Name: LeRoy Washington
City, State: Kamuela, Hawaii
In recent times the Ohio Conference has taken an action to close Mt Vernon Academy at the end of this school year 2015 after extending an appeal for funding and failing to meet the deadline. The Washington Conference in the North Pacific Union is also appealing for funding to keep Auburn Academy functioning as a boarding academy. If their financial goals are not met by a date certain they will be transitioning to a day academy. These are just two examples of the changing dynamics in different social settings we are facing in our educational system.
While serving on the Board of Education for the Washington Conference in the North Pacific Union, (NPUC), in the 1990’s several studies following educational trends in parochial education across denominations were forecasting changing education paradigms. Our own SDA studies paralleled many of the findings.
In our own family we witnessed some of these dynamics. Our children were students at the elementary school and academy during the mid-80’s and 90’s. Auburn Adventist Academy is a Boarding Academy. Not wanting to board our high school age children we purposely moved in the proximity of the school so the children could remain at home. During the 70’s and 80’s the ratio of dormitory to village students as approximately 70% to 30%. As time has progressed that ratio continued to change and is now almost reversed, approximately 35% to 65% dormitory to village students. For a while the international students were able to make up for the financial shortfall.
This trend impacting our secondary education which are supported more at the conference level more than our elementary education which are supported at the church constituency level, not to say that many local schools are not struggling, is causing us to evaluate and adapt to changing times in the 21st century.
This question is how do we adapt to changing times in the 21st century? How do we adapt to an increasingly diverse urban population(s), (language[s]), and membership? We have been slow in heeding the warning signs. How do we adapt and flex? How do we implement difference in abilities and learning styles; those special needs on both ends; both the exceptionally bright students and those who have challenges in learning abilities? Over the years we have catered to the average/majority. More and more in this increasingly diverse society, in the 21st century, we are being challenged in education with exceptional and differing needs at both ends of the learning spectrum.
Chester Hitchcock, a pastor of the Medina, Barberton and New Philadelphia Churches in the Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, wrote an interesting, informative article in Spectrum Magazine, February 23, 2015, pointing out statistical percentages of Adventist families taking advantage of, or not, of our education system that needs to be included in the conversation.
Paranoia and micro-managing at our higher education level (college), where families have even more options, and exercise even broader choices will be detrimental in the long run. Elementary and Secondary ‘Christian’ education are foundational is establishing religious and spiritual philosophies, higher education is responsible for preparation and exposure to the ‘real’ world in which students will encounter broad ranging and varying religious and secular philosophies. While maintaining and strengthening our religious/spiritual base failing to give exposure to, and provide a ‘world view’ very often results in a disservice when exposed without preparation or incite. It is interesting that with the furor around the biological sciences at La Sierra University a few years ago enrollment has yearly increased.