Monday, May 20, 2013

The Smell of the School

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.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Preparing Students for the Society that Ought to Be

By Christen Higgins Clougherty

Quaker schools are historically noted for preparing students for the society, not as it is, but as it ought to be (Brinton 1967, 8). Following this belief we have to ask, “what should society be?” “What unmet potential has yet to be realized?” “How are we, as Friends educators, preparing youth for something that does not yet exist?”

In my work on global citizenship I explore how schools, including Friends schools, are meeting this challenge in interesting and meaningful ways. It is the Quaker dedication to action and change that continues to draw me to work with Friends schools. For this blog segment, I want to invite readers to share what IS happening at your school that demonstrates a commitment to educating for international understanding.

The topic of international understanding or global awareness appears as a Quaker concern in both Britain and America. In an opening address to a British Quaker education conference the speaker defines education as “a collection of experiences which enhances self-knowledge, enhances knowledge of the world as it is and as it is becoming, and develops the capacity to make informed choices” (Hubbard 1988, 9). A group of educators gathered at this conference composed an essay that describes the need, role and function of teaching global awareness (Serner et al. 1988, 19). The authors assert that [Quaker] educators who fail to initiate the process of change and action are failing in their purpose (Serner et al. 1988, 25). An American Friend, Leonard Kenworthy, shares this commitment to teaching international understanding. He wrote,
But where is the Quaker school … which prepares its students for the 21st century? Such a Quaker school or college may exist but I have inquired widely and not yet found one institution which has taken seriously the need …[to] construct total programs which are world-centered. The child-centered school needs to remain. So does the community-centered school. And the nation-centered school. But education for tomorrow needs to be world-centered, too (Kenworthy n.d., 34-35).

Kenworthy offers twelve queries on how Friends’ schools should be different because of their Quaker witness. Out of the queries presented two specifically reflect on what my research on global citizenship explores.
Are we teaching students to develop a chronic social conscience?
Do we educate students to be world-minded and loyal to a global view, rather than restricted to nationalism? (Kenworthy n.d., 52).

I would love to hear from you. How might you answer these queries? And considering the lateness of the school year, if you don’t take the time to write just now, I ask that you continue to reflect on these queries into the summer weeks ahead.  Then come back and let us know your thoughts!
Brinton, Howard H. 1967. Quaker Education in Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Publications.

Hubbard, Geoffrey. 1988. ‘Choices and Consequences: Education for a Better Life’. In Affirmation, Communication and Co-operation, edited by Elizabeth R.Perkins. London: Quaker Home Service.

Kenworthy, Leonard. Date unknown. Quaker Education: A Source Book. Kennett Square, PA: Quaker Publications.

Serner, Ruth, John Woods, Ruth Tod, and Mic Morgan. 1988. ‘Education for International Understanding’. In Affirmation, Communication and Co-operation, edited by Elizabeth R.Perkins. London: Quaker Home Service.