Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Retreat: Redemptively Engaging Culture

I will be giving three talks and a sermon for Christ Presbyterian Church Graduate Fellowship this weekend in New Haven, CT on "Redemptively Engaging Culture: A Biblical Basis and Practical Paradigm."

I am very excited about this opportunity. As you may know, we spent the last week and a half moving from Boston to Austin (we are thrilled to be here!). As a result, I am still working on my talks and would appreciate your prayers for my preparation and delivery.

Redemptively engaging peoples and cultures thru Christ...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stanley Fish: Educators Shouldn't Moralize, Politicize or Draw Ethical Conclusions in the Classroom

In a recent NY Times article, Stanley Fish called for the academcizing of education. According to Fish, to academicize is to "look into a history of a topic, studying and mastering the technical language that comes along with it, examining the controversies that have grown up around it and surveying the most significant contributions to its development."

Using these academic terms, Fish argues that moral and political conclusions should be banned from pedagogy: "The list of academic terms would, however, not include coming to a resolution about a political or moral issue raised by the materials under discussion. This does not mean that political and moral questions are banned from the classroom, but that they should be regarded as objects of study – Where did they come from? How have they been answered at different times in different cultures? – rather than as invitations to take a vote (that’s what you do at the ballot box) or make a life decision (that’s what you do in the private recesses of your heart). No subject is out of bounds; what is out of bounds is using it as an occasion to move students in some political or ideological direction."

But what of social and educational contexts that are morally charged, like genocidal geography in Africa, Eastern Europe and so forth? Fish writes: "There is nothing virtuous or holy about teaching; it’s just a job, and like any job it aims at particular results, not at all results. If the results teaching is able to produce when it is done well – improving student knowledge and analytical abilities – are not what you’re after, then teaching is the wrong profession for you. But if teaching is the profession you commit to, then you should do it and not use it to do something else."

Is this avoiding indoctrination or neutering knowledge? Is the postmodern turn in education a liberation or incarceration of knowledge? Is teaching simply the process of refining a students knowledge base and anaylitical skills or does knowledge inherently possess an ethical imperative, a moral obligation, to not only faithfully inform, but to personally reform?