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Posts tagged ‘story’

Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice – 5: Amplify Their Voices and Listen, Listen, Listen

In my previous post – Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice – 4, I referenced Christensen and Vryhof who said:

If we hope to encourage students to be lovers and doers of justice, we need to craft learning experiences that make it more likely to happen. These learning experiences should be “peopled with authors, and characters who . . . provide a window to the world” (Christensen, 2009, p. 6) because it is in the experience of the world that wisdom is learned.

We need to craft learning experiences that focus on key moral and ethical issues within our learning communities, our immediate communities and in society at large. We need to bring the sufferers into the learning community and/or transport students to the sufferers. (Vryhof, 2011, p. 31).

(emphasis mine)

Lately, I have been thinking about how we can bring the “sufferers” into the learning community. Too often, I fear, there is a tendency to do this by speaking for the sufferers, the oppressed, the marginalized. In a 2014 article in Relevant magazine, the author says:

There’s a difference between being a voice for the voiceless and giving a voice to the voiceless. They are not interchangeable. And one is far more compassionate.

. . . sometimes, when we are trying to be a voice for those who are suffering, we end up speaking over them, shouting our own view without first really stopping to listen to their experiences.

. . . [invest] your energies in giving a platform to the marginalized instead of taking the platform yourself.

Similarly in writing about how non Natives participated in Standing RockWhen Christianity Co-opts Justice MovementsDae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr (a Seminarian and Community Organizer @daedaejr) said:

The church must become the student of the oppressed and submit itself in humility, by listening to the people most impacted. Grassroots organizers and civil rights elders have been fighting this battle for a long time, even during times in which churches on both the Left and the Right have rejected any forms of resistance.

When my sister is on the front lines at Standing Rock getting shot with rubber bullets because of her peaceful protest, the government can now point at the clergy’s afternoon of solidarity and justify that she deviated too far beyond what was acceptable.

We, as Christians, have recreated the blueprint for resistance; sterilized it of its righteous fierceness; sanitized it of its unhindered selflessness; and in so doing, diminished the power of the people.

We have yet to transcend our history of taking away the voice from the voiceless.

I have always loved learning about Native Peoples. However, some time ago, I realized that most of my learning was about them not from them. I became convicted that I needed to intentionally listen to and amplify the voices of the Native Peoples themselves. So began my journey that so far has included books, blogs, videos, newscasts, and twitter feeds. Steps so far in my journey include:

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 2015 Recipient of the American Book Award. [This is] the first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognizedan indegenous Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.”

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative

 

“All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker. [This book] “unpacks the twenty-one most common myths and misconceptions about Native Americans.

all the realIn this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as:

“Columbus Discovered America”
“Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims”
“Indians Were Savage and Warlike”
“Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians”
“The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide”
“Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans”
“Most Indians Are on Government Welfare”
“Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich”
“Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol”

Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, “All the Real Indians Died Off” challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.”

 

Mark Charleshttp://wirelesshogan.blogspot.com/mark charles

Mark Charles is the son of an American woman of Dutch heritage and a Navajo man. He has lived with his wife and children on the Navajo reservation for 11 years, and now they are in Washington, DC. His objective is to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the nation through understanding and teaching on the complexities of American history regarding race, culture, and faith. He is a speaker and a writer on these topics, most notably on the Doctrine of Discovery. He also serves as the Washington correspondent for Native News Online.

What is Wirelesshogan?

A hogan is the traditional Navajo home.  While it symbolizes the historical and cultural dwellings of my people, it also reflects the daily life for many Navajos today. While the Navajo Nation is the largest US reservation and is home to about 180,000 Navajos, it is one of the least developed areas of the United States.  Lack of running water, electricity, and many common amenities is typical for many Navajo homes today.

Mark was a speaker at the 2017 January Series at Calvin College. Watch him here. 

 

Native News Online.net – Celebrating Native Voices http://nativenewsonline.net/ – Levi Rickert, editor. Native News is also on Twitter – @Native_NewsNetnative news

 

 

 

 

Indigenous Women Rise at https://twitter.com/indigwomenrise and https://www.indigenouswomenrise.org/indigenouswomen

Recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the original protectors and strength of our country, we call upon Indigenous women to join the Indigenous Women Rise collective.

This collective aims to ensure Indigenous Women’s voices are heard and to raise the visibility of Indigenous peoples’ rights and Issues.

 

So far to go, but the journey has begun.

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice – 4

What sorts of learning experiences make it more likely that young people will become lovers and doers of justice?

If we hope to encourage students to be lovers and doers of justice, we need to craft learning experiences that make it more likely to happen. These learning experiences should be “peopled with authors, and characters who . . . provide a window to the world” (Christensen, 2009, p. 6) because it is in the experience of the world that wisdom is learned. “Wisdom is not something that can be learned in the abstract. It is not a set of universal principles that can be applied to any situation. Wisdom is situation specific. It is discipleship in the real world, in culturally situated, historically defined contexts. It is in the knowledge of the individual and particular that decisions are made and actions taken. Curriculum as journey toward wisdom does not reduce the world to manageable, disconnected bits predigested for the learner. Rather, students encounter whole things in their many-sidedness . . . “ (Brouwer, 2012, p. 83). This may require that traditional subjects such a math be reframed to make room for issues of justice and injustice to emerge (Gutstein & Peterson, 2005, p. 2). We need to craft learning experiences that focus on key moral and ethical issues within our learning communities, our immediate communities and in society at large. We need to bring the sufferers into the learning community and/or transport students to the sufferers (Vryhof, 2011, p. 31). Worldviews emerge out of life and experience (Stassen, 2006, p.27).

The learning experiences we plan and the pedagogical practices we employ must make space for students to become “solutionaries” – “conscientious choice makers and engaged change makers for a restored and healthy and humane world for all” (Zoe Weil TEDx Talk). “Schools and classrooms should be laboratories for a more just society than we live in” (Bigelow, 2001, p. 1) “What has life become if we are so reduced to doing what we are told to do that we cannot rise to the challenge of being personally responsible” (Abbot, 2010, p. 216 – ebook)? Framed by essential questions such as ‘Why do people abuse their power over others?’ or ‘What are the most important rights to protect?’ or ‘What is the connection between justice and health?’ and fueled by such pedagogical approaches as inquiry learning and problem-based and project-based learning based in real world situations, we can give young people the opportunity to work at “deeds of deliverance, not just feelings or attitudes” (Stassen & Gushee, 2003, p. 336). “Problems invite purposeful responses [which] . . . underscores that most important in the encounter is normative action, not detached contemplation of propositional truths. Purposeful response is a move toward maturity, toward growing in wisdom . . . to the formation of persons who not only know the right thing to do in a situation, but who are disposed to do it. (Brouwer, 2012, p. 85-86). Engaging in such learning experiences may help young people discover their passions and become “people who will say, This is bad and I’m going to do something about it, I’m going to change it” (Stassen quoting Faulkner, 2006, p. 141). What greater gift can we as teachers give youth than the space to be salt and light in the world, to enact the kind of ‘sampling signs’ that Jesus did to bear witness in word and deed to the coming of the kingdom? Are we prepared to make space for this in our learning spaces?

Learning to be lovers and doers of justice, learning when and how to say yes and no requires a skill set that includes the ability to innovate, create, problem-solve, persist, and communicate effectively. The inclination and ability to collaborate, to change one’s mind, to empathize, and to discern are vital.

 

Abbot, John (2010). Over schooled but under educated: how the crisis in education is jeopardizing our adolescents – e-book. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Bigelow, Bill (2001). “Teaching about unsung heros: encouraging those who fought for social justice” in Rethinking our classrooms, Vol 2. VT: Rethinking Schools.

Brouwer, Elaine (2012). “Curriculum as a journey toward wisdom” a chapter in Metaphors we teach by: how metaphors shape what we do in classrooms, eds. Badley, Ken and Van Brummelen, Harro. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.

Christensen, Linda (2009). Teaching for joy and justice: re-imagining the language arts classroom. Milkaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Gutstein, Eric and Peterson, Bob (2005). Rethinking mathematics: teaching social justice by the numbers. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools

Stassen, Glen H. (2006). Living the sermon on the mount: a practical hope for grace and deliverance. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Stassen, Glen H. & Gushee, David P. (2003). Kingdom ethics: following Jesus in contemporary context. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Vryhof, Steven (2011). Affirmations 2.0: Christian schooling for a changing world. Grand Rapids: Christian Schools International.

Weil, Zoe (2011) TEDx Talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5HEV96dIuY

 

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista

 

 

Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice – 2

How can we craft a learning culture in which being faithful is more important being right?

“Schools are identity factories. They teach students who they are” (Bigelow, 2001, p.37). If we hope to encourage students to be lovers and doers of justice, we need to help them understand who they are in terms of God’s story, the true story of the whole world. We need to help them see themselves in the story so when they read about God exhorting Israel to do justice, they hear him speaking to them and when they read Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples, they hear him speaking to them. We need to help them see that they are a part of the body of Christ called to love and do justice. We need to encourage them to embrace and embody their part of the story with gratitude and joy, even in the midst of brokenness and discouragement. They need to recognize that when it comes to justice and injustice, there is no us versus them. The stain of Evil runs through all of us. We need to encourage them to grow in the hope and faith that sees the arc of history bending toward justice and flourishing when God will one day come to dwell with his people. They need to come to know that this is God’s work and they have the unspeakable privilege of partnering with him in it.

Teaching for and as justice requires that we cultivate a learning environment that is conducive to mutual respect, risk taking, self-examination, reflection, intellectual honesty, and mutual submission. Young people should have the opportunity to discover their gifts and pursue their passions. It must be an environment that is bridled by love where both joy and sorrow can find expression. It must be a hospitable space “not to make [explorations of justice and injustice] painless but to make the painful things possible, things without which no learning can occur – things like exposing ignorance, testing tentative hypotheses, challenging false or partial information, and mutual criticism of thought” (Palmer, 1983, p. 74). It must be a space “where questions and answers do not need to be couched within ground rules of a competitive game” (Palmer, 1983, p. 75). It must be a space where being faithful is more important being ‘right.’

The experience of the student in the learning space and the learning experiences in which they engage must foster compassion. “Affluence can easily isolate and insulate us from the desperate needs of the world” (Vryhof, 2011, p. 31). We need to give injustice a human face to overcome the “privileged lull” (Stassen & Gushee, 2003, p. 365) and to avoid being “flat-souled” (Vryhof, 2011, p. 30) people who lack the capacity or inclination to feel genuine emotions and for long, deep, and meaningful exploration and response. Lovers and doers of justice are moved by their surroundings. “They . . . know that life matters, that the world has meaning, and that choices have consequences. They will agonize and thrill over those choices. They will experience shame and elation. They will have a healthy awe, often wordless but apparent, when they see God’s grace in . . . an act of selflessness, and the healing of brokenness” (Vryhof, 2011, p. 30). This requires a culture of paying attention. Compassion leads to caring engagement that must begin in the learning space among those that inhabit that space.

Bigelow, Bill (2001). “Teaching about unsung heros: encouraging those who fought for social justice” in Rethinking our classrooms, Vol 2. VT: Rethinking Schools.

Palmer, Parker J. (1998). The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stassen, Glen H. & Gushee, David P. (2003). Kingdom ethics: following Jesus in contemporary context. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Vryhof, Steven (2011). Affirmations 2.0: Christian schooling for a changing world. Grand Rapids: Christian Schools International.

 

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista

 

 

Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice – 1

This is the first in a series of posts about Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice.

I was privileged to address this issue in a plenary session for the Vancouver Island Professional Development Day in 2014. I used the STORY told in the Scriptures to make the case that nurturing lovers and doers of justice should be a key goal of Christian education. povertyI ended the address with this question:

Could it be that educating lovers and doers of justice is a mark of a truly Christian education – an education that encourages young people to love what God loves, that creates space and opportunity to celebrate God’s work in the world, that equips them to see and grieve over injustice, and that nurtures in them with the will and courage to do justice?

For me, current events have added a sense of urgency to the case I made in that address. You can read the article (2016) adapted from the address here.

In future posts, I intend to build on the question I posed and to cite resources for teachers and students.

But first, it begins with us: are we hungry and thirsty for justice?

“We teach who we are” (Palmer, 1998, p. 2) “As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together . . . teaching holds a mirror to the soul” (Palmer, 1998, p. 2). If we want to teach for justice we need to ask ourselves if we love justice as God does and if our hearts are broken by what gives God sorrow. We need to ask ourselves if we are really hungry and thirsty for justice. “. . . to become genuinely hungry for justice makes it more possible to join with the poor and oppressed in a common struggle. It is our own hunger, not somebody else’s problem, that begins to drive us to action” (Wallis, 1994, p. 195). As teachers we are important mediators between the learner and what is to be learned – a “living link in the epistemological chain” (Palmer, 1998, p. 3). We cannot teach for justice unless God’s agenda for justice is an integral part of who we are.

Equipping young people to be lovers and doers of justice requires a community of professionals. It is not the work of the lone teacher here and there. Shaping what we hope students will come to love requires that we work together to provide models of integrity and coherent, authentic messages. Working together is not just an effective way to educate young people, it is mandated by our created nature. Human beings are “inescapably neighbourhooded” (Seerveld, 1988, p. 59). “ . . . neigbourhooding is a glorious gift to human nature” (Seerveld, 1988, p.63), a gift that must be nurtured in the community of professionals if we hope to nurture it in our students. Learning and practicing neighbor love begins in the learning space of the community of teachers.bethechange

Lack of awareness is often a barrier to teaching for justice. Communities often have an unofficial ‘reading list’ that may not reveal the range of wounds in the world that cry out for healing. As a community of professionals we need to commit to building awareness among ourselves, an exploration that may take us beyond our comfort zones. As we do so, we will discover that we don’t always agree. Issues of justice and injustice are not always or even mostly clear-cut. Prior experience may cause us to see things differently. While it is easier to talk with people who agree with us, if we hope to shape our students as lovers and doers of justice, we need to covenant together to sustain the dialogue among ourselves, allowing space for creative tension and paradox. We should approach these dialogues as learning conversations, not battles to win. We don’t have to agree but we do need to sustain the dialogue. This is necessarily a prayerful process that requires a mutual commitment to return often to the witness of the Scriptures and the life and work of Jesus. If we are faithful to God’s agenda for justice and committed to learning together as a community of teachers, we will be more effective in mirroring the process with our students.

How are you building your awareness as a community of teachers?

Palmer, Parker J. (1998). The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Seerveld, Calvin (1988). On being human: imaging God in the modern world. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Welch Publishing.

Wallis, Jim (1994). The soul of politics: a practical and prophetic vision for change. New York: Orbis Press.

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista

Celebrating NWCSI Schools-1

Even as I write, two NWCSI teachers are attending the first Christian School Educators Science Academy – a joint effort of Christian Schools International, science-academythe Association of Christian Schools International, and the Van Andel Education Institute. Rebecca Swier and Darlene VanStaalduine, both from Ebenezer Christian School, Lynden WA, are two among 50 educators chosen from a large pool of applicants that are engaging in two days of instruction in the Van Andel Education Institute’s Community of Practice model, designed to support transformation of science teaching and learning to a practice-based culture. Click here for more information about the institute and the participants.

Congratulations Rebecca and Darlene! We look forward to hearing about your experience.

 

Shoreline Christian School:

Andrea Grafmiller, SCS School Counselor, is teaching students skills for coping with problems at school or at home. In her blog post she writes:

“As the school counselor, I think it is important to interact with students in the classroom and teach them skills for coping with problems at school or at home. This year, I visited each of the elementary classrooms to teach the students about Kelso’s Choices. Kelso is a frog puppetkelso that helps me teach the students about how to solve their own small problems. First, I help students understand the difference between small problems and big problems. A big problem is when a student feels scared or there is a risk of someone getting hurt. They are instructed to tell a grown up if they have a big problem and the grown up will help. A small problem is something that a student is strong enough and smart enough to solve themselves. Examples of small problems are: someone cutting in line, someone taking a pencil without asking, someone refusing to share a ball at recess, or . . .” read more

 

Everett Christian School Weekly News – From the Principal – Joel Alberts

“Justice-Seeking”

A few years ago an Everett Christian School theme verse was Micah 6:8, which states, “He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  In this verse we have a clear picture of what the people of Israel’s relationship is to be with God. He has showed them what is good, and, because of this he requires that His people seek justice and mercy while they continue a relationship with Him.  Though Micah wrote to the people of Judah around 700 B.C., his message applies to Christians in the 21st century as God showed his goodness to us by sending Christ into the world to live, to die and to rise and give us salvation.  Even though grace is freely given, God still requires His followers to be in a relationship with Him and to seek justice and mercy.  “Justice-seeking” is a discipleship characteristic and a way in which a person acts as a hero.

At Everett Christian School, “justice-seeking” means that “students will act as agents of change by identifying and responding to injustices.”  This starts with a recognition that we live in a fallen and broken world. Yet because of God’s sovereignty in over the whole earth and the fact that He has called us to bring forth His Kingdom on earth, we are called to actively pursue that kingdom.  This means that we need to recognize that there are issues of injustice, that our relationships between other humans, God, ourselves and nature are not as they should be. . . read more

 

Monroe Christian School

Thanksgiving Feast for Students

Next Tuesday, November 22, we will have a traditional Thanksgiving Feast for students during lunch, Kindergarten-8th grade! The students (and staff) always look forward to this wonderful time together.

MATTHEW HOUSE6TH GRADE SERVICE PROJECT

You are invited to join the 6th grade in being Christ’s hands and feet this Christmas. We are working with Matthew House to help families who have a loved one in prison. Many of these moms have never received a gift from their children, so please consider blessing these families by putting together a small gift bag that the children can give to their moms at Christmas.

 

Bellevue Christian School

Superintendent’s Blog – A Few Good Minutes:

One of today’s leading thinkers about Christian education is Dr. James K. A. Smith who believes that “The primary goal of Christian education is the formation of a peculiar people, a people who desire the kingdom of God and thus undertake their life’s expression of that desire.

In a nutshell, that describes the foundation of Teaching for Transformation (TfT). What makes TfT different than traditional Christian education are three core practices:servant-worker

First, every Christian classroom must have a powerful and compelling vision of the Kingdom that creates a longing and a desire within every student to play their part in God’s unfolding story of creation-fall-redemption and restoration.

Second, every classroom must have an articulate and inspiring student profile that invites every student to imagine how to play their part in God’s story.

And third, every Christian classroom must provide authenticity, that is, real work with real problems and real people; authentic opportunities for students to practice living the Kingdom story.       Read more

 

elaine brouwer, Alta Vista

 

Andy Crouch, keynote speaker 2016 InspirED Convention

  • original, entertaining and impactful
  • amazing speaker
  • made me think about how I can create a flourishing classroom
  • filled with hopeandy
  • opened up some new dimensions for discussions about what it means to be vulnerable
  • thought-provoking, convicting, and encouraging
  • helped me think in a different way
  • great example of Christ filled leadership and use of power
  • The reminder that we are called to help all people flourish and especially those most vulnerable among us was wonderful.

These comments are representative of the responses to Andy Crouch, the keynote speaker at the recent InspirED Convention (formerly the CTABC/NWCSI Teachers Convention) – October 6-7, 2016 in Lynden, WA.

Many responses referenced the 2×2 chart that Andy used to talk about authority and vulnerability. For those of you who want to follow up, Andy makes extensive use of the 2×2 chart in his most recent book – Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing (strong-and-weak-cover22016)

“Two common temptations lure us away from abundant living—withdrawing into safety or grasping for power. True flourishing travels down an unexpected path: being both strong and weak. We see this unlikely mixture in the best leaders—people who use their authority for the benefit of others, while also showing extraordinary willingness to face and embrace suffering. We see it in Jesus, who wielded tremendous power yet also exposed himself to hunger, ridicule, torture and death. Rather than being opposites, strength and weakness are actually meant to be combined in every human life and community. Only when they come together do we find the flourishing for which we were made.”

For an article that also deals with the vulnerability paradox see – The Vulnerability Paradox – by Ed Noot, Executive Director of the Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia – http://newsletter.scsbc.net/2016/09/the-vulnerability-paradox/

If you are engaging around these ideas with fellow educators, please share your conversations by commenting on this post.

Study guides of Andy’s previous books can be found at http://andy-crouch.com/ along with selected articles and speaking engagements.

elaine brouwer

 

Framing the 4 Questions of Learner-centered Collaboration: cultivating “gardens of delight”

Alasdair MacIntyre said “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’”[1] The spirituality/faith/beliefs that grow out of the story or stories we inhabit precede and inform our rationality and our practices. “Practices are essentially belief-shaped, and beliefs are essentially practice-shaping.”[2]  Elliot Eisner states that education is “a political undertaking because it reveals in its practice a conception of human nature, a view of the human mind, an image of what the young can become, and a vision that can guide us as we try to invent the future.”[3]  As Christians we have a particular way of making sense of the world and our place in it. Consequently, the way we answer the 4 questions of Learner-Centered Collaboration must be shaped by what we believe – about the nature of human beings, the nature of the world we study, the kinds of lives we are called to live [the nature of the good life], and, therefore, our convictions about the purpose of schooling. In short, we need to strive for faith-informed answers to the four questions.4Q2

Our answers to the questions and the practices that follow from them must ultimately be about shaping lives not just meeting standards or achieving learning targets. We need to keep the larger vision in mind – an act of imagination. Consider this example by Etienne Wenger:

Two stonecutters . . . are asked what they are doing. One responds: “I am cutting this stone in a perfectly square shape.” The other responds: “I am building a cathedral.” Both answers are correct and meaningful, but they reflect different relations to the world. The difference between these answers does not imply that one is a better stonecutter than the other, as far as holding the chisel is concerned. At the level of engagement, they may well be doing the exact same thing. But it does suggest that their experience of what they are doing and their sense of self in doing it are rather different. This difference is a function of imagination. As a result, they may be learning very different things from the same activity.[4]

Implicit in the 4 questions is a question of justice. We want all students to have access to a quality course of study. We want all students to have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a manner that truly reveals learning. We want all students to have access to teaching and learning activities that are meaningful, engaging, and effective. And we want all students to have the opportunity to relearn or to go deeper. Its all about justice – for us, justice biblically defined.

Biblical justice works toward God’s intention for his creation – shalom – a broad vision of human flourishing in which humans live in right relationship with God, others, themselves, and the rest of creation. We are created in the image of God to keep and serve his creation. Because of this, we together with the rest of creation are of great worth. Biblical justice requires that we be attentive to the worth of the other and to all the ways in which the other can be wronged. Nicholas Wolterstorff reminds us that “Teachers stand before the students as authority figures with power at their disposal; that makes it easy for them to wrong the students.”[5]   Our answers to the 4 questions should define what ‘right relationships’ look like in our learning spaces (with each other and with that which we study) and be attentive to the ‘fine texture of injustice’ that might invade and distort them.

John Amos Comenius, a Moravian bishop writing in the 17th century, helps us take an important step further. He said that to treat any individual injuriously, or to deny them the benefits of education, is to “commit an injury not only against those who share the same nature as ourselves, but against God himself.”[6]  His normative image of learning spaces and individuals is of “gardens of delight.” Youth must be taught from the beginning , he urges, “that we are born not for ourselves alone, but for God and for our neighbour, that is to say the human race.”[7]  The end of education, he says should be that “the entire world should be a garden of delight for God, for people, and for things.”[8]

What a delightful vision and framework for addressing the 4 questions of learner-centered collaboration.

[1] Alasdair C. MacIntrye, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3rd ed. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), p.216.

[2] David Smith, “Recruiting Students’ Imaginations,” in Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith & Learning, ed. David I. Smith and James K.A. Smith (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011), p. 213.

[3] Elliot W. Eisner, “Back to the Whole” in Educational Leadership, 63:1 (September 2005) p. 18.

[4] Etienne Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) p.176.

[5] Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Teaching Justly for Justice” in Spirituality, Justice and Pedagogy, eds David I Smith, John Shortt, & John Sullivan, (Nottingham, UK: The Stapelford Centre, 2006), p. 33.

[6] John Amos Comenius as quoted by David I. Smith in Spirituality, Justice and Pedagogy, eds David I Smith, John Shortt, & John Sullivan, (Nottingham, UK: The Stapelford Centre, 2006), p. 8.

[7] John Amos Comenius as quoted by David I. Smith in Spirituality, Justice and Pedagogy, eds David I Smith, John Shortt, & John Sullivan, (Nottingham, UK: The Stapelford Centre, 2006), p. 9.

[8] John Amos Comenius as quoted by David I. Smith in Spirituality, Justice and Pedagogy, eds David I Smith, John Shortt, & John Sullivan, (Nottingham, UK: The Stapelford Centre, 2006), p. 9.

elaine brouwer

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