Session 1 Reflections

The Biblical nature of humaness.

I think there are three fundamental pieces to humanness. All humans belong to God. All humans break God's heart each day. All humans are called to help each other through their brokenness. We are loved by God no matter what and because of that perfect model we help others see that. 

Treating students justly.

Treating students justly involves knowing them for who they are. Treating them as equal viewpoints on the world while challenging them to learn more and perceive the world with new perspectives. The reason this is important is that students need very much to learn how to help others in their brokenness. Without that they will not be able to understand their relationship to God or the impact of God's Love on themselves. It gets harder to do this without their help as they develop their own understanding of the world. You need to rely on their willingness to engage you and subject matter. However, the alternative is that they do not engage you and the content matter and never learn at all, but rather are just in the presence of facts.

Reflections on Richard Pring, Education as a moral practice

What a refreshing perspective on education. I see a lot of polarization in opinion today and education is no different. The camp in education seem to be back to the basics and let each child find her own way. This really sunk in when he said, "There is the “impersonal” level—the narratives within science or history or literature wherein ideas are preserved, developed, criticised within a public tradition. But there is the “personal” level at which young people try to make sense of the world and the relationships around them and at which they find, or do not find, valuable forms of life to which they can give allegiance. This personal narrative is where young people seek to understand who and what they are, partly, of course, in relation to other people and to the wider society." (page 112) There will be new stuff to learn. If a learners never applies that to her own unique perspective, then really nothing was learned. This speaks really strongly in favor of Christian education where we seek to gain knowledge for the sake of applying it in process of, "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8) If that knowledge does not translate into better following Gods word, then it will fail you. "I wish to argue that what makes sense of the curriculum, in educational terms, is that it is the forum or the vehicle through which young people are enabled to explore seriously (in the light of evidence and argument) what it is to be human. Such an exploration has no end. That is why teaching should be regarded as a moral practice." (page 112)

Reflections on Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen & David Van Heemst, Widening ways of justice, economy, and peace.

I am not sure that this reading helped me to be more hopeful for education becoming more just. The needs in the third world as far as debt relief and development are great and the authors are hopeful that things will move, and they have a plan. I think they have an advantage on people who want to change education. Their advantage is that no one, no matter their polotics or religion, can look at poverty and think it is ok. In the United States there are many groups who have many thoughts about education, and many of these groups do not even see a problem. Just to name two powerful groups who see education as not having a problem: the educational industrial complex (publishers, textbook makers, unions, school architects, etc...) and the, "it was good enough for me it is good enough for my kids" parents. It is not even close to universally accepted that there is a justice issue, and until there is change is a much less possible.

I think that teaching is a way of life because I think it reflects one of the fundamental human characteristics. It seems to me that some vocations, ones that society in general holds in different esteem, directly reflect and tend to fundamental human characteristics. Farmers care for the earth, lawyers and accounts seek fairness, politicians seek community, doctors care for our bodies, and teachers tend to our nature to learn and explore. Hogan says, "the effort to experience teaching as a way of life means joining a recurrent if not continual struggle: a struggle between higher forms of human freedom and influences which continually threaten that freedom with overt or more subtle forms of captivity." (page 221) That is not much different than a farmer fighting weeds to grow food, a doctor fighting a cancer or a lawyer fighting for fairness.

Hogan is an Irish academic writing in the context of the British Isles. What evidence do you see in your own context for the ascendancy of performativity?

I see two main evidences of an increase in efficiency in the schools around me. Class sizes  and teacher responsibilities have been going up steadily throughout my career. The idea that the same teacher can tend to more students in the same way is not logical yet is maintained by policy makers everywhere. Teachers used to be free to offer extras as they saw the need to meet student needs. Some minimum numbers of extras are now required. Second, our input into what and how we teach has been going steadily down. This is not true in my specific case where test score stay high no matter what and the state has less say in what happens. However it has made my teaching less rich because my colleagues who would have enriched my teaching are busy working towards really good test scores.

Hogan suggests that “the dispositions to action that characterise teaching as a way of life” – the “practical virtues” of teaching – include: 

an alert appreciation that ‘real knowledge is the property of God’ and a corresponding consciousness of the inherent limitations of even the best of human enquiries; an acknowledgement of both the modesty and the ever-emergent prospects that befit learning as an unfinished and unfinishable undertaking; a realisation that the most promising and most defensible purposes of teaching are to be found in connection with this larger undertaking; the self-critical insight that teaching is itself a form of learning-anew with others, where the teacher acts as listener, questioner, instructor, guide and as a responsible and caring leader; the awareness that differences in capability, in aptitude and in sense of identity complicate but also enrich what is to be understood as equity and appropriateness in educational experience; an appreciation of the point that in a genuine community of learners a distinctive ethos arises in an unforced way; a critical awareness that knowledge as assertive mastery, or as individualist power, or as coercive prowess, works—behind the scenes as it were—to undermine such an ethos. (p. 221) 

Would you take issue with Hogan’s admittedly partial list of the “practical virtues” of teaching? Are there other virtues you believe should have greater prominence than those he lists?

I like his list. Particularly powerful in my estimation is realizing that you are a co-learner with everyone else in the room, even when some institution has decided to call you a teacher. This leads me to add or emphasize this point: the relationship you build will change you as well. As you lead others to be richer people so will you become richer.