Dr. Chadwell shared with us three points he gleaned from the work of Parker Parmer, a well-known educator, activist and the founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal. These points indicate the spiritual nature of education.
The first point centered around the question – What does a good teacher do? According to Parmer, “Good teachers join self and subject and students in the fabric of life … They are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves”. In a world that is increasingly compartmentalized and dis-integrated, good teachers undertake the profoundly spiritual work of integrating experiences and subjects so students can ultimately become proficient at the work of integration – thereby creating a life for themselves and others that makes sense of the world in which we live.
The second point asked the question – What is a leader? “A leader is someone with the power to project shadow or light onto the world around him. The result can be a world as light-filled as heaven or as shadowy as hell" . This point is hardly lost on us all during this time in our history as we look around for leaders to deal with complicated issues and world-wide crises. We must seriously consider this point when we are thinking about our potential leaders – is this leader promising a light-filled world or a shadowy darkness, do they speak love or hate?
The third point dealt with the question – What is the undivided life? According to Parmer, an undivided life is a life in which our words and actions reveal the truths we hold dear inwardly. Good teachers work with children to help them discover and name their world and, as they develop, to live in ways that are consistently authentic – acting and doing things that reveal their innermost beliefs. As Parmer says, “I can’t imagine a sadder way to die than knowing I never showed up on earth as who I really am.”
I agree that education is inherently spiritual in nature and the need for us to provide educational opportunity to “the least of these” (as Jesus described the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised) has never been greater. It is our moral obligation as a society and as a people to work to ensure that ALL of our children receive an education that strengthens them to be secure, integrated people who can lead the way in the coming years. This means that your kids are my responsibility to educate as much as mine are. Joining together, we can overcome any inequities that currently exist with regard to educational opportunity – but only if we all pull in the same direction.