“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our Founding Fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future.” Chester Pierce, Professor of Psychiatry and Education at Harvard, 1973.
I posted this on Facebook this a.m. with the usual quick thought one liner, just to get a read from others. The response was minimal but I have not been able to get away from the quote, captured from one of Professor Pierce’s early lectures. A well respected African-American educator, he is being quoted in a negative way by those in our region, surrounding the typical open window of dialogue about public schools when a long time superintendent retires.
Apparently a “systems approach” to curriculum is being bantered around as a means of creating a more global awareness of the challenges we face, and the sort of critical thinking skills needed by corporate leaders. As one of our more conservative school board leaders recently posted: “(Peter) Senge is clear that he intends for systems thinking to transform education so that the next generation of children will grow up the understanding of how we all live in an interconnected world that currently is unsustainable….that we collectively can solve this problem by learning to think the same way.” What could be wrong with that?
We can’t continue to fall behind academically as a nation, yet neither can we afford the spiritual erosion now occurring in our nation as we silo in sanctuaries, complaining about the public schools. That is where my struggle comes in.
As Christians, we too often become defenders of the decline, when in reality the dilemma is our own mission drift, as purveyors of “salt and light” (Matt 5:13-16). If our lives were fully in relationship with the Ancient of Days, our children engrained with the love of Christ, raised with a demonstration of home-based faith, as they grew older, they “would not depart from it.” The best of educational strategies, from the brightest of academicians could not deter their confidence in their God; nor, would they fail at the transference of moral character which our nation once demonstrated.
We have churches on every corner which we stubbornly resource, while a nation that once delivered the light of the Gospel (even through its own moral failures), has been the most productive per capita and fed the globe for decades, now sits near bankruptcy, rumored that almost 50% are unemployed, disabled or retired.
Maybe it’s not only the educational system that has failed our nation, for this decline did not happen overnight and was absolutely on our watch!
Could it be the dysfunction of the institutional church that lies at the root of our nations challenges; after all, are not human beings simply spiritual beings on a human journey?