Al Boerema began the conversation by asking the panel members to reflect on the tension between the standards/accountability movement that has taken center stage in public policy on education and the equity perspective that emphasizes cultural diversity, positive relationships, and equipping students to confront social inequities through culturally appropriate pedagogy and student-centered learning and teaching. The panel took the discussion in a slightly different direction by focusing on the task of transformational teaching, which is really at the heart of what Christian schools are trying to do.
On October 9, Christian Altena started the discussion:
We all accept that education can bring about personal and social transformation. When we talk in our loftiest language about our profession, we talk about changing lives, developing potential, fostering citizenship, making a better future, and so on. The motto of Chicago Christian, like most mottoes, speaks this language: “A Christ-centered learning community intent on the restoration of God’s world.”
In our Reformed tradition, we should be absolutely obsessed by the idea of a transformative educational experience. It’s in our DNA to see the world not just as it is, but much more significantly, as it will become. And further, that we are not to be passive observers of this change, but active participants.
I would say that we have a decidedly mixed record when it comes to following through on the rhetoric of restoration. Sometimes we are guilty of acting as if the means to the restorative end is merely through the mastery of multiplication tables, correct use of semicolons, and the recall of constitutional amendments. When since the Declaration of Independence has a semicolon been part of something truly transformative?
We may tend to focus on academic skills because they’re easy to evaluate and their mastery is immediately recognized and appreciated by everyone out in the world. We focus on skills because the cold machinations of the economy demand that we do. Of course, we also focus on skills because they are extremely important. So why might we get squeamish when spending our limited time on the soft skills of citizenship?
We miss many opportunities to develop a transformative mindset because the related topics have sounded like things we should be avoiding. Teaching diversity has sounded to us like cultural relativism. Concern for the environment has sounded like left-wing planet worship. Student-centered anything is simply wrong from its hyphenated label.