The phrase “the better plan” did not make it as the title of the book. Soul Shapers took that distinction. The Soul Shapers title was better than The Blindfolded Dolphin, however it could be misleading if a reader thought that it was his/her role to shape the souls of the children in his/her care. During one of our conversations regarding the title one of the Review editors informed me that the subtitle of the book would be A Better Plan for Parents and Educators. I was glad that the phrase “better plan” was going to be on the cover, but wondered aloud why it was going to be printed as “A” better plan, rather than “The” better plan. She explained that “A” made it sounded more open and allowed for their being other good plans, too. Proclaiming it as “The” better plan made it sound like it was THE way and that there weren’t other ways that might be good, too. I replied that the phrase “the better plan” was not my idea. I didn’t come up with that emphasis. I got the idea from the following quote –

“Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

In referring to “the better plan” in this blog I have often written it as ” . . . the better plan . . .”, rather than “The Better Plan.” I have surrounded the phrase with ellipses to emphasize that it is a part of something bigger, some important things that come before and something important that comes after. One of the important things that comes before is the idea that our motivation is internally driven, not externally controlled by others. I believe God designed us with freedom to choose and that ultimately He died on the cross to preserve this freedom. Another important thing that comes before is a description of a teacher that prefers control and compliance, rather than guidance and freedom. An important thing that comes after is the reference to “the after-life.” which to me means both the life we lead after we leave school and, most importantly, the life we lead eternally. That this topic has eternal implications makes it really important to me.

I grew up a PK – that is, a preacher”s kid. My dad passed away before Soul Shapers came out in 2005. If he had lived long enough, I think he would have been very pleased at its being published, although the concepts of internal, rather than external, control would have been a stretch for him. His upbringing as a child and the views of his generation, in general, would have led to a steep learning curve with these non-traditional ideas. I don’t know that he always got it right when it came to non-coercive living and leadership. One thing he did get right (and he had many) was his value of and support for Christian education. When it came to “his” church school he talked the talk and walked the walk. He was always involved in a project to raise money for the school. (Many of these were smaller projects, but some were bigger, like the time he planted and harvested 50 acres of sunflowers.) His Education sermons frequently included a reference to what he called an “education blueprint” that, I now assume, could allegedly be found in the Spirit of Prophecy. As I mentioned in Soul Shapers, after 35 years in Adventist education, and after a lot of time spent in the Spirit of Prophecy, I am not aware of a blueprint for SDA education. The phrase . . . the better plan . . . comes the closest to it as far as I know. To me . . . the better plan . . . captures the idea that children (and adults for that matter) are in the process of forming their own characters and as significant adults in their lives we have the privilege of guiding, modeling, inviting, persuading, and inspiring them to form characters that serve others and honor God. And so I have embraced . . . the better plan . . . I like it, in fact, enough to name this blog after it.