There is No Neutrality – True Education Primarily is A Relationship-Driven Activity

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There is No Neutrality – True Education primarily is a relationship-driven activity

Richard Edlin comments: The reflections below from Scot McKnight (prof of NT at Northern Seminary, Lombard, IL) echo the focus that Jamie Smith, Benson Kamary, Roy Atwood, Doug Wilson, myself, and many others put on the key dynamic that education is not primarily the transfer of information. It embeds the process of informing in a more powerful context of forming (i.e. the worldview-committed cultural context, and the relational aspect).

In the same sense that families or churches are not primarily businesses, schools should not be reduced to being viewed as fee-for-service businesses. Schools do have important business-related characteristics, but their basic character is not defined by profit and loss- measured data. Schools are learning communities where parents and teachers partner together to nurture children based upon an agreed understanding of what’s important about the world and our places and tasks in it.

In the comments by McKnight below, he makes reasonable assumptions about readers’ familiarity with the broader context of his reflections. Since many readers of my paper may not have that familiarity, the sections inside square brackets in McKnight’s writing are additions for the sake of clarification inserted by me (Richard Edlin).

What Reform Fans Don’t Get
by Scot McKnight, Patheos, 13 January 2106

Resistance [by people like McKnight etc] to the education reform agenda [the political establishment’s drive for more accountability, more standardized testing, business model, etc] is not as much a rejection of its various policy features as it is a rejection of the philosophy that drives it.

This philosophy puts little stock in democratic governance of schools, believing instead that really smart people, armed with the right data and algorithms, are what it takes to determine education policy from New York to Nevada.

This core philosophy makes infinite sense to folks with backgrounds in law, business management, finance, or economics, but tends to rub educators and parents the wrong way because of its failure to acknowledge that teaching and learning are primarily relationship-driven endeavors and not technical pursuits.

To teachers, it makes about as much sense to base their actions exclusively on a data set or a marketing principle as it would for husbands and wives to conduct their marriages on that basis or for parents to raise their children that way. Sure, knowing some objective “things” about how students are doing is important, but there’s way more important stuff to attend to…

But too few reformers get this. Instead, what we can expect in 2016 is for the current education establishment to use the considerable financial resources at its disposal to mount yet more marketing and public relations efforts, while the pushback from grassroots public education advocates will grow even stronger, and political leaders will be increasingly pressured to decide where they stand.


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