Discuss Religion to Grow Students

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Our nation’s paranoia about blending public education and religion has gone too far.  I understand we should be respectful of varying religious beliefs in a public forum and not coerse religion. However, the integration of faith and education can happen in very simple, subtle ways that does not establish a state religion.

Natural conversations between students and teachers without the fear of negative retribution will facilitate meaningful dialogue. In the public school arena, when the community of students and teachers respect various religion expressions, learning will naturally happen through curiosity. A curious community learns to learn, while a fearful community becomes more and more insular. Teachers must redefine their success based off the student’s ability to become a life-long learner. “The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn (Toffler).” If we eliminate the appropriate influence of religion in education, we eliminate the capacity to be a life-long learner.

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Toffler, Avin. (n.d.). Retrieved on June 4, 2013 from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alvintoffl409080.html.

The Secular and Spiritual in Education

Teachers and LaughingIn my religious upbringing the word secular was defined as a negative. In the worldview of my youth as an evangelical Christian, anything labeled secular was to be avoided. Baylor University scholar Barry Harvey shatters this misconception. Harvey observes that the root meaning of the word secular deals with time versus timeless. Have states, “Thus secular thinking should not be seen as the opposite of the sacred thinking. In fact, secular and sacred can be oddly complementary (Rosebrough & Leverett, 2011, p. 31).” Education has the power to blend the secular and spiritual into a powerful force for the student’s transformation.

A classic phrase often used in education is, “Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” We cannot show care or inspire if we ignore the spiritual life, which reflects the student’s deepest essence. The current anxiety in our culture about mixing religion with the public arena has created an unfortunate compartmentalization of education and the spiritual life. This is not just unfortunate, but unnatural. Religion is not static, but naturally evolves in understanding with the development of the person. While teachers should not propagate religion in a public education setting, they should have an appropriate level of freedom to walk with their students spiritually, because spiritual growth is part of the education process.

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Rosebrough, T. R., & Leverett, R. G. (2011). Transformational teaching in the information age: Making why and how we teach relevant to students. Alexandria, Va: ASCD.

Teaching, Civility and John Wooden

As education produces relationships among diverse people, the animosity from ignorance melts into friendship.   It is so easy to vilify those we don’t understand. Yet, through education, we get a perspective on the world that produces the kindness that exemplifies Christ’s love for the world.

John WoodenJohn Wooden (1910-2010) is the most successful collegiate basketball coach of all-time, and he considered himself a teacher. Wooden wrote, “There is nothing stronger than gentleness.”  Wooden spent his career motivating and instructing elite athletes who thrived on aggressive competition, yet he recognized the power of a civil approach to life.   Basketball was the subject he taught, but civility was his end product.   Teachers would benefit to realize the subject they teach is the means to the end when it comes to producing civil citizens.

Who would we be without education?   Without inspirational teaching, the individual would only be an accumulation of facts, with an undeveloped heart.  Individuals with no heart, produces an uncivil society of full of endless conflict and misunderstanding and conflict. Transformational teaching produces civil people, and changes the world for good.

Education Leads to Civility

Rude2Civility is the act of demonstrating kindness towards people with whom you disagree. Civility is an important and undervalued by-product of education.   Our culture is in desperate need of more civility.   Our culture has become so polarized; civil dialogue is virtually a lost art.  If you do not believe me, peruse Facebook during election season.

Education produces civility in students. As a student understands more about different worldviews, they will manifest more empathy and cooperation. In one of my favorite quotes, Robert Frost anecdotally said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.”  Our culture is more peaceful and desirable when different ideas produce civility instead of anger.

AngerHow does education effect civility?   Education exposes the individual to new ideas, perspectives and experiences that foster civility.   Learning is more than accumulating information, but it’s converting that information into beneficial behavior in society. Education has a unique platform to change the world through learners who become civil citizens. Without knowledge and its proper social applications, combative behavior will dominate society, instead of civility.

Education is a crucial path to civility.

Great Teachers, Great Future

community-educationBeyond my vocation as a pastor, I feel called to use my leadership service for the advancement of education. One of the biggest misconceptions about education comes from a definition that is too narrow. The belief that education exists only for the dispensing of knowledge is not just a limiting description, but a destructive guiding principal. Education is more than standardized tests, graduation rates and school rankings.  Education is about the individual. When an individual’s mind and heart come alive as a life-long learner, teachers have unleashed God-given potential. With all the contemporary problems with education, I believe that effective teachers are still one of the greatest assets we have for a better future.