Friday, February 18, 2011

Questions from Crisis, part 5

Continuing a sermon by Rev. Ronald W. Leichty at First EUB in North Manchester, Indiana (May 14, 1967).

The fourth question that I put before you is this: What do you believe is the purpose of education? If one questions stand out from this week’s activities, this is it. What do you really think education is all about? What should we be trying to do in our schools and more pointedly in a college that is in our town?

It seems that there is a tremendous gap between the understanding of what we are trying to do in education, between many people in our town and the professional educator. As an oversimplification, let me say that what I heard this week in many conversations seemed to be saying this: that the educational task is a task of indoctrination. Indoctrinate young people with the facts by which they can be good citizens in the pattern of the community. Indoctrinate them to be good members of the community so that they don’t ask the wrong questions or rock the boat. Indoctrinate them to fit into a life that is basically white and protestant.

This is not education; and professional educators do not see their task in this light. They see their task as opening the doors by which youth understand what is  going on in this world, by which they come to an understanding of opening before youth the many resources that are available in this world. Professional educators see their task as helping youth to choose how they will use their life in the light of these opportunities. They see their task as helping youth to make value judgments in the light of all that occurred around them.

From this standpoint, I think you can see why a man like Dr. King was invited to come. Dr. A. Blair Helman, the President of Manchester College, summarized these goals in his statement when he came onstage to indicate Dr. King would not come. He said this: “One commitment of education is that ideas are to be presented and challenged. No idea is to be taken for granted. Education is a process in which one hears ideas and then makes up his mind.”

It goes without saying that this concept of education is different than that which many of us fear. And yet, it is positive. And the gap must be bridged. In order to share this concept with the community, the Chamber of Commerce and the college are sharing staff persons, meeting with business persons from our community on a monthly basis to try to answer questions and to help understand.

I have sent from our church over my name a letter to Dr. Helman urging that this series of meetings be continued and also suggesting that additional meetings be arranged for other groups of persons within our community. I hope that many of us will have opportunity to share in such sessions. For I am convinced that it will help us to answer a basic question that was found to be lacking in these days: “what is the purpose of education?”

to be concluded

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