An Open Letter – A Protestant Reformed High School

Dear Young People:
Recently it has been announced in our churches of the Grand Rapids area that plans are well on the way for the establishing of a Protestant Reformed Christian High School. The reactions to this announcement have been many and varied. Undoubtedly also among you this announcement did not go without notice. At your point in life high school is very important. Any plans which are apt to affect high school education are sure to be of interest. It makes little difference whether you are in junior high looking forward to high school, whether you are a high school student at present, whether you have recently completed high school, or even whether you live in a territory not directly affected by this announcement; in any one of these cases you can hardly escape asking yourselves the question, “Would I care to attend such a Protestant Reformed High School?” It is because I am concerned about the answer which you might give to this question that I am writing you this letter.
I do not know, of course, exactly what your answer to this question may be. I have not tried to conduct a poll of our young people on this matter; and, if I would, many of you would very likely be hesitant or would find it difficult to tell me exactly what you think. Nonetheless, I have the feeling that, if we could learn exactly what you think, we would find there to be a number of you who are somewhat skeptical, by which we mean, there would be a number of you who are doubtful whether you would really care to attend such a school.
The exact reason for this feeling on your part we do not know. Maybe you do not know very exactly yourselves. Yet, it would seem, most of them would arise from the fact that the present Christian High Schools which you attend are much larger and more impressive in size than a Protestant Reformed High School could ever be. The results of this are to you important. In the present Christian Schools there are a great number of young people from your own age group. Thus many opportunities are provided for you to make and maintain social contacts. These social contacts both during school hours and in extra-curricular activities do much to make your years in school pleasant. Furthermore, in a large school there are other opportunities which young people appreciate. There is, for example, the opportunity for a large and active athletic program. From a large student body there can usually be gathered many very capable teams in various sports. These teams are a pleasure to watch; they serve to represent the school over against other schools; they serve to arouse within the student body a feeling of school pride. Finally, when there is a large school, a large diversity of subjects can be offered from which each student can choose at least some subject which is according to his own particular interests. Just exactly how important these various considerations are is subject to different opinions by different people. To you the students they are usually quite important. They build within you a certain school-loyalty to the present Christian High Schools which you might be hesitant to transfer to a smaller school of our own.
My purpose in writing this letter to you is not to debate with you how important these considerations ought to be. My purpose is rather to point you to another consideration which is far more important and to urge you not to neglect it. That which I have in mind is essentially spiritual, and it will require that you look at it from the point of view of faith. You will have to consider it as a mature person, more as an adult than as a child.
First, I would like you to ask of yourselves this question, “What is the real reason for which I go to school?” The considerations which we have just mentioned are, of course, important to you as young people. They interest you and take up a large part of your time and your thoughts. Nevertheless, you must realize that they do not form the real reasons why you are given an education. You do not go to school just so that you may have a part in certain social contacts and activities. Neither is it so that you may have an opportunity to take part in or observe fascinating athletic contests. In fact, you do not even go to school just so that you may take certain special subjects or “electives” which happen to strike your interest. The real purpose of education is much deeper than this.
The fact of the matter is that as you go on in life you will meet numberless problems. When each of these problems come, you will have to decide what you will do with it. Even more, as a Christian, you will have to decide how to meet each problem in accord with the principles of Christianity so as to give all glory unto God. That is the reason for your education. You are sent to school so that you may be instructed and prepared to live as a child of God in the midst of this world of sin. Each subject which you take should be adapted to prepare you for some aspect of Christian life.
The world, of course, has an entirely different purpose for education. We may expect, therefore, that within the public schools education is essentially quite different from that which should be found in the Christian Schools. The sad fact is, however, that the present Christian high Schools are staffed in large part by teachers who are committed to the error of common grace. According to this they believe that the attitudes and ways of the world are not necessarily wrong. They are left quite free, thereby, to follow and practice the educational principles of the world. The lesson of history is that once such an error has taken hold, its effects will continue to grow.
Perhaps, to you who are students, these effects of common grace are not very evident. This need not surprise you. Matters of principle are not always the easiest to detect. It may be difficult enough for you when you are older, to say nothing of now when you are young. It is quite possible that if you would for a time attend a public school, you would notice surprisingly little that was actually wrong. Just the same, although not always very noticeable, the difference is there. Through the months and years it is having its effect on the teaching and is leaving its impression. The divergence which is hardly noticeable at first leads to a radical difference in the end. It is for this reason that we need a high school of our own.
Such a school will require, in the first place, a complete and thorough curriculum. Size will impose its limitations, but it must not infringe upon the basic quality of education. All necessary subjects must be taught. In the second place, our school will require qualified and dedicated teachers. Not only will they require complete preparation in their subject matter, but the will have to search out and be able to present the Christian approach to that aspect of life represented in each particular subject. (This also presents a challenge to you, for from your ranks the teachers of the future will have to come.) Finally, our school will require a body of students who understand the seriousness and importance of the education which they are receiving. It is the attitude of the pupils that will do much to determine the quality of the school.
In closing I would urge that you, our young people, strive to understand and appreciate the work which is being done to establish a Protestant Reformed High School. If seriously you do so, it will provide you with a pleasure which no other school could ever afford.

Yours in Jesus Christ,
Rev. Bernard Woudenberg

Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 6 August-September 1959