Friday, October 19, 2007

Civic Engagement?

I am at a an Academic Conference for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. It is facinating in many ways and I am still processing as I write. The title of the conference is: Civic Learning at the Intersections: U.S. Diversity, Global Education, and Democracy's Unfinished Work.

So far I have heard some fabulous renound scholars speak about very practical issues concerning the role of higher education in developing civic agents that are able to participate in social change.

One of the reasons that I applied to the PhD program I am in was because I wanted to be able to help students recognize and build their capacities to do these very things. Recently I have been lost in the midst of figuring out if I even have the capacity to do these things, and still struggle a bit with that. However, part of my identity formation is recognizing my gifts and talents and how they intersect with the world around me. I have a ton of choices, as do the students I will work with and the faculty members who are here with me.

The Plennary speakers have provided insights that I agree with and point to some of the goals that Visio Dei has set out to be a part of as well. I think I see another intersection...

Harry Boyte spoke of the hope that we have to offer to students using a couple quotes 1) "We are the ones we've been waiting for"... realizing that we have the capacity to become who we are created to be 2) We do this by unlocking our gifts and talents and connecting them with whole of life... Does this sound familar to the body of Christ at all?

When we don't function to our capacity society suffers, individuals and communities need a sense of agency and the capacity to use their various talents in ways that benefit the common good. Our role as educators is help students recognize these talents and build their capacities to use them in a wholistic sense that integrates their lives with the lives of other in the communities in which they live... I can get excited about that.

Another speaker, L. Lee Knefelkamp said that we can't recognize our civic identities in isolation, but need to act them out and refine them in the context of community. A civic identity is intended to be one that develops the capcity for love, wisdom and courage in the face of challenge and difference and complexity... does this sound biblical at all?

I post this to say that it appears there are ways that my academic life can intersect with my spiritual life in a non over spiritualized way. I also post this to say that I have a TON to learn and process. I also have some questions...

Is Higher Education the "best" place to help people recognize their talents and how they intersect with the world? Maybe its just oe of the places... If we don't take that approach what are the implications?

Is Democracy the end goal of all of this? If not, what is? Does it matter how we define what democracy is?

If we are helping to develop students with the capacity for love, wisdom, and courage, can we do that without sharing the redemptive power of Jesus? What are the implications when we don't?


Anonymous said...

wow- those are awesome questions and thoughts traci, i vote for starting over.. maybe eden? love, mom

Corey Paxton said...

I celebrate Young Life and ice cream with you

Corey Paxton said...

hey traci,

these are great thoughts- i think we have the responsibility to pull out the gifts and abilities of others through whatever profession we choose- God has placed uniqueness inside of each of us as children created in His image, and we need to believe in people and believe for people before they even believe in themselves and believe in Christ- as we see the potential in them, i think we point to the creator that sees the unique way he created them