As a continuation of last week’s editorial on Why Edifide?, I would like to propose that Christian education is public education as it reflects our goal to educate for the common good. Historically, independent Canadian Christian education found itself on the outside looking in. In Alberta and BC, independent education has moved out of the private sphere into the public sphere due to funding agreements at various levels depending on choices made by provinces and schools. In Ontario, the Christian schools (outside of publicly funded Catholic schools) are still considered private, and independent. To propose that Christian education is actually public education for the common good means that Christian schools serve the common good by educating students to be active Canadian Christian citizens with a well-developed sense of service, justice, community, truth, integrity, honour and stewardship.
I wonder if we could frame the history of our professional association as moving into a fourth phase of development. If we consider the first phase of our history as establishing Christian schools to serve a primarily Dutch immigrant group (1950s-1960s), this phase might be thought of as “total separation” from the predominant culture; the second phase might be thought of as a beginning realization that professionalism and education needed to develop which called for OCSTA (Ontario Christian School Teachers Association now known as Edifide) to form (1970/80’s); the third phase of striving to find a unique voice and looking to the educational culture as a way to “react” to ideas (1990-2000’s); and finally a fourth phase where our professional educators’ association has moved to collaborate and work “with” the Ministry of Education, the Ontario College of Teachers in a participatory way that honours the uniqueness of our Christian schools and finds a way to dialogue about our choices in best practices that fulfills the mission and vision of Christian education.
I will say that I have honestly appreciated the work of the Ministry of Education and by extension the work of Curriculum.org. I like the standards and ethics documents as well as the advisory documents of the College of Teachers. To use the words “I like” and “I wonder” and “I suggest” as a way into critique….I believe is a helpful way where we can build bridges into working with our educational colleagues both in the public and private sectors of education. We need to recognize the dedicated, well-intentioned, honourable, integral educators in our public and Catholic educational systems. They like us want the best for their students. They like us wish to develop flourishing educational spaces. If we move from defensiveness and competition to participation and collaboration, could this not be where we create community, shalom, celebration and appreciation?
The experiences of the last number of years in our community speak to this. We have engaged numerous educational professionals who have commented time and time again as they get to know our schools, our educators and our associations….how fortunate we are to be in a united position where together with all stakeholders in Christian education we move forward to develop flourishing educational institutions where children (who are God’s image-bearers) are encouraged to grow and develop and serve. In so many ways, the central belief of our Christian schools where the idea of growing students wholisticly in a “HEART, HEAD and HANDS” motif still resonates (think: character and culture=HEART; mastery of knowledge and skills=HEAD; beautiful work=HANDS). We may disagree about the details but the overall vision and mission, THE MOVEMENT, is surprising consistent and resilient. I would like to celebrate the Christian education movement in Ontario and would love to continually ask our educational colleagues what our strengths are; what our weaknesses are; what are opportunities are; and finally what our threats are. To put it another way, the way that we GROW is to risk critique. We need to move into the places where we can ask others for their “likes”, “wonders” and “suggestions”…..otherwise we run the risk of continuing to talk amongst ourselves to tell ourselves that we are doing good work. Let’s embrace the good that our educational culture offers us all the while critiquing how it “fits” with our vision of Christian education.