In Latin, there are two words for education, but they have very different meanings and different worldviews. One word is “educare,” which means to bring up. The other word is “educere,” which means to bring forth.
Most of American society sees the purpose of education as “bringing up” our children and young people. The educare worldview is that young people are blank slates (tabula rasa) and that the teacher’s job is to write knowledge on that slate. This leads to a “memorize and regurgitate” form of education, which has its purpose, but it doesn’t lead to “spiritually and developmentally mature leaders” my friend and mentor, Andre Delbecq, described as needed in today’s complex and challenging environment. Rather, it leads to an “expert” model of teaching, in which the teacher is the expert and the role is to assure this knowledge is transferred to the student.
Spirituality in the Workplace
What: Leadership, Spirituality and Education conference
Who: International Association of Management, Spirituality and Religion
When: May 18-20
Where: University of Arkansas
Host: Tyson Center of Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace
I find myself more drawn to the educere form of education, that of “bringing forth” the wisdom that already exists in the person. This worldview assumes the teacher is on a journey of discovery with the student and his role is to serve as a guide rather than an expert. The teacher gets to know the student’s dreams and talents, and they co-create a curriculum that “brings forth” the essence or soul of the student. An important part of this learning journey is getting clearer about one’s faith and spirituality — both for the student and the teacher. When we can bring our complete selves — body, mind, heart, and spirit — to the learning process, we have the potential to transform into what we are meant to be.
We are each put on Earth with unique gifts and with special callings that only we can answer. Life is richer, and we have a more positive impact on others when we develop our gifts and respond to our calling. This is a very important aspect of living in alignment with our faith and spirituality.
Half my career has been in university settings and the other half in the corporate world, but all my work was — and still is — about education. When I worked for Honeywell, I once had a boss who told me I needed to run a training session for employees, to teach them not to speed on the military base where our ammunition plant was operating. I asked him, “If you put a gun to their heads, would they know how to stop speeding?” Shocked at my question, he nodded his head, “Yes.” I responded, “Well, then it is not a training issue, it is a motivational issue. They already know how to do what you want them to do, they are just choosing not to.” All too often, we train or teach people to do what they already know how to do.
In organizational life, it is completely appropriate to train people in various skills required by their jobs. This is educare, “bringing up” — that is, bringing them up to the level of performance required by the organization to serve customers. I ran training sessions on statistical process control to improve productivity and quality, and I taught sessions on team building and conflict resolution, but we never did any kind of development work that tapped into something deeper and more transformational.
What is missing is educere, “bringing forth” the dreams, passions, visions and spirit that energize and enliven a person to make his contribution to the workplace. Somehow, those kinds of things have become undiscussable at work. They also are undiscussable in the classroom and often undiscussable in our places of worship — which are also places that have the potential to “bring forth” our wisdom and our gifts.
John Tyson, chairman of the board of Tyson Foods, and benefactor of the Tyson Center for Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace at the University of Arkansas, likes to say, “When you come to work on Monday, why is it OK to talk about the football game on Sunday, but not what you heard at church?” Tyson is attempting to “bring forth” the expression of our whole selves in the classroom and workplaces, where it ought to be OK to talk about our faith and our spirituality without worrying about someone judging us or trying to convert us.
What would schools and workplaces be like if we were free to express our beliefs, our spiritual practices, our doubts and our questions about our faith journey? What would they be like if people felt free to be kinder, more compassionate, more forgiving? How can we bring this forth? That is the role of the spiritually and developmentally mature leader described by Delbeq. What are we doing to support the development of these kinds of leaders?
The educere approach to education is Socractic in its method. The Greek philosopher Socrates was the child of a midwife and a sculptor, and he compared his teaching to midwifery rather than sculpting. He helped his students give birth to their true selves, as all spiritual teachers do. There is a new movement in academia called “transformative teaching” that is finding educators developing methods and curriculum that support learners in a deeper journey of self-exploration and truth. This gives me hope.
I’m very excited these kinds of questions will be explored in Fayetteville at an international gathering I’m helping to coordinate, taking place May 18-20. Participants will include scholars, change agents, chaplains, faith leaders and business leaders. Dan Harris, director of the Tyson Center of Faith and Spirituality in the Workplace, is hosting the International Association of Management, Spirituality and Religion conference on “Leadership, Spirituality and Education.” You can find details at eventmobi.com/iamsr2017info. We hope you will, and you will join us on this spiritual journey of bringing forth what wants to emerge through us and our Higher Power.
NAN Religion on 04/08/2017
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