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My compass still points north

March 2, 2012
By BILL FINNIGAN - Community Columnist ( , Tribune Chronicle |

''There are no absolutes.''

This is a recurring theme by those who see everything as relevant in the world. If there are no absolutes, then how can one make such an absolute statement?

Even the famous atheist Richard Dawkins is now ''fudging'' on his dogmatic denial that God exists; it appears that he's changed to an ''agnostic'' position, which says, ''I can't prove that God doesn't exist.'' Yet, the sun still rises in the east, and sets in the west; two plus two is still four; and the 24/7 time frame has not changed.

As a Boy Scout, I learned that a compass always pointed north. That same device in my car has rescued me when lost on a country road. There's something to be said for the standards in life that can be safely and consistently followed.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has proven to be phenomenally accurate for directions worldwide. Could such technology not reveal the possibility that there's an infallible source of truth for man to follow? Is it just possible that the Creator gave us a manual to go along with the product that He made?

I think this is what our forefathers had in mind when they embraced the Bible as their moral compass. It was not just something preached at church, but sworn upon in the courtroom as well. In fact, it was the main textbook of traditional education before 1800, when so-called public schooling began. That's why colleges like Harvard (1636), Yale (1701), Princeton (1746), etc., were established to train leaders and ministers of the Gospel.

Even when the colonies began to project public education, the combination of religious and non-religious instruction was not an issue. In the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, Congress declared that ''Religion, morality, and knowledge, was necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.'' Even in my early years, the Bible was read daily in the public classroom.

In fact, it was Noah Webster, producer of the American Dictionary (1828), who considered education ''useless without the Bible.'' He further stated, ''In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed. No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people . . .'' That sounds like ''heresy'' to our pseudo-sophisticated society.

What Valley native doesn't know of William Holmes McGuffey, who gave us the famous ''McGuffey Readers?'' He was born in 1800 and grew up in Youngstown, becoming a ''roving'' teacher at age 14. He helped to initiate one-teacher schools, eventually becoming professor of languages at Miami University in Oxford.

In 1835, he was asked to compile a six-book series of graded readers for primary education. These would become the standard school texts for the next century.

The McGuffey Readers reflected the author's personal philosophy and experience as a ''frontier schoolteacher.'' They taught the basic academic subjects in a way that encouraged moral character.

He instilled the importance of understanding religious values by using stories of strength, courage and truth. He also addressed a variety of subjects, drawing moral conclusions about ''lying, stealing, cheating, poverty, teasing, alcohol, overeating, skipping school and foul language.'' The appeal was not only to the student's ''head'' (knowledge), but to the ''heart'' (character).

I wonder, did we give up too soon on The McGuffey Readers?

In light of our nation's moral toboggan slide, we need God-fearing leadership on every level. Let's fight for the right to do right. If we don't use our freedom to defend our freedom, we will lose it. Solomon advises, ''Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set.'' (Prov. 20:28)

Our children need to be reminded that the compass still points north.

Finnigan is a Howland resident.



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