In our last blog entry for the school year (we will resume early September!) I found this passage tucked in a pamphlet, cut out from its original publication. Colin W. Bell was a retired executive secretary of the American Friends Service Committee who served in Quaker relief activities for many years.
What I am drawn to in Bell’s writing is his call for developing students’ truth-seeking skills. What becomes clear to me is the parallel between truth-seeking and what I see as the Quaker pedagogical value of teaching critical thinking.
By Colin Bell (1904-1988)
Maintaining and creating good private schools, largely for middle income people, may be a worthy thing to do, but is not particularly Quaker unless two things happen. One is that the whole life, the (in George Fox terms) “smell” of the school is redolent of the Quaker testimonies as applied to today’s world. The second is that the students leave the school clear in their understanding of the Quaker testimonies as the result of quite specific teaching about them. If this is propaganda, I think it is proper. I have met non-Quaker parents of students at Friends schools who appear to regard toleration as the prime Quaker virtue, and who rest in the assurance that we will not even communicate in any calculated way what we believe and would like to be strong enough to practice. I would like people to send their children to us in order to expose them to our religious views and how they apply to the world about them. These boys and girls ought to know the areas of Quaker strength, and the areas of Quaker confusion and weakness. They should be helped to understand our ambivalences regarding material possessions, the economic and social systems, the use and abuse of power and wealth and nature, violences of all sorts, and the universal shame of war. For after all, these are the issues they must face in life, whatever their faith. Our purposes are to help them seek and find what is truth for themselves.