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5 Questions for Larry Blackmer

Larry Blackmer Larry Blackmer

It was Larry Blackmer, vice president for education for the North American Division, who pitched the idea for The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist education, Martin Doblmeier's third documentary about Adventist education . In an online interview,  Celeste Ryan Blyden asked him why he did so, why he still believes our schools are worth attending, who his favorite teacher was and what he’s praying about right now:

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville Adventist Academy is one of six schools featured in Martin Doblmeier’s third documentary about Seventh-day Adventists. The Blueprint: The Story of Adventist Education, shares why our schools have become an integral part of our church’s mission and ministry.

It was Larry Blackmer, vice president for education for the North American Division, who pitched the idea for the documentary. In an online interview, I asked him why he did so, why he still believes our schools are worth attending, who his favorite teacher was and what he’s praying about right now:

Photograph from ThinkStock. See our Facebook chat on Adventist Education here:  | Photograph from ThinkStock.

Blyden: Why are you excited about Martin Doblmeier’s latest film about Adventist Education? Why did you want that story told?

Blackmer: We spend a great deal of time talking to ourselves, sharing the good things about Adventist Education and doing an autopsy on things we don't like. But seldom do we get the opportunity to share our story with the general public in the kind of format The Blueprint offers. Martin Doblemeier is a master storyteller, and I knew that if he spent time in our schools, with our teachers and students that he would share a compelling story, which he has!

Blyden: What do you wish people knew and understood about our educational system?

Blackmer: I wish people could see our system through the eyes of the other private school systems in the United States. I am currently the president of an international private school accrediting agency that includes 17 organizations that are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Hebrew, etc. I am friends with the leaders of these organizations. I wish people could hear them talk about their perceptions of the Adventist system. We are the only religious private school system in the world in which 100 percent of our schools are accredited. We are the only system that can create our curriculum and standards and specify that they be followed in all of our schools. This creates a shared narrative and a cohesive vision for the academic, spiritual and character development of our children. They ask me what percentage of Adventists go to our schools, I tell them that about 30 percent of our children attend an Adventist school. They ask me to come to their conventions, share with their leadership about how they can attract that many of their children to Baptist or Catholic schools. They see our system as the most technologically advanced private school system in the world, and we are asked regularly to help them, as a leader said recently, "to be like us.” I wish people could see the caring, loving teachers in our classrooms who pray for and love children into the Kingdom.

Join our panel of education experts Tuesday, March 18, at noon, to discuss why Adventist education is still worth the investment, and for tips on how to help your child succeed, no matter what school they attend. Weigh in here:

I guess I wish we could always live up to who we know we could be and that people could see that vision in every school!

Blyden: Who was or is your favorite teacher and why?

Blackmer: I grew up in a home that did not value Adventist education and so went 12 years to public school. I do not remember, at least fondly, many of my teachers. But in college I remember, Dr. Asa Thoresen, my major professor. I remember how caring he was, how Godly in his presentation of Biology and its creator. I remember he would have us over to his home, often, to sit around the fire and share spiritual values, not from a book, but from his heart. Christ lived in his classroom, and we saw Him in Dr. Thoresen's life. Spiritually is not taught; it is caught.

Image courtesy Journey Films Image courtesy Journey Films

Blyden: My daughter is 5 and starts school in the fall. Why should we consider sending her to an Adventist school?

A number of years ago, the public schools decided to teach "character development" in schools. After a few years the program was assessed to find out that there had been no changes, the achievement was not better, the citizenship was the same, the behavior was the same. It was determined that the reason they felt the program was not successful was that no one could agree on what values were important or who's values would be shared.

Barna, in his book Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, states that a child's morals and values are pretty well set by age 13. In Adventist education, we believe in a shared value system from the home, the church and the school. No, we do not always hit it out of the park, but the basics are universal. The most important thing we can develop in our children is a Christ-like character. I believe that the most important educational system is what happens in the home, and I believe that Adventist education reinforces what we as parents have been told to instill in our children---God’s love for us and our responsibility to be like Him.

Blyden: What’s on your prayer list for our schools?

Blackmer: Adventist education is not cheap, nor is it easy. But the dividends are eternal. I pray for our teachers, principals, parents and pastors, that they might catch the vision of a soon returning Savior and do everything in their power to get our children ready. Just as Daniel’s mother knew that Babylon was coming and so she prepared Daniel to stand in that day, I pray we can do the same today!

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