Friday, 16 January 2009

Church and Education

I have just submitted my next piece for Episcopal Café that follows on from the previous entry.

So now this develops on from that - I try not to repeat what I submit elsewhere beforehand, otherwise it undermines the point of submitting externally.

I present the theological material as neutrally as possible, so that people can make of it what they will. It can be treated in a confessional manner. However, I am not myself treating it in any kind of confessional sense whatsoever. I believe strongly that people should be free to treat material in any way they wish, including scepticism about it and even about faith positions. The point about presenting is to facilitate discussion, and such may go off topic - so what, if this is what is prompted and draws on experience.

I've been attracted by the ideas of Paulo Freire (1921-1997) in a general sense. What I hate about so called education today is that it is more like training. It has to come with qualifications and is about the economy. Work will make you free. We have a Prime Minister now with a Protestant Work Ethic. So much of education that was for the sake of education has declined, including that leisure education with social and welfare motivations that was provided for the retired. Education - but actual education that is experience-drawing and critical - enhances the person. I generally warm to the idea that the teacher learns and the learners teach, though often I take it that the teacher learns thanks to the preparation of teaching material. Still, the context here is a maturity of learning that enhances well being.

Now it seems to me that churches should be a place of such voluntary, adult learning: that which draws upon and enhances what has been, that builds the community.

So much that passes for church learning I must criticise. Alpha, for example, is the McDonaldisation of church learning: bite size ready answers for whatever questions may arise. It is a recruiting method (or a recycling method, really). It is marketed and carries power connotations: power and influence for Holy Trinity Brompton, power and influence for generally one kind of Christianity delivered with a copyright notice. It's capitalism in religion. It is also lazy teaching and learning, a sort of unwrapped national curriculum of sectional Christianity.

Instead I'm more interested in mutual clues and prompts, suggestions and possibilities. Work and success do not make you free, even if you need enough money to get by: being human more fully makes you free. In this I do follow the liberal educational ideal of building up, but also recognising the conflictual relationship some of us are in when the predominant role of education is to fit into a market economy. We do need consciousness raising in this matter, to recover something that we did start to build after the Second World War.

This is why, when I present material, it is not to be confessional. I will give my view of course, but one among many. I think churches, if they can see things this way, can be part of the building up of communities with actual educational programmes (of many kinds, including leisure skills and debates). Of course those that pursue a kerygma can present such as an alternative value as part of building difference. Why not? Education is, I am suggesting, an important role for any church.

1 comment:

June Butler said...

That's the very best description of Alpha evah. I had to quote you and give you a link. I even posted your self-portrait.