Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Emancipatory Education

My critical assessment of my own beliefs, assumptions, prejudices and biases began in early adolescence specifically around the area of sexual orientation. To a lesser degree, other forms of personal and social identity brought about on-going critical reflection. Being a Catholic, descendant of Polish immigrants and later as a priest and a monk, I have lived in a largely counter-cultural lifeworld. Being born in 1966, I grew up in a post-civil rights society with its attendant obligations for confronting privilege and being sensitive to the needs of others. Early on I was influenced by organizations such as The Catholic Worker and the birth of Liberation Theology which were both emancipatory movements that helped to shape my frames of reference.

Being educated within the Catholic school system (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) with additional educational experiences further embedded within Catholic monastic education, it is hard to miss the points of what the initial construction of my social responsibility as an educator should be. Every classroom I sat in during those times had a crucifix over the teacher’s desk. The teacher, sometimes priests, nuns or monks, stood as an alter Christus, which is Latin for “another Christ.” Although rarely said out loud except in monastic settings, the teacher took the place of Christ in the classroom and became the way and means through which knowledge and the love of God would be learned. The role of the educator had spiritual, moral, ethical and communal implications. In terms of the social responsibility of the educators, context provided a great many additional obligations, i.e., institutional and ecclesiastical. Educators were in place (commissioned) and had the mandate for each learner to come to the knowledge of God. In fact, the early response of the Baltimore Catechism to the question of why we were made was “to know, love and serve God in this world and be happy with God in the next.” An educator or teacher was so by vocational calling and the acceptance of the position was an act of grace in response to an invitation from God to which the individual submitted or obeyed. To what degree I remain influenced by these experiences or my interpretations of them is still an open-ended question. I find some of the postmodern relative perspectives objectionable on many grounds especially where human beings are left disempowered and fragmented, however, I value the benefits of their critical analysis and believe that humanity continues to evolve its own self-understanding on both an individual and collective basis. Each voice and story is embedded in the tapestry and no one has ever been able to contain the on-going and persistent stretching of the collective human mind/spirit/body. In my experience, the continued practice of adult education is an upward and onward journey.

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