Tuesday, April 25, 2006

matters of faith, free will and public education

an old friend of mine and i were discussing some observations that she had been making concerning cultural expressions of spirituality all over the world- most notably in her travels through israel, egypt, and russia- and the differences between cultural and personal faith...

as for the christian spirituality thing, it is sometimes hardest for people who have grown up in a household where one or two of the parents practice this faith because of the 'choice' element...

free will is such a huge and important part of our response to God as christians that sometimes it gets confusing. i mean, kid puts up with it until such time as the faith practiced is no longer legislated within the household (often, moving away from home is a catalyst but there are others: puberty, driver's license time, high school graduation. i recently read that the 'age of identity' is between twelve and fourteen years of age*- probably just about anything significant that happens any time after that can be a trigger)... ultimately, the faith of the parents is meaningful tradition, foundational in one's becoming who one is- just as everything in life has been. but eventually it has to be adopted as one's own or rejected as the faith of our fathers and nothing more than that. a choice is a choice.

once faith becomes one's own, it seems more organic and, in many ways, can be far easier to invest in. until then, it is simply wearing someone else's spiritual hand-me-downs. no matter how well-kept and 'like new' they are, they are still used garments of praise.

i think that this whole process of adoption is, for many, a bit like their experience with education. high school is mildly socially and intellectually interesting (we are engaged, but as to whether this is positive or negative, that's a whole nother blog) and so on for most of us, but upon graduation everything seems to change: people who didn't do a thing all through high school start working hard for their grades at university or tech school, while some who worked their butts off through high school don't even bother applying anywhere.

like the journey of faith, this all has something to do with ownership, in that while we are forced to attend to it, we simply deal with the force in the way that makes sense to us or is the least unpleasant... but once we are no longer forced into the discipline of learning, it finally becomes about the schooling-or at least about the goals which can be realized through it- not just about the external forces inflicting the schooling upon the young and impressionable (this last cliche phrase was in here because this old friend is a former student of mine, an adult now living in japan... had to make a noticeably self-deprecating remark there- it's the canadian way!)

some choose to make a discipline their own while others walk away from it to explore a different future. as with faith, the outcomes have more to do with free will than with anything tidy like the old nature versus nurture thing.

that i have been afforded the freedom to, as a teacher of young people, enter into dialogue that deals explicitely with issues deeper than those covered in our secular-humanist curriculum, rather than implicitely is a gift from God for which i am grateful. it has always been my view that the whole battery of curricula is simply a life-support system for mentoring relationships... the curriculum gets the funding but the relationship bears the fruit.

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Blogger jollybeggar said...

"the 'age of identity' is between twelve and fourteen years of age..."

here in canada, the age of consent is also fourteen years of age.

what this means practically is that, for some teens, the primary identity to which they will consciously ascribe everything about themselves is flawed, having been somehow subject to the libido of their boyfriend or girlfriend at the time... a kid, the basic laws of probability suggest, with whom they will no longer be acquainted by high school graduation.

there is currently a bill being considered to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age (see below). 16 years isn't a whole lot better, but at least it does provide some protection for young people under the law for a little longer. something to think about...

pray for the children and write parliament a letter.

Age of consent likely to rise
CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, April 24, 2006
OTTAWA -- After several failed tries, there are indications Parliament is ready to agree to raising the age of consent.

Interviews conducted with members of the three federal opposition parties indicate the Harper Conservatives would likely secure the support of the NDP and a few Liberals if they're free to vote as they choose.

"If you do the numbers, I think there is enough there," said NDP justice critic Joe Comartin, who supports the initiative.

The legislation to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 from 14 will be one of three law-and-order bills the Conservatives will introduce this spring.

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tagged it a priority item, it's not known how long it would take for the proposal to wind its way through the parliamentary process and reach a final vote.

The age of consent -- which has been in place for more than 100 years -- will be renamed the age of protection.

Justice Minister Vic Toews has said the bill will contain a "close-in-age exception" so that sex between teenagers a few years apart in age will not become illegal.

Harper said last week raising the age would bring Canada in line with most other countries and American states.

"It is long overdue and it is particularly important in the age of the Internet where young people are increasingly targeted by cyber-predators," he said in a speech outlining the law-and-order initiatives he wants to introduce before the House of Commons breaks in June.

The Conservatives, who hold 125 seats, need only 30 more votes for their bill to pass. If the government wins all of the NDP's 29 votes, they would need only one Liberal onside for the bill to become law.

Several Liberals broke ranks with the government last fall and sided with the opposition Conservatives in a failed private members' bill to raise the age to 16.

The Bloc Quebecois strongly opposed the bill and has not changed its position, spokesman Frederic LePage said.

"We think this is not a solution and we think it is not the best way of protecting children from abuse," LePage said. "The law should be more oriented on the nature of the relationship rather than the age of the person."

Under the current law, young people under age 14 are deemed to be too young to consent to any form of sexual contact, from kissing to intercourse. The offence against a minor carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

The Liberals, who considered raising the age of consent while they were in power, opted to change the law to make it a crime for a person in a position of trust or authority to have sex with someone under 18.

Sue Barnes, the Liberal justice critic, said the reason the Liberals took that course was to focus on the illegal actions of a perpetrator, rather than criminalizing the behaviour of young people.

"It was looking at the action of the offender as opposed to the other side," she said. "It allows for the facts ... in every case to play a role."

A judge can take age difference into account when determining whether a relationship with a person under 18 is criminally exploitative.

Blogger curious servant said...

Some good points here. And a lot of good comments over at my place. Thanks. You kept me hopping, you had left so many new comments to respond to!

I am a little cncerned over the continuing push against elements of faith in our schools. i wrote a post a little while back about the fact that all blogs dealing with faith have been filtered. Ah well.

Not sure if it is worth battling over. No one seems to take responsibility for placing them nthe filter and no one can tell me what the crieria is for deciding what should be filtered and what sort of appeals there are.

At any rate... I appreciate your thoughtful posts and comments.

God bless.

Blogger bjk said...

LOVE the last sentence....

Blogger Cinder said...

"We think this is not a solution and we think it is not the best way of protecting children from abuse," LePage said. "The law should be more oriented on the nature of the relationship rather than the age of the person.

Under the current law, young people under age 14 are deemed to be too young to consent to any form of sexual contact, from kissing to intercourse. The offence against a minor carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment."

I'm not going to rant very long on this...I think I'll just have to get out a pen and start writing a letter. I guess the question which red flags in my head is, "When we sit back and think, do a lot of people really remember how the thought process went when we were 14 or even 16 for that matter?" And another thing, even if they are successful in changing the age from 14 to 16, "Do they really truly enforce this law or is it just there for show?"

On another note though, I liked this comment. "once faith becomes one's own, it seems more organic and, in many ways, can be far easier to invest in." This speaks a lot of truth...once you take the initiative to claim your faith as your's and not as what you're expected to believe, it takes on a completely different light. You've made the decision on what you are going to believe and once on your own, you know that it's like a lot of other things in life...it's your responsibility to make things grow or allow them to wither up and die or be destroyed.

Your students are better in the long run for having a teacher who believes and writes the last sentence of this post!

Blogger jollybeggar said...

i'm sitting here in my classroom... it's that half-hour in the morning before school where everybody's here, but no classes are going on. in my room, about twenty feet to my write as i type here, there is a student-run bible study taking place.

what a blessing this is to be passively part of... passive in that i am simply allowing my classroom to be used by students for this activity.

it's not a common thing... i remember in my first year of teaching, a student came to me with a request: that i would be the staff sponsor for a bible-study group that he was pulling together. the school administration had probably thought that telling him that he needed sponsorship would discourage him from pursuing the idea further.

when he reported back to the office that he had found a staff sponsor, he was still turned down on the grounds that, because the school could not provide staff sponsors to work through the koran or the torah or the baghavad gita, they could not in good conscience allow me to sponsor a bible study group.

i guess pluralism can be an enemy to freedom of expression in some contexts. this kid is a teacher in a private school now...

yet in my classroom here, the students were just praying.

i discussed this whole deal once with a colleague who had heard the student announcements over intercom on tuesday mornings...

(the group has met on wednesday mornings for the last four years or so)

... and was interested in the implications of the education act here in saskatchewan, canada, concerning religious instruction being provided by STF members.

very good question: was i providing this kind of instruction for the students, or simply allowing them to provide it for each other?

i maintained that this activity is students leading students. there is no staff sponsorship- just a public school teacher who believes that what these students are engaging in is not only positively affecting the students involved, but is probably a redeeming factor of hope for the future of this community in general.

after the conversation, another who had been seated at the table leaned over and said 'if it ever gets heavy for you, the kids can meet in my room...'

so this morning the kids are talking about the difference between the faith of their parents which they have passively accepted, and a personal faith which will drive them through the decisions of life on fallen planet earth.

interesting alternative spin: the student leadership advisor for this school just approached me about the possibility of using the building of the church that i pastor at for an off-site leadership development mini-conference for student leaders.

you know the cynical remark i made about pluralism earlier? the operative word was 'can'... the not-so-specific expression of possibility.

yep- this road is going both ways.
this is a good day to be alive.

'future's so bright...'


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