This month’s queries are about education.
Friends seek an education which integrates our intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions and enables us to face difficult moral issues with courage.
While the religious education of our children is primarily the concern of parents, everyone benefits when the entire meeting is concerned with nurturing them. If a spirit of common concern is present, children will gain a sense of belonging to the larger community, and, knowing they are loved and respected, will be able to face the mysteries of life with trust.
Friends promote learning throughout life and encourage freedom of thought and inquiry in all educational pursuits. Our complex and changing world demands that we learn to think and act creatively to meet its challenges.
• How can we most effectively foster a spirit of inquiry and a loving and understanding attitude toward life?
• What effort are we making to become better acquainted with the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, our Judeo Christian heritage, the history and principles of Friends, and the contributions of other religions and philosophies to our spiritual heritage?
• In what ways can we encourage an educational process that is consistent with the values Friends cherish? How do gender based expectations affect the goals we set and the way we learn?
• Do we take an active and supportive interest in schools, libraries and other educational resources in our communities and elsewhere?
• How do we prepare ourselves and our children to play active roles in a changing world?
Callie Marsh writes about implicit education in her book, A Lively Faith, Reflections on Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends (Conservative). Most of us didn’t receive much formal religious education as children. But we did learn a lot as we listened to adult Friends talk, and observed how they lived their lives. We heard their messages in meeting for worship, and discussions during business meetings. I grew up in a Quaker community where nearly 20 men had gone to prison because they could not participate in conscription for the military. I was very grateful for their example when I was faced with my own decision related to registering for the draft.
Callie also writes about the dangers of implicit education. That newcomers often feel like outsiders because they haven’t had those experiences, and we often don’t help them learn. Also this lack of formal religious education can make new people think they can believe anything at all.
Those of us fortunate to attend Scattergood Friends School received an amazing education. We learned how to live and work in community, because that was how we actually lived at the school. We had to struggle with community problems, come up with solutions, and then implement them. We learned the tools to prepare us to be life long learners, and community leaders.
Quaker Voluntary Service provides opportunities for young people to learn to live in community and work on social justice issues.
Quaker publications like Pendle Hill Pamphlets and Friends Journal are helpful educational sources. The relatively new QuakerSpeak videos are not only well done, but are in a format that might be more likely to reach young people.
Social media provides other platforms to educate. The unofficial Facebook group for the yearly meeting contains new posts frequently. And the ability for people to comment on what is posted sometimes leads to interesting discussions.
Realizing the importance of social media in our culture, I created the Facebook group Quakers Welcome Spiritual Seekers, hoping to introduce Quakerism to those who are searching for a spiritual home.
For similar reasons, three years ago I created a blog, and write posts on it nearly daily. I usually write about spiritual or social justice matters. As more people turn away from attending church services, I felt there was a need to have places where seekers could learn about what Quakerism might offer them. This writing has turned into an educational experience for me as well, as I listen and learn from the Inner Light.
Over the past 7 or so years as I got more involved with several social justice efforts and communities in Indianapolis, there were many occasions to teach Quaker ways of approaching these things to people. I was the one who taught about nonviolence and civil disobedience in our training sessions for the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. It was by being urged to explain myself that provided the opportunity to talk about Quakerism when the Kheprw Institute (KI) was trying to figure out if I was someone they wanted to work with. There was a fundamental spiritual force behind the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance in Indianapolis, and opportunities to learn about the spiritual practices of Native Americans.
I recently purchased a computer projector so that I could share photographs and other presentations with others. To use as an educational tool.