Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Honored and Humbled

Tonight was truly inspirational. And humbling. I knew back in August that I had received a scholarship from the Leitalift Foundation, but I had no idea until tonight just how significant it was. I have joined the ranks of a very few educators in Georgia to be recognized for passion and determination in spite of obstacles. In my case, the obstacles came in the form of age and financial need. The passion, however, was what the scholarship committee saw. I had no way of knowing, but my desire to make education about the students again caught their attention.

But it's true. I am so fed up with a system that makes test scores the sole measure of a child's worth. We have ceased as a society to value creativity and independent thinking and problem solving in favor of some "objective" measure of knowledge. The problem is, teenagers are too smart for that measurement. They know how to game the system. They become expert test-takers, but retain little actual knowledge because it isn't relevant to their lives. Their learning happens outside the classroom where they are sometimes subject to ideas and processes they may not be cognitively ready for. But as a society, we have forced them there. School is boring. The tools of business are largely ignored in the public schools; worse yet, they are often blocked. We live in a digital world, but the education system is locked into a formula devised in the 1950s and last updated in the 1980s. We may have standardized tests, but we are not standardized individuals. To reduce anyone's value to a test score is wrong on every level. 

I was expected (unknowingly) to say a few words about my passion and inspiration. Because so much of my feelings on education were articulated by Madeleine L'Engle, I quickly pulled up a quote that became the centerpiece of my moment on stage:

"The creative impulse can be killed, but it cannot be taught...What a teacher can working with children, is to give the flame enough oxygen so that it can burn. As far as I'm concerned, this providing of oxygen is one of the noblest of all vocations." (A Circle of Quiet, 1972)

My passion as an educator is to fan the flame of creative passion, of excellence, and of delight in learning. This passion is not at home in the current public school space. My goal, then, is to offer a point of view that is student centered, practical minded, and relevant in the long term. My hope is the my work going forward inspires those who follow to rebel against a culture of standardization in pursuit of something greater: beautiful individuality that leads to innovation, excellence, and independence.

Me and Denise, 2014 recipients
Denise and I both received this scholarship. She is a single mom who already has an MBA but felt compelled to get her Master of Arts in Teaching with an ESOL (non-native English speaking students) specialty. We are both driven and determined women who are motivated even more now to give back by pursuing excellence.

I received a certificate saying, 
" The Directors of the Leitalift Foundation unanimously selected Stephanie Loomis to receive a 2014 scholarship. Leitalift scholarships are granted to women who have exhibited an extraordinary desire and commitment to enriching their lived through furthering their education.

Leita Thompson founded the Leitalift foundation is 1956 with her own earned funds as a working woman to assist working women find a fuller life. Clarice Bagwell was Leitalift Foundation President until her death in 2001. The spirit and tenacity of these two women are behind this scholarship grant.

The scholarship recipient by accepting this grant commits to do her best to accomplish her education goals in this coming year."

Challenge accepted, with gratitude and humility.

Thank you Clarice Bagwell/ Leitalift Foundation. With the Lord's help and blessing, I will prove myself worthy.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Makers of Culture

To bring back truth, on a practical level, the church must encourage Christians to be not merely consumers of culture but makers of culture. The church needs to cultivate Christian artists, musicians, novelists, filmmakers, journalists, attorneys, teachers, scientists, business executives, and the like, teaching its laypeople the sense in which every secular vocation-including, above all, the callings of husband, wife, and parent--is a sphere of Christian ministry, a way of serving God and neighbor that is grounded in God's truth. Christian laypeople must be encouraged to be leaders in their fields, rather than eager-to-please followers, working from the assumptions of their biblical worldview, not the vapid clich├ęs of pop culture.” 
― J. Gresham Machen

There was a time when the Church, and the laypeople who made up the Church, proclaimed the glory of God by producing great art. There is no shortage of images, sculptures, cathedrals, musical scores, and literature to illustrate what man can do in his desire to bring glory to the Father. Bach proclaimed, "The aim and final reason of all music should be none else but the glory of God and refreshing the soul." Michelangelo prayed, "Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I accomplish." Art, both the ability to enjoy it and the ability to create it, is a gift from God, who created all things.  So why is it that Christians today seem hell-bent on mediocrity?

In today's culture, Christians seem to think that everything they produce must include some great evangelical altar call, so that art and music and dance turns vapid in the chasing after a message. But God never called artists to be evangelists. He calls people to pursue excellence in WHATEVER they are gifted to do. It is increasingly frustrating to be an artist and a believer these days. The art world is increasingly antagonistic to faith, and the Church sees no value in art. Francis Schaeffer recognized this years ago, and wrote an entire book about the role of art in the Church. He wrote, "Christian art is the expression of the whole life of the whole person as a Christian. What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life. Art is not to be solely a vehicle for some sort of self-conscious evangelism."  Yet, what has happened in the Church has so devalued the excellence of technical skill that artists either leave the church in order to have freedom to pursue their calling or they bastardize their work so that it meets some standard of "ministry."

I rebel against that idea. God created some to be evangelists and teachers and healers (1 Corinthians 12). Others He created to be artists and musicians and dancers and journalists and businessmen. One set is not more elevated than the other, and neither set has the sole responsibility to glorify God. Instead, the Church needs to support the businessman and the artist as much as it does the missionary, for all believers have a role in the Great Commission. The pastor must not tell the artist what or how to create any more than the businessman must tell the pastor what to preach. Similarly, artists must not try to conform to some expectation, be it commercial or spiritual, but rather lead in excellence of technique and skill and beauty. The businessman should innovate and create, not for self-gratification, but because God has given him the skills to do so. Christians need to not fear excellence in their fields just because their skills are not necessarily church related. God has gifted everyone differently. What He most desires is that those who follow Him seek excellence and wholehearted commitment to whatever He has called them to do (Colossians 3:23).

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” 
― Martin Luther

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Autumn color

photo mine
overlay by Kim Klassen


Well, it appears I will not meet my 100 post goal for 2014. I'm writing plenty--but it's all for school! I love it, though. Eventually, I'll be a busy blogger again. I will get some artwork posted at least!

I took this picture on my walk/run today. 6.8 miles at 44 degrees. Yup, it's November.

overlay by Kim Klassen