Thursday, April 3, 2008

America Must Pray - William Holmes McGuffey

He would end up being a force to contend with. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, educator, and president of Ohio University and even several other colleges. But to get there he taught himself. Born in 1800 and raised in a poor household in Pennsylvania, he was blessed with a Godly mother, Anna. Often she would stop her work outdoors and fall on her knees with William by her side and pray. She would be totally immersed in prayer, seeking God’s help in raising her son.

Coming down the road one day was a Reverend Thomas Hughes, the headmaster of the local Greersburg Academy. Anna shared with him her poverty and asked if somehow he could help William. The headmaster enrolled William in his school so that he could receive some formal education. Anna’s prayers were answered!

William McGuffey after college realized that children needed more than the standard The New England Primer. He wanted to add to the education of children a sense of what the Bible is all about and about the need for them to learn how to pray. He selected material from Longfellow, Whittier, and Thoreau. He emphasized precision in English grammar and gave to children wonderful stories and poems to memorize.

As he updated his books he made direct reference to God and to prayer. In his first reader he wrote: At the close of day before you go to sleep, you should not fail to pray to God to keep you from sin and from harm. You should thank Him for all his good gifts; and learn, while young, to put your trust in Him; and the kind care of God will be with you, both in your youth and in your old age.

Unfortunately, after his death in 1873, subsequent editions of his books removed some of the stronger references to God and prayer. This was because of the slow growth of modernity creeping into American education. It was a repudiation of Puritan values and the influence of modern German theories of education. The educational traditions that took this nation far would feel the seismic shift of the times.