Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hope and Education

(A staff Devotion I presented in September of this year)

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
But now faith, hope, love, abide in these three; but the greatest of these is love
1 Corinthians 13; 11-13

As I thought about this devotion today I was struggling. I just couldn’t seem to find a way to express what I wanted to say. I couldn’t even articulate it to myself. Then, yesterday a book order arrived for the professional development room and this book “Hope and Education” was right there near the top of the box. And as I read this book yesterday I knew what I was supposed to say.

I don’t know if the guy who wrote this is a Christian or not but the first three people he quotes are Saint Paul, Thomas Aquinas, and Immanuel Kant so I have my suspicions that he is. At any rate, this book is about hope. But not giving students hope but on becoming an educator who lives in hope. What I find so striking about this is that David Halpin applies Biblical principals and then Christian theology to a secular school. He even says that the virtues of hope, faith and love are essentially supernatural in nature and not something that exist in the temporal world! So teachers according to him, in secular schools, should practice Christian virtues. Let me rephrase that; his argument is that the spiritual virtues of faith, love and hope are supernatural virtues that must be applied in a secular setting and that teachers should diligently cultivate these in their lives regardless of their religious affiliation.

He then takes it a step farther and talks about hopefulness as not being merely the belief that things will improve but of hopefulness being a way of using the past, in the present to influence the future. Being hopeful is not a passive attitude but a lifestyle. It is a worldview, one that we should pass to our students. Part of this is to defeat the enemies of a hopeful lifestyle?

1. Cynicism; by cynicism we do not mean simply a person who questioning. We mean the person who is never satisfied with any answer. These are the people who tell you not to start because the odds of success are so small as to make it not worth the effort to try.
2. Fatalism or those who do not believe they can succeed is the second big enemy. These are the teachers who believe they are doomed to fail no matter how hard they try. Not that we sometime mustn’t try when we know we can’t succeed but that no enterprise will ever succeed
3. Relativism assumes there is nothing to look forward too. It just doesn’t matter because it doesn’t make any difference. I found this one particularly interesting in that he provides a damning critique of the current curriculum ideas promoted by many Post Modern educational writers. If all cultures and outcomes should be equal then who cares?
4. Fundamentalism and Tradition. These are not impediments to hope in the sense that all tradition and fundamental beliefs are to be abandoned but rather when they put excessive limits on what we can hope for they become evil things. I think that this is a particularly prevalent one in Hong Kong because we have all heard people here say “I can’t do that because nobody ever has.”

Talk about a Wow moment! This was one for me.

But he stops there and he shouldn’t

While, in some respects what we call a school can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, I think we give the Greeks more credit than they deserve. What we call a school is a Christian invention. In fact, all of the major movements in education were begun by Christians. Public schools as we know them, they first appeared in the Byzantine Empire, Special Education it was started by Christians. What about kindergarten and early childhood education? Oh, you bet Christians started that. Pedagogical reforms that brought about the modern classroom, Horace Mann, a Christian was the first to introduce them. Teaching girls as well as boys? Yep, education regardless of gender got started by Christians. When you look around the world you see schools in every land and nation. They are a testament to Christianity’s influence. Yet, poll after poll shows teachers are hopeless and depressed about their profession. How can this be? How have we lost our hope as educators? Why is it that when teachers’ around the world are surveyed they generally are the profession with the lowest moral?

We can argue some of the reasons but I feel it is because they have lost that hope that education is founded upon. We have lost the hope that our students are part of God’s plan. We have, or so it seems to me substituted tolerance for love, expediency for justice, curriculum for education and knowledge for wisdom. Are we satisfied with providing more facts with less meaning?

So, I’d like to encourage you today to be hopeful, to live in hope. I’d like to encourage you to let your hope allow your past, to influence your future and to salt your present with praise. Allow your students to know that you believe that God does have it under control; that all good and precious gifts come from above. That while we are yet desperate sinners we are all the more saved by grace. Don’t impart simply facts, knowledge or data to your classes today. Impart hope. Live in hope.

Stop. If hope is that important then consider a moment that Paul says of faith, hope and love that the greatest is love.

Maybe we can look at the place love plays in education another time.

If you’d like to read the book “Hope and Education; The role of the utopian imagination” by David Halpin it is in our Pro-D library (370 HAL)

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who sometime does other things

No comments: