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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

 

 

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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

 

 

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