National Council of Churches on education

The National Council of Churches, of which the United Methodist Church is a member, has released a pastoral letter on national education policy.

Here’s a summary of some of the main points made by NCC representatives who discussed the letter with the Secretary of Education:

A good society must balance the needs of each particular child and family with the need to create a system that secures the rights and addresses the needs of all children.

Persistent support and assistance remains society’s best strategy for raising achievement in the schools that are struggling. The delegation has serious reservations about turn-around models in “Race to the Top,” and rejects the current dependence on standardized testing.

Federal leadership is needed to address long-standing resource inequality across states. The U.S. government must allocate resources for equal treatment of children and press states to close gaps in opportunities offered to children.

While competitive, market-based measures may increase educational opportunity for a few children, the concern is that they do not introduce more equality into the system.

We must work together to eliminate policies that blame public school teachers for many problems beyond their control. The Race to the Top “turnaround model” that fires principals and staff in struggling schools without evaluating their performance constitutes scapegoating and tosses out professionals society cannot afford to lose.

You can download the .pdf of the letter here. I’ve not yet compared the letter to the UMC Social Principles, but I assume that given the presence of United Methodists among the signers of the letter that it passes doctrinal muster.

The Washington Post has a blog post that discusses the letter and reprints it as well.

It’s like they are trying to give Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas a fit or something.

One thought on “National Council of Churches on education

  1. Right now, the operating premise for education is a cost-driven bottom line. I don’t mind holding educators accountable for what they do. But our method of doing so does not take into account the nature of learning or the nature of the learner.

    We expect all students to learn at the same rate and at the same speed. Maybe, if that were the case, then this model would have some validity. But it doesn’t and it probably never will.

    Second, the drive for testing at the moment of teaching is inherently flawed. It is what the students remember and know six months to a year later that is what they should be tested on. Right now, anyone can teach for a test to be taught the next day or the next week. I pointed out in one of my pieces (“The Crisis in Science and Mathematics (1990)”) this has been going on since the idea was introduced. And teachers’ response are going to be the same as they were 20 years ago – get the test and teach it.

    To me, this isn’t a doctrinal thing. It is, if you will, a human rights issue. For John Wesley, education was important because it enabled the individual to read the Bible on their own. Methodists started the first schools (which evolved into our Sunday school); the only day that children had available for any sort of education was on Sunday.

    And right now, the issue is that a model of teaching which focus on an immediate return is one that removes the upper levels of learning (those that develop critical thinking skills) from the picture. It is becoming evident in our inability to resolve present-day crisis; it is becoming evident in our willingness to accept something as truth, even when it is in direct conflict with reality.

    We no longer explore the world around us or the universe in which we live. We have no desire to do so because we have no interest and we do not have the mental ability to do so. This is what our school system has created and it is time that we speak out much louder than ever before about what is going on.

    The question shouldn’t be if the National Council of Churches should be involved (and you should see some of the comments about the NCC on the Washington post blog – talk about a basic lack of knowledge!); the question should be “what took them so long!”

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