This editorial will appear in the October 2009 North American Division edition of Adventist World magazine.
By Larry Blackmer (NAD Vice President of Education)
Seventh-day Adventist education exists to help students and families come to know Jesus as a personal Friend and Savior, as well as to inculcate Adventist values in our children. The high academic success that has been shown to exist in Adventist schools (see www.cognitivegenesis.org), the safe environments, and the many quality teachers are only the icing on the cake. But the true mission of Adventist education is to foster and promote the studentsâ€™ spiritual connections.
One area of concern, both for those at the division office and for teachers in the field, is the use of secular textbooksâ€”particularly in the area of scienceâ€”to instruct the students. The North American Division (NAD) Curriculum Committee reviewed the textbook options in November 2007, and although a secular series was recommended by a subcommittee, we decided that the issues in relationship to creation/evolution, anti-theistic values and teaching, and the lack of faith integration in a secular series were diametrically opposed to the mission of why we exist and what we need to teach in our schools. It was voted, therefore, to develop a new, distinctly Adventist science series.
This textbook series, called By Design: A Journey Through Excellence in Science, is being developed for students in grades 1-8, and will be a scientifically current, inquiry-based series, as opposed to content-driven books. This means the use of more hands-on learning and open-ended questions, rather than just asking students to read the book and then answer the questions at the end of the chapters. Its content will be developed around the goals and concepts set by the NAD Journey to Excellence (see www.journeytoexcellence.org), and will include a strong health component. Associated with the project will be a full technology module that will include a test bank for teachers, Web sites, WebQuests, interactive simulations, lab activities, and Web-based demonstrations and activities. The books will also be produced in an electronic PDF format.
Simultaneously with the mainstream product, we will be producing a small-school and a homeschool version. The NAD Office of Education believes that every Adventist child deserves an Adventist education, and this is one way that we can help Adventist and like-minded Christian families provide a faith-based science program for their homeschooled children. It is our intent, through the publisher, to develop and market this series in Christian schools and homeschools across the country. Administrators and teachers from other Christian schools have already heard about the series and have asked permission to use it in their own schools. We will receive some royalties for these uses, which will allow us to continually upgrade the series and keep it current.
Those of us in the NAD Office of Education believe we should not ask parents to pay tuition at an Adventist school and then provide that school with anti-theistic, evolutionary-based, secular textbooks for children to study. Although we can produce teacher materials that will â€œteach around evolution,â€ the students and parents are still receiving the textbooks and are reading the material as factual. We will include in the new Adventist series a thorough discussion of the theory of evolution, yet the lessons will bring students back to the Bible as the ultimate authority.
This is a major undertaking for the Adventist Church. The Curriculum Committee voted that the NAD will pay for the development of the series, which will lower the final purchase price of the textbooks for the schools.
The NAD Office of Education also has recently developed an integrated language arts curriculum that is faith-based, and the books are intentionally edited to advocate Adventist values. The lessons help students develop strong reading and writing skills, and they have been well received. We are still paying for the development of that series, which is hindering our ability to fund the new science series. The cost to develop and implement the science series is $2.5 million. So farâ€”between what the division is covering as well as donations from foundations and private donorsâ€”we have raised $1.8 million. We are left with the goal of raising $700,000 within the next four years.
This project is core to continuing to provide distinctive Adventist education to all our children and young adults. Presenting creation-based science wrapped in biblical values is what we must doâ€”but we need your financial assistance to accomplish the goal.
If you would like to support this essential ministry, please send donations to Science Textbooks, NAD Office of Education, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904. Make checks payable to NAD SDA. If you would like more information see www.nadeducation.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301.680.6441.
We canâ€™t offer anything less than solid, biblically based Adventist education to our children. Please prayerfully consider what you can do to help support this vital ministry.