by Dustin Hite, Senior Pastor, First Christian Church, Bargersville, Indiana
Upon returning from our last cohort meeting, my wife was preparing to head to the #RedforEd rally in downtown Indianapolis. As an educator for almost fourteen years, she’s seen the ups and downs in the lives of many students’ lives, and the immense pressure we put on teachers, administrators, and support staff to overcome all that works against a safe, well-resourced, open educational environment for all students. While I could not be there in person, I penned a note on my Facebook page with the following line in it: “These teachers aren’t asking for a miracle, even though often that’s what is demanded from them. They’re just asking for the support that such demands require.” It’s really easy, as the partner of an educator, to myopically see the struggles from the side of the educators. Yet, that only gives you only one set of eyes through which to see the struggles of our educational system.
As I sat listening to our various presenters, it became abundantly clear that our struggles are legion and the solutions to them are anemic, at best. I wrote in my notebook that we “cannot ignore issues of race, equity, cultural considerations and the vested interests and history of all involved in our educational system.” It is all of these, and so much more, that are the source of many of our educational struggles–under-resourcing of schools in communities of color; racism and sexism in curriculum and pedagogical models; inadequate or unprepared teachers; demands and expectations that go well beyond the tools are educators are given–all of these and so much more represent the deep and systemic problems we have. Yet, they are also seemingly ignored by a vast majority of those for whom the educational system works.
For those of us clergy working in communities with schools–(*ahem*) that would be all of us–we have an obligation to speak truth even when it hurts. For many of our communities, schools are failing a large number of our children, and there’s no simple solution to fix this. But, what we, as pastors, have to offer is hope, though our educational system may seemingly be overwhelmed by the marks of a “death-dealing” world, that a new day can come and resurrection is always possible. Our educational system can be made new; but it cannot be made new if we are not truthful about how we got here. Nor can it be made new if many of us are not honest that we have a vested interest in the status quo because it “works” for us. Our educational system, just like any other fallen, human institution, bears the marks of racism, sexism, economic deprivation and privation, socio-economic homogeneity, and just about every other “-ism” with which we struggle in our common human experience. It is incumbent upon us, as pastors and preachers and teachers and leaders, to name this truth, claim our role in changing it in our communities, and acting for a more just and equitable educational system. But, we must do it, knowing that for some, it will require repentance and the seeking of forgiveness, or else our educational institutions will never be able to fulfill their rightful role in society: ensuring that all are able to pursue their own flourishing.