Change may impact our lives in powerful ways, causing our welfare, joys, and safety to seem at risk from challenging new realities in our lives. That seems the case in many aspects of the current political season – global shifts in values cause new perceptions regarding gender, social behavior, and educational efforts to name a few of the issues in the daily news. Then generationally, both a shrinking middle class leaving many older Americans feeling their values are under attack by modern challenges to traditional perspectives as incomes stagnate causing further dread. Meanwhile, at the other end millennial corps are less sure of the present as visions of the future, jobs, and the ability to pay their college loans bear down. For them, traditional views are questioned and finding meaning for self within new realities is difficult, especially when influenced by social media. Both perspectives are assailed by fear mongers seeking their allegiances as the nation and world seek political direction after years of divisive governing as well as global terrorism leading many to distrust political authority. Trust and hope in our systems are at a low ebb even as social messaging and personality cults claim to provide easy solutions. Change may cause fear and a sense of helplessness that can drive varied responses.
The Biblical imperative is that hope will abound. We are to be creative and hopeful as Isaiah, Joel, and Acts all proclaim that the young will have visions and the old their dreams. Our faith seeks the truth, where we can place our trust. For that to happen, our focus needs to rest upon seeking that truth with the courage to hear it and act responsibly to that vision. Neither reaction or inaction will do. What is needed is faithful acts built upon the Word of Truth. Modern social media responds primarily with marketing, as it seeks its truth; focusing upon the individual, often making a pitch for the sale. More prudent reflection is needed upon what it means for the welfare of us all. Civilization is a WE not an I! How can we discern truth using accurate data to develop well-formed concepts to make useful decisions or generalizations in this life? Consumer based marketing seeks to sell its perspective to our needs for its own benefits. The profit of a sale is usually motivation. When that is the case, it is manipulative marketing where the consumer is convinced to buy what they do not need or even want. It is like Jeremy the Crow’s fascination with sparkles in the Rats of NIMH. Politics as systems too often seek to filter out the truth for some misperceived benefit. This is when hope must enter the picture seeking the best for not just ourselves, but for the community as well. Equality and justice then may impact the vision so that wisdom helps bring hope to the community. Seeking wisdom without hope or truth is unproductive at best and evil at its worst.
I recently enjoyed a history, “How Teachers Taught from 1880-1990, (2nd ed. 1993),” by Larry Cuban. He presents rich layers of data and reflection, concluding that teachers have continued to dominate the curriculum and instructional practice over that period in spite of many efforts toward a more child-centered process. Cuban holds that calls for reform are generally driven by outside forces; social, political, or economic in nature, not by teachers or students. Further, responses to these pressures have historically not been supported well financially or systemically failing to become institutionalized in schools and classrooms. He concludes that cultural beliefs regarding knowledge and the nature of teaching are so entrenched that significant change is difficult. The standards/testing movements of recent years continue in spite of their failure. Schools are expected to maintain a socializing function or goal for the status quo and teachers fail to be engaged in the process of reform until political instructions come down the line in forms often poorly financed or implemented. Meanwhile, new pressures seek stronger systemic based efforts, while teachers at best seek to win limited victories based upon personal efforts and connections by listening to their students.
In culture and politics, it may take a crisis to lift us to action, usually due to fear of survival or unfairness of some perceived crisis. Reactions may be driven by instinctual feelings. This is unlikely to be an effective process by which to adopt change? It is also true that there is evil and selfishness in the world seeking to foil humanity. Humankind at times has risen to the occasion and overcome them for the good of the people, but much of history records the failures. The crisis ahead in politics, climate, education, and change in general may seem at hand and therefore cause fears to grow, but will they drive out the wise responses, shaping teaching as kneejerk reactions? Add to this the economic and social crisis of the day and the future can appear to be dark. Demagogues can gain traction and support just as they have in the past, but now fueled in a technological culture where many worry about lack of conversations and our ability to discover and communicate truth. Wisdom requires us to stop reacting and look at the true reality to discover causes and responses that seek to abate the panic and solve the problems by addressing our student’s real needs. It is like in a drought where we are so fearful of the water shortage that we do not see that solutions may best start with wiser usage, rather than a frantic search for a new source of water to maintain the status quo. We live in a world where wisdom and community effort can counter a crisis, but fear promotes slogans and false hopes. Real hope is based upon the community’s ability to seek better solutions involving the Cross. When we start early enough relying upon the Cross, actions can avert a crisis in finding the solution even before we have fear.
Global warming, terrorism, economic challenges, gender issues, social equity and fairness, meaning for life, and the future can all be addressed from the Cross’s wise perspective. A perspective upon wisdom rather than upon sinful foolishness. If we are to take the wiser path we must consider the welfare of the creation upon which billions share their existence, speaking out with wisdom not just self-interest. We must listen carefully with integrity to the many solutions offered to us. We must rise above fear to seek ways to cooperate, allowing as much mutual personal freedom as possible within our own responsibilities and participation. It is not the only choice, but the only way that will truly work. The world has gone through many dark ages in its history. Sin and evil are not new inventions. If it survives long enough we may look back upon this time as one of them. Too often humans do not want to pay attention to history repeating errors of the past. We can do better! We can sow hope. We can see opportunity. Hope is both a gift from God and a fruit of the spirit. We are able to walk in hope by faith and love in our blessed journeys! Spend some time exploring the source of your faith, where you place your hopes for your daily walk, and how you will love those with whom you share it. The rest will take care of itself as both change and fear cease to haunt, where hope and faith abide and shine.