Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Religious Education, PhD
George H. Akers
Bernard M. Lall
Problem. Character development is a fundamental objective of the Seventh-day Adventist educational system. The purpose of this study was to define the concept of character development in the writings of Ellen G. White whose thought is foundational to the philosophy of the worldwide system of Seventh-day Adventist schools. The investigation focused on four subproblems: (1) the meaning and significance of character; (2) the nature of character development; (3) factors affecting character development; and (4) responsibility for character development.
Method. The problem was approached by (1) carefully perusing White's published writings and noting every statement related to the study; (2) inductively analyzing the statements and arranging them logically into categories related to the subproblems; and (3) interpreting the data with the use of appropriate hermeneutics and synthesizing the findings. A survey of selected research studies on character development— those of Hartshorne and May, Ligon, Peck and Havighucst, Piaget, and Kohlberg— was included to provide a background against which White's concept may be understood.
Conclusions. The study concluded that White in her writings expresses a definite concept of character development, structured around her belief that man and his character can be understood only within the context of God. The fundamental elements of her concept are as follows: 1. Character is that which gives motivation, coherence, consistency, and direction to the total relational and behavioral functions of man. It involves the whole man: what he is— his motives, feelings, and thoughts— and what he does— his actions and habits— in respect to his relationship to God, man, and himself. 2. Character is important for the fulfillment of divine purpose in history, the vindication of the validity of the Christian faith, and the optimum realization of human potential and destiny. 3. Godlikeness is the ultimate objective of character development. Hence the norm for evaluating human character is the character of God, revealed in Jesus and particularized in the Bible and in the law of God. Likewise the ultimate evaluation of character rests with God's judgment. 4. The means of character development are located in God's movement of grace toward man in the redemptive activity of Christ and the empowering of His Spirit. When man in faith chooses to accept the provision of God and enters into a new relationship with Him, the Spirit of God actualizes within man a divine-human unity with a new motivation and a new empowering. In this experience, self-centeredness gives way to God-centeredness, so that man's basis of action is no longer the self, but the internalized principle of godlikeness, namely, love, which assures man to exist, relate, and function on a principled level, making character development possible. 5. As man continues to grow and mature in this divine-human unity, and as God continues to remain the central motivating and empowering force of life, perfection of character becomes his privilege. Contrarily, retrogression remains a constant threat. 6. Personal and relational factors such as self-concept, heredity, environment, health, intelligence, dietary habits, purposive vocation, study of the Bible, meditation, prayer, worship, peer relations, and unselfish service influence character development either as preparatory to or nurturing of the divine human unity within man. 7. Although the individual Is ultimately responsible for character development, the home and the school share a major responsibility for providing their wards adequate character oriented nurture and atmosphere. Parental responsibility Includes adequate prenatal and early childhood care, modeling, discipline, teaching, and providing choice-making opportunities. The responsibility of the school, in addition to many of the above, centers around the selection of teachers and curricula committed to character development.
Fowler, John M., "The Concept of Character Development in the Writings of Ellen G. White" (1977). Dissertations. 374.
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