Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Quaker Education (Myth or Reality)

Quakerism: a view from the back benches continued

Copyright 1966 The Back Benches

Quaker Education (Myth or Reality)

It is difficult to generalize about Quaker education. We see many Quaker Schools which are like nothing so much as decent public or private schools; one strains to see anything about them besides the name which would stamp them as Quaker. The Children may hear a little more about good will, but not about pacifism; they often see fewer disadvantaged children than they would in public schools, thus being deprived of a variety of experience and friendship,; they learn how dull silence can be and achieve a certain discipline in its endurance.

On the other hand, there are Quaker schools which are boldly innovative; which put into practice the idea that children can heed the Inward Light, and can act responsibly; which challenge them with the full weight and excitement of Quaker testimonies.

One reason early Friends set up schools was to provide a “guarded education” - a protective atmosphere where the children of a particular people could remain unsoiled by unnecessary contact with the world. This idea is all but dead in Quaker education.

A second idea which led to founding schools was that of offering education to those who would otherwise not have the opportunity, there being no public schools.

Lacking these impulses, the question becomes: Is there really a Quaker theory of education? Some of the undersigned do not think so and believe the schools should be laid down or given away. The Meetings could better use the money for scholarships for work camps, summer institutes, and other forms of dynamic Quaker activity which is testimony-centered. In our concern for non-Quaker children, some of us believe that Quaker time and energy on public school boards and in public pressure groups cold bring quality education to more children than can a Friends school, and be more suitably spread. It is hard to justify the idea that well-to-do children who can afford Quaker school tuition deserve quality education more than the poor.

Others of the undersigned feel that Friends schools could do some extraordinary things which other schools cannot do as easily but this would probably require: (1) faculties composed of Friends, (2) higher proportion of Quaker children, (3) a move closer to the ghetto and away from the suburbs, (4) substantial scholarship aid so that quality education can be offered to those who need it most, (5) daringly experimental approaches to educational methods, (6) a reorientation of goals away from “the percentage place in name-brand colleges” to “ the percentage dedicating themselves to lives of service.”

(To be continued)


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