I found revealed the fact that the very foundation of education to fit one for happy and successful living is being totally ignored. That foundation is awareness of the purpose of life, knowledge of what man is, recognition of the true values as opposed to the false, and knowledge of the way which is the cause of every desired effect. That knowledge is the dimension that is missing in today’s education” (Plain Truth, October 1975). Because the “great” minds of this world are cut off from spiritual knowledge, modern education began on a false, basic premise. For that reason, it has become almost entirely materialistic.

The Missing Dimension

Romans 1 also identifies this missing dimension in education. Verse 18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” The Revised Standard Version translates hold as suppress. God says carnal men have suppressed His truth.

Continue in Romans 1:19: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.” God has already shown man what is missing from his pursuit of knowledge. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (verse 20). God is an invisible spirit (John 4:24). But the works of His hands are there for all to see in His creation—if we will just open our eyes. Man, however, has been blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Continue in Romans 1: “[F]or although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened” (verse 21, rsv). As Mr. Armstrong summed up in his final book, Mystery of the Ages, “The billions now living on Earth not only are ignorant of the most important knowledge—who and what God is—they seem not to want to know! They are willingly in ignorance of this most important knowledge and relationship possible in human life!” (page 33; this book is available to you free upon request).

Man has acquired enormous amounts of knowledge, but he has rejected the knowledge that is most important—the revelation of who and what is God, and what is His purpose for man. That is why God views the “wise” of this world as fools (verse 22; see also Psalms 14:1 and 1 Corinthians 3:19).

Because of man’s rejection of revealed knowledge, God is simply allowing human nature to run its course. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind [meaning a mind void of judgment; a worthless mind], to do those things which are not convenient [or lawful]” (Romans 1:28). Man’s accumulation of knowledge today does not retain God’s knowledge! Paul then describes the end result of this godless pursuit of knowledge: a world that is absolutely filled with unrighteousness, with every imagined evil (read verses 29-32).

Concerning education’s role in rejecting God’s knowledge, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Little or nothing is taught about God, but even in the elementary grades the basic concept—the approach to knowledge—is evolution.

“Is it any wonder, then, that the scholarly do not know who or what God is? They believe what they have been taught” (ibid., page 36).

Man’s system of education, with its vast accumulation of knowledge, at best is incomplete. It’s like a massive structure built without a foundation. In chapter 2, we will further examine the right foundation on which education should be built.

Development of Modern Education

Education, as defined in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, is “an attempt on the part of the adult members of a human society to shape the development of the coming generation in accordance with its own ideals of life.” In other words, education is what man has made it to be.

What we call “modern” education traces its origins back to Plato, the pagan Greek philosopher whose educational influence extended over the first half of the 4th century. He was the first to establish a regular curriculum in a fixed place. He called it the academy.

Plato’s educational philosophy was similar to that of the Greek philosophers before him. Paul encountered some of these types at Mars hill. “[A]ll the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). Their philosophy, like Plato’s, was on gaining some new knowledge—not on building character! It is a system founded upon vanity. The human mind is the god of education in this world.

For centuries now, society’s greatest educators have been taught in schools modeled after Plato’s academy. “The influence of Plato has extended far beyond the limits of the Platonic schools,” notes Encyclopedia Britannica. The first college of our modern pattern was the University of Paris, founded in the 12th century. Oxford soon followed.

Some of the oldest and most prestigious schools in America include Harvard, Yale and Princeton. In 1819, Thomas Jefferson established the first state school, the University of Virginia, in an effort to divorce education from religion altogether.

But in this 20th century, perhaps no influence has done more to saturate our educational system in materialism than German rationalism.

German Rationalism

Webster’s has two interesting definitions for rationalism: “1) The principle or habit of accepting reason as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief or conduct. 2) The doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth.” In other words, there is no real authority; there is no absolute right or wrong; there are no boundaries; you decide for yourself! That sounds strikingly similar to the approach Adam and Eve used!

One of the most influential fathers of this free-thinking approach was German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Revolt against the whole civilized environment in which he was brought up is the keynote of Nietzsche’s literary career. His revolt against Christian faith and morals turns him into a proudly atheistic ‘free-thinker,’ and preacher of a new ‘master’ morality, which transposes the current valuations, deposes the ‘Christian virtues,’ and incites the ‘over-man’ ruthlessly to trample under foot the servile herd of the weak, degenerate and poor in spirit.” Nietzsche spent the better part of his life in health resorts because of his frail, sickly nature. In 1888, at the age of 44, he was pronounced hopelessly insane and remained that way until he died in 1900. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica realizes that “Nietzsche’s writings must be understood in their relation to these circumstances of his life.”

Nietzsche was a proponent of the theory of nihilism, which says that “traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless.” This philosophy is at the heart of German rationalism. Since traditional values and beliefs are unfounded, rationalistic thought instead embraces what is called value relativism. In 1987, Professor Alan Bloom of the University of Chicago wrote about this intellectual phenomenon in his book The Closing of the American Mind.

According to Webster’s, relativism is “a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.” Bloom showed in his book this thinking amounts to “a great release from the perpetual tyranny of good and evil, with their cargo of shame and guilt, and the endless efforts that pursuit of the one and the avoidance of the other enjoin.” He wrote how this “longing to shuck off constraints and have one peaceful, happy world is the first of the affinities between our real American world and that of German philosophy in its most advanced form.”

Bloom incisively explained how this modern form of thinking was embraced by American universities after World War ii. He highlighted two philosophers who profoundly influenced this way of thinking in American schools: Freud and Weber. And these two, Bloom said, “were profoundly influenced by Nietzsche.”

Many years before Bloom authored his critical analysis, Mr. Armstrong correctly identified the main problem emerging in modern education. In 1965, he wrote, “The 19th and 20th centuries have witnessed the absorption of German ‘rationalism’ into the educational bloodstream. There has been a dangerous drift into materialism and collectivism. God is ignored. Revelation is rejected” (Plain Truth, August 1965).

Rationalism is the belief that human reason is the final authority—the chief source of all knowledge. Encyclopedia Britannica defines the term this way: “In its commonest use it is applied to all who decline to accept the authority of the Bible as the infallible record of a divine revelation, and is practically synonymous with free-thinking. This type of rationalism is based largely upon the results of modern historical and archaeological investigation. The story of the creation in the book of Genesis is shown, from the point of view of chronology, to be a poetic or symbolic account by the discovery of civilizations of much greater antiquity.”

Trouble at Harvard

Again, notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex: “In this feverish development of knowledge production, scholars in universities have been placing emphasis on academic freedom. Academic freedom is defined as the independent judgment allowed teachers, scholars, scientists, students, in the pursuit of knowledge. … Science as a whole … [has] rejected utterly revelation as a source of basic knowledge!” (page 9).

Rationalism, nihilism, value relativism and academic freedom are all terms that essentially mean no boundaries! And the first students to pursue this type of education were Adam and Eve. For 6,000 years now, the rest of mankind has followed suit.

Each year, in my Principles of Living college course, I have my students read a wonderful article printed in Esquire in September 1981. It is titled, “The Trouble With Harvard.” The author, Timothy Foote, graduated from Harvard in 1952. He wrote, “Many students drift through Harvard with a nagging sense of failure and anxiety. ‘There is so much freedom here,’ says Kiyo Morimoto, ‘that studies become extracurricular. And you can’t get through if your studies are extracurricular.’ … You didn’t have to go to class because nobody took attendance. And you could get unlimited extensions on papers during the term …

“Morimoto is worried about Harvard’s objections to using authority, all up and down the line: it’s not insisting that students get papers in on time, not insisting on formal meetings between students and advisers, students and tutors, even between students and faculty. ‘Harvard is deeply ambiguous about authority,’ he says, ‘about being firm and clear and unambiguous.’ Today all authority is seen as negative.”

That’s academic freedom. There is no right or wrong. You decide. Harvard students, Foote continued, “are turned loose in a system practically without discipline, or order, or viable requirements, or supervision, or even advice.”

Granted, not all universities are that lax with respect to structure and discipline. But this is, after all, Harvard—arguably America’s most prestigious educational institution.

Harvard was at the forefront of change during the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Foote quoted one professor as saying, “On any given night, the odds are against finding anyone in his or her own bed.”

“Few people seem to disagree,” Foote continued. “By the standards of the age, there’s nothing wrong in that, either. Except that it tends to produce large amounts of emotional exhaustion, domestic squalor, and sheer noise.” In fact, a thousand Harvard students per year seek some sort of psychological counseling. And each term, 450 students are granted medical excuses for putting off exams. So much freedom! So many sick, emotionally immature students.

Foote concluded, “In a society more preoccupied with the labels on the suitcase than with what’s inside, Harvard is still the best label in town.”

It sure is a nice-looking label. But is true education in the label—or in what’s inside?

Anciently, the great scholars in Greece and Rome placed great impetus on constantly gaining new knowledge—some new thing. Both of those empires eventually crumbled. In the United States today, many of the most prestigious schools are located in an environment of moral and social decay. And like those great empires before us, we will also eventually topple as a society, unless we come to realize that education is not something you go out and get! It’s a way of life. But the “great” educators of this society are ignorant of this fact. And their masses of pupils never stop to question their educational methods.

Mr. Armstrong wrote, “To question this world’s system of education, or its standards, would seem ridiculous. That’s because people are prone to assume—to carelessly take for granted without question whatever is popular—whatever has general public acceptance” (Plain Truth, December 1965). Other American universities do not question Harvard. They look to Harvard as the standard!

Two Main Problems in Education

In the above-mentioned Plain Truth article, Mr. Armstrong pinpointed the two main problems in education today: 1) what is being taught; and 2) how it is being taught.

First, what is being taught? A mixture of truth and error. Remember, Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is some good. There are many courses in school that are basic and fundamental to a child’s development; courses in math, reading, writing, spelling, literature, etc. But schools are way off on the most basic knowledge each child should understand: Why man? What is the purpose for life? We are missing this most vital knowledge of all! That is why our society is destined to crumble as those before us. “My people are destroyed for lack of [God’s] knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee …” (Hosea 4:6).

The second main problem with education is how it is being taught. Education has become a system of memory training only. This “educational method,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “instills the habit of assuming—of carelessly taking for granted—without question—whatever is commonly accepted” (ibid.).

In short, children are not being taught how to think, but to merely follow along with the rest of the crowd. It is only a fraction of humanity who truly know why they believe what they do!

Education today teaches students how to be followers—not leaders. Our world fills the minds of people with false education from early childhood. And because we like to be well thought of, to be liked, and to be accepted, people are trapped into conforming—into following the false teachings of this world like blind sheep!

The Results of the Experiment

For 6,000 years, man has been doing what seems right with regard to education. But God says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12). That “way” began in the Garden of Eden.

Mr. Armstrong wrote, “In taking to themselves the forbidden fruit, the first humans took to themselves the determination of what is good and what is evil. I repeat—in so doing, they rejected the fact that God’s living, inexorable spiritual law is the way of good—the cause of all good—and its transgression the way of evil—the cause of all evil. Since they and humanity in general after them have taken to themselves the determination of what is good, they of necessity have followed the way contrary to God’s law. They have followed the way that has produced all the vast mountain of evils that has descended on this sick, sick world!” (The Missing Dimension in Sex, page 17). Instead of heeding what God said, they decided to experiment with God’s knowledge. Man insists on eating forbidden fruit to see if it is really bad for him. Of course, the Bible does not contain all knowledge. God expected man to develop new knowledge. But it had to be based on revealed knowledge if man was ever to be truly educated!

Instead, man has made a botch of everything he has touched! Man became so twisted and perverted in the days of Noah that God was actually sorry for ever creating us! (Genesis 6:5-6).

Because of man’s descent into materialistic education in the days of Nimrod and the tower of Babel, God had to confound his language just to keep it from getting so bad, so fast! (Genesis 11:6-7).

God prophesied that this end time would be as bad as the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39). We have already covered statistics illustrating this fact.

For 6,000 years, man has virtually destroyed every part of this creation he was intended to beautify and maintain. For 6,000 years, man has experimented with what is right and wrong. He has educated himself in this knowledge. And the result? Mr. Armstrong wrote, “[H]umanity has produced, also, a vast mountain of evils. His fund of knowledge is a mixture of good and evil—true and false—he has produced a civilization full of empty lives, discontent, unhappiness, pain and suffering, crime, immorality, broken homes and family life, corruption, injustice, unfairness, violence, pollution, war and death. Yet man refuses to believe the results of his own experiment” (Plain Truth, August-September 1970).

The results of mankind’s misguided experiment are there for all to see. But man fails to look at those results. “Humans do not learn well from experience, nor all at once,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “The lesson of the forbidden fruit has not been learned by humanity in 6,000 years” (Autobiography vol. 1).

Steering the Ship

From Every Man a King, by Orison Marden

A certain man of no great learning, so runs an old legend, fell heir to a ship. He knew nothing of the sea, nothing of navigation or engineering, but the notion seized him to take a voyage and command his own ship. The ship was gotten under way, the self-appointed captain allowing the crew to go ahead with their usual duties, as the multiplicity of operations confused the amateur navigator. Once headed out to sea, however, the work grew simpler, and the captain had time to observe what was going on. As he strolled on the forward deck, he saw a man turning a big wheel, now this way, now that.

“What in the world is that man doing?” he asked.

“That’s the helmsman. He is steering the ship.”

“Well, I don’t see any use in his fiddling away there all the time. There’s nothing but water ahead, and I guess the sails can push her forward. When there’s land in sight, or a ship coming head on, there’ll be time enough to do steering. Put up all the sails and let her go.”

The order was obeyed, and the few survivors of the wreck that followed had cause to remember the foolish captain who thought a ship steered herself.

You say no such man ever existed, and you are right. That isn’t admitting that no such foolishness exists, however. You wouldn’t be so foolish, would you?

Think a moment. Are you not in command of something more delicate, more precious, than any ship—your own life, your own mind? How much attention are you giving to the steering of that mind?

Continue Reading: Chapter 2: What Is True Education?