Sunday, July 10, 2011

"The Institute" - 41 years training educators

Tonight was the commencement address for the International Institute for Christian School Educators (IICSE). The commencement speaker was Dr. Milt Uecker who, as a veteran of the Christian School movement, presented us with the timeless questions asked by Christian educators. It is amazing how 40 years ago these questions were asked, just clothed in different circumstances.

Amazingly, Dr. Uecker spent a good amount of time referencing Neil Postman’s [non-religious] book The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School. In the book Postman talks about how all education must serve a god. That god may be the Christian God, democracy, humanity, nature, etc. Education must have a narrative about that god or it loses its meaning, context, and relevance. Democracy has a narrative; humanity has a one; nature too; Christianity’s God has a narrative in the Bible (surprisingly well laid out and much easier to read/understand than the narrative of nature and humanity…) In order for Christian education to be successful, that narrative must be the centerpiece. The humanistic narrative is certainly the centerpiece of many educational philosophies. Democracy, capitalism, and others can easily been seen as in others as well. A “Christian” school that does not have the Bible not only at its founding, but as its continued foundation and vision-driving force fails to be a Christian School.

You can see this at Harvard University with Scripture plastered all over the architecture and in the crests and emblems (“Veritas Christo et Ecclesai” or “Truth for Christ and Church”). It was there once, founded as a training ground for men entering the ministry. Now God’s story is just a decoration, not part of the philosophy of those institutions.

Dr. Uecker passionately spoke to the ultimate purpose of Christian education as transformational. First and foremost a spiritual transformation and secondly (though not diminished in its importance) is the learning the must take place. We must have BOTH. If we have spiritual transformation but no learning, we fail to be a school. If we have learning but no spiritual transformation, we fail to be Christian. I must say that this was a great way to start off the conference. As a relative newbie to the Christian school movement (I’ve worked in Christian Education for 5 years now), his words were inspirational. Sitting next to my more veteran colleagues, from my school and others, they were just as fired up with his words. I will be attending 4 plenary sessions, two 6-hour sessions, and 5 one-hour electives. I pray to come away with a passion for something that will truly impact the lives of my students and teachers.

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