apologies for the quiet blog... i seem to be going backwards at the moment...
i've just had three days in melbourne at the annual meeting of the uniting church's national christian education reference committee, something that i joined a couple of years ago. great to catch up with people from across the country and meet some new folk (including paul, who is a 'research fellow in multi-modal learning'. damn! how I want that on my business card!)
one visitor asked whether 'christian education' was a modernist term that we didnt need in a postmodern word. i'm glad he asked it (although we didnt get enough time to explore why he did). so, is CE a thing of the past, or what?
i'm biased because my master's degree is in RE. however....
there's no doubt that 'christian education' as a term and discipline declined for several reasons
- it was seen to be associated with 'sunday school', particularly in australia where adult education has not had the attention and support given in the US
- state and national christian education departments declined along with sunday school and youth group numbers - hence a reduction of resources and leadership
- congregational and regional church staff reduced. while australia has never had many congregational staff designated as 'christian education', those who did have such responsibilities largely disappeared in the 80's and early 90's
- 'mission' superceded 'education'. for good reasons, as the church started to shrink, education was seen as in-house and mission as... (out-house?) outward-focused! youth ministry, for example, was seen as having been captive to christian education agendas, and ignoring the church's mission to young people. here, my good friend fuzz kitto was an early 'prophetic' voice about this.
- education was a function needing a purpose. the question became 'education for what'? hence 'mission', 'discipleship', 'leadership' and 'spirituality' were some of the answers given
the list could go on. some observations....
in the uniting church, the link between education and mission has become a division and connection in different ways across the synods. mission agencies engage in education, education agencies try to focus on mission. it's probably one of the messiest areas of service delivery (IMHO!). hence mission staff do education with little reference to learnings from the field of education, and education staff, who are now primarily in colleges/seminaries, remain focused in the arena of faith development, albeit with wider references to media, spirituality and well-being.
for my teacher john westerhoff, learning was about formation and education - socialisation in faith AND intentional teaching and learning. the rather recent adoption of 'formation' to cover everything either eliminates education or puts it into the service of 'those who form'. admittedly, this use suits its application within certain orders (eg. jesuits), where formal education is put at the service of broad formation, however I think such examples only serve to prove that such a view of formation is usually associated with hierarchy and a quasi-gnosticism (I'm not wanting to bag the jesuits here, for whom I have great respect, but to reflect on where such notions might have arisen historically).
more to come...