Sunday, January 04, 2015

There's Education, and then there's Education

RJC Class of 2014
I've spent much of this morning link-hopping. Probably wasted time, but it is informative to know which organizations see themselves as compatible enough to post links to one another. And so I began with my church facebook page which led to the Global Family Foundation page which contained a post pointing to an article called "A missional approach to education" which caught my eye because I'm a teacher and a supporter of Rosthern Junior College. The article I ended up reading is from an online magazine called World: Real Matters, and you'll find the article here.
                At that point, I began to read through the other articles in World: Real Matters and discovered that it’s stridently advocating for stances we've come to associate with "the Christian right:" pro-life, anti-gay, etc., much of it pretty vitriolic. An article called "The Most Deviant Frontier" attempts to make the case that pedophilia as a legitimate orientation will follow right on the heels of equal rights for LGBTQ. Another article calls those supporting women's right to choose legislation the "abortion cartel."

                Let me say up front that I don't want to imply that the posting of links inevitably puts all the organizations or people doing so in the same basket. Quite obviously, my church membership is highly unlikely—for the most part—to be sympathetic to the stances of World: Real Matters. At most, I would repeat the standard caution about posting anything on Facebook: when in doubt, leave it OUT.
                But my interest in the sequence of the morning's reading is primarily on the subject of education. We have supported Global Family Foundation individually; its focus on schools and educational development in poor areas of Paraguay overlaps with my church's connectedness with that country. My church has and continues to be highly supportive of Rosthern Junior College and Canadian Mennonite University, both parochial schools where the Christian viewpoint on course offerings is unapologetically advertised.

                Question is: when does the provision of an educational opportunity cease to be primarily "educational" and become "missional" in its objectives and methods? And a corollary: what do we mean when we see our schools and teaching as "missional," and does it make a difference whether the children benefitting are poor, are young and impressionable or mature enough to be capable of meaningful decision making? Is there a point at which education becomes a gift—like a shoebox full of toys—whose primary purpose is to win souls and if so, what would be wrong with that?
                We're living in a time of increasing diversity of thought, increasing mixing of cultures and liberalization of laws once thought to be immutable. Not surprising, then, that we should find ourselves at sea for a time on the question of religious freedom vs. secular law. Trinity Western University is a college that compels students to refrain from sex outside of marriage AND is seeking to establish a law school that would ostensibly graduate lawyers licensed to practice in general society. Various professional organizations have wrestled with this and have come out against credentialing lawyers with an a priori religious slant; World: Real Matters and many others argue that it's a freedom of religion issue.

                What does the future hold for religion-based education, one is compelled to ask.
                It's a new year and with it comes a time when we add up our incomes, expenses, donations, etc. in preparation for tax time. What we support and what we forego makes a difference. Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Global Family Foundation, Caritas, World Vision, Feed the Children, etc., etc. are all "charitable organizations," meaning that donations to them reduce the tax collected by our governments. In effect, these organizations are therefore spending public money to do their work. What all this means is that donors should be completely clear on the objectives and methods of the charitable organizations they support.

                Canada Revenue Agency is scrutinizing charities to determine whether or not their activities are too political to merit charitable status; our obligation is to be sure that their goals are ethical.
                For believers—Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhists, Hindu, Native Spirituality adherents, etc—learning what it means to be salt and light to the world as we understand it is a task we neglect at everyone's peril. Parochial schools have legacies of quality education on the one hand . . . and Indian Residential Schools on the other.

                How we do education, how we see our role individually and collectively is critical.



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