Shortages in Education

Oscar Handlin, in a recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly, warns us that we are utterly unprepared to take care of the tidal wave of students now sweeping toward the schools and colleges of our nation, and he presents a gloomy set of statistics to prove his point. “The teacher shortage alone has become so acute,” says he, “that a whole generation faces the prospect of a totally inadequate education.”


Professor Handlin is by no means the first to have warned us respecting this matter. Many others have alerted us to a growing shortage of teachers. We are immediately concerned with this in our own Christian Schools. We must have moro teachers!

This morning, however, I wish to speak about other shortages in our nation’s schools. I have in mind, first, a shortage in teaching. To the cry. We lack teachers! I should like to add the shout, We lack teaching! I do not mean there is a shortage of courses listed in the catalogues of our colleges. For that matter there mar be too many courses, especially in those schools that give credit for pitching horseshoes. When I speak of a shortage of teaching. I have something else in mind. The first question with a teacher, as with every practitioner in every province, must be, Why am I doing what I am doing? What is the end that gives meaning to all the intermediate processes? The lamentable thing about so many teachers is that they either ignore that question or give it the wrong answer.

The right answer is not difficult to state. The teacher’s aim should be to confront the related learner with truth in its relations. The learner is related. He is never isolated in the learning process. Absolute segregation is impossible to a creature made in God’s image. He may succeed in screening himself from human society, but always he sustains relations to God. Man was created that way. And it is tho business of good teaching to see the learner in that light and to teach him accordingly.

Moreover. the teacher in transmitting truth is not competent unless he presents truth in its relations. Just as there is no absolutely segregated individual, so there is no segregated fact. Facts are what they are because God made them so. Facts, then, sustain relations, to each other and to God. When God is not recognized as the Maker of facts, you do not have real teaching, no more than when He is not recognized as the Maker of man.

We have a teacher shortage, and we have a shortage in real teaching. the kind of teaching that confronts the related learner with truth in its relations. One of the distinctions of Calvin College is that its faculty is committed to real teaching as I have defined it. You students should be thankful that you are enrolled in a college like that. Don’t fret about when you are going to get out. Be thankful you got in!

Then we have a shortage of students in the schools of our nation. What is a student? He is a person engaged in study. He enters school with that engagement in mind. Many there are who enter college with another engagement in mind. But a real student puts first things first. After all, the marriage altar is not man’s chief end. The student takes life seriously. He thinks much about preparation for life and for vicarious service. He sees himself as a responsible creature. Hence, he spends his time wisely; he budgets it prudently. William Allen White once said, “The rise in the economic status of the average American family has made it possible for thousands of young people to go to colleges who have no cultural background whatever, who are not interested in books or reading, who regard education as merely an equipment for making a living.”

We don’t want that said of anyone of you. Let’s not have a shortage of students at Calvin. Make the most of the time that you have. You may not have as much as you think. And by all means pray big prayers in the name of Christ, for God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).