My father-in-law, James Bramblet, is a true pioneer in the Christian school movement. Even though I had heard of him before I met and married his daughter Janet in 2003, I had no idea what a great man of God and a giant among Christian school educators he truly is. It has been my privilege and blessing to get to know him. I appreciate his insight and wisdom.
The following interview was conducted at his house in Tacoma, Washington on July 31, 2005. Many thanks to the administrative secretary here at the school for converting the tape of this interview into a transcript.
RL: This is Ron Livesay. I’m interviewing my father-in-law, James Bramblet, and I’m going to ask him to introduce himself and tell a little about himself before we get into some of the specific questions.
JB: My name is James Bramblet and I’ve spent most of my adult life as a Christian school worker, covering a period of well over 40 years. I started way back – I’m an old man now – and I started way back when I was quite young. I started several schools, was on the board of ASCI for a while, working in Oregon, Washington, and California. I have some very definite ideas about Christian education.
RL: How did you get started? When did you know the Lord wanted you involved in Christian education and how did it all develop?
JB: The first I ever heard about Christian schools was when I was 19 or 20 in Bible school at Multnomah. A person came to chapel and told us about the school he was starting, a school in Portland – Portland Christian. I’d never heard of that before. I thought I was in Bible school to become a missionary or a pastor. I began at that time to think about Christian schools. And then before I graduated, I decided I would go back to Idaho where I came from. There were a lot of communities in Idaho without a church. So I would find a job as a teacher in one of those communities and start a church at the same time. Turned out I didn’t end up doing that.
I finished Bible school, went to the University of Idaho, majored in education and became a teacher. I worked as a teacher in Elk River, Idaho for a couple of years, and by then I had four children. I didn’t particularly want them to go to public school. I saw what was happening there, so I contacted Portland Christian to see if there were any job openings there, and I was put in touch with a new Christian school in Portland. I was interviewed by their board to become principal and teacher at West Hills Christian School. That’s when I began to realize that’s what the Lord wanted me to do.
While I was there, I took a course … on the philosophy of Christian education … and it changed my mind. I had taken a course on the philosophy of education at the University of Idaho and realized it was all wrong … that it was not Christian. I began, from then on, to change my way of teaching so that it was definitely Christian rather than secular.
RL: Could you summarize what you mean by Christian or Biblical philosophy of education?
JB: Yes, I think it’s summarized best in Ephesians 6:4, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This has several things about Christian education. First of all, it says who is responsible for educating children – …it’s fathers who are the ones responsible. So, as far as I’m concerned, Christian schools are there to help parents educate their children.
The second thing we have in this verse is the definition of the word “educate.” It’s “bring up a child.” We have a phrase, “lead out,” which is not right. It’s not what the word “educate” means. They deliberately changed the meaning of the word “educate.” When you go to the modern dictionaries, it says “to lead out.” But when you go back 100 years, dictionaries say “to bring up a child.” The difference is that the responsibility is given to the parents. If the parents turn that responsibility over to a teacher, then the teacher has that responsibility. But you’re not “leading out.” Children are born sinners, so if you “lead them out” then you’ll be leading out the sin. What we have to do is “bring them up.” We have the responsibility to enforce with them a Christian standard and teach it to them.
That’s the second thing, the meaning of the word “education.” Then, in the “nurture and admonition,” that’s two different kinds of education. One has to do with discipline or moral training, the other has to do with instruction of the factual things you teach. We’re responsible for both. In order to have moral training, that’s what we call discipline, that’s part of education, that we enforce Christian standards on these children. We don’t allow them to decide what they’re going to do. We have Christian standards, both in the Christian home and in the Christian school, and those standards are enforced.
The other one has to do with instruction. It says it is “of the Lord,” and there is a Christian way to instruct about the facts. Many Christian educators, so called, have been deceived by the world into thinking that there are such things as secular subjects. The only reason they seem to be secular is that they’ve been secularized. Scripture makes if very clear that God created everything. In other words, all truth, then, is God’s truth. If it’s not God’s truth, it’s not truth. So then we need to realize that mathematics is not a secular subject. English is not a secular subject. History is not a secular subject. Even physical education is not a secular subject.
Our God has created us in every aspect of our lives, and this too needs to be passed on to our children in every subject. This doesn’t mean that if we are teaching them mathematics, that every lesson is all about God. But they need to understand that God created mathematics and that He gave the truth about mathematics to us … and as they work these problems, they need to know that they are thinking God’s thoughts after Him. If they make a mistake, then they’re not thinking God’s thoughts. God stands for truth, and they need to try to strive to find the correct answer … and they need to understand that they’re dealing with things of God, because when God created the universe, He did it mathematically. Scientists who study the universe have to know mathematics. God created the universe after a mathematical formula. It’s very easy to demonstrate that, and the students studying math need to understand that so that when they come out of math class, they should have confidence that they’ve been studying the truth of God. It’s the same thing when they come out of their science class. They’ve been studying the things that God has created, and there should be rejoicing over all the wonderful things that He has made … And they will appreciate knowing that they are not just studying dull old subjects, but that they’re studying the truth of God.
RL: Obviously you’ve seen a lot of changes in the schools since you were a pioneer in Christian schools. What changes have you seen over the years?
JB: One the of the things that has dragged down Christian schools is that so many want to have the approval of the state – have state certified teachers and state approval of the schools. But the problem is that the people who are in the secular philosophy of education, really started by John Dewey, purposely wanted to get rid of Christian emphasis, so in order to get a state teacher’s certificate, you have to go to one of their colleges and be brainwashed into this secular idea of education – just as I was at the University of Idaho.
… John Dewey said this very clearly, “If we are going to have a really democratic country, we’ve got to get rid of the Christian idea that there are two kinds of people, the saved and the lost.” He said we must have a religion that’s for everybody. And this business of “dividing the county, between the saved and the lost … we have to get rid of that.”
RL: One of the things we hear so much about today in modern education and modern psychology is this concept of self-esteem – that we don’t have to worry so much about what the students learn as we do about how they feel about themselves.
JB: This idea of self-esteem – I call it a cult. It has taken over the thinking of so many people. It isn’t in the Bible. It didn’t start in a Christian place. It started in modern psychology. Then we had Christian psychologists who picked it up and brought it over into the Christian realm. When we look at the Bible, we discover that “self” and “esteem” are only used together in one verse of Scripture. That’s in Philippians 2:3, where it says, “let each esteem others better than yourselves.” That’s not self-esteem, that’s other esteem.
All through the Scriptures we are told that we’re sinners and that we need to be saved. This doctrine is trying to get around that. I think we live in a day when Satan is attacking in this one particular doctrine of human depravity. This is the thing the world hates – telling them they’re sinners – to say as Dewey didn’t like people saying, “the saved and the lost.” And it’s an attack on our Christian standards, and it should be recognized as such. When we try to teach children to esteem themselves, we’re teaching them to be proud. We’re teaching them to think higher of themselves than other people. And that’s exactly what Satan taught Adam and Eve in the garden. “You’re better than God says you are.”
I consider this doctrine of self-esteem to be a great threat to our Christian standards, and I wish more pastors and teachers, and teachers in Bible colleges, would pick this up and really teach strongly against it. There is plenty of Scripture on this subject. It can definitely be demonstrated from the Bible that it is a false doctrine that is doing a great deal of damage in our churches and in our Christian schools and also in our society.