REA 2013 conference: formation for justice and advocacy

After taking a hour-long walk in Prospect Hill Park behind the hotel, I got back in time to attend the afternoon breakout sessions of the Religious Education Association 2013 annual conference. I chose to go to Carmichael Crutchfield’s workshop “Formation for Justice and Advocacy.” Although he’s currently teaching at Memphis Seminary, Crutchfield said he started out as a pastor in a local congregation. Thus his interest is primarily in congregationally-based religious education. He is particularly concerned with making Christian education “relevant in and beyond the present era” by helping us deal with our current realities, and helping us envision how we can move forward in “liberating and hopeful ways.”

Using the work of Paolo Friere and others, he rejects the banking theory of education, and advocates replacing it with what he calls “problem-posing education”; part of this consists in addressing real-world problems as a part of religious education. He aims to engage people’s critical consciousness, and to move people towards liberation through reflection and action.

After giving a short presentation, true to his pedagogical model he engaged the workshop participants in conversation. We discussed how we might engage in problem-posing education. This seemed fairly straightforward when doing education with teens and adults, but more problematic when working with children; developmentally, children are not at formal operations thinking, and so may not be able to engage adequately in cognitive reflection. However, one participant told a story about a moment when his daughter was eight years old, and stood up to injustice; she may not have been fully aware of what she was doing at that point, but her parents supported her, and the memory of that act stayed with her for years. Other participants commented on the important role parents must play in this type of education for pre-teen children; indeed, parent education may be a key ingredient.

I mentioned that I struggled to get children in my congregation engaged in this kind of liberative problem-solving education. I was grateful to Delores Carpenter of Howard University (I hope I have gotten her name right) for pointing out that children in minority groups are going to tend to be more advanced in this area; children in non-white families are going to be exposed to injustice, and the concurrent need for liberation, at a much earlier age.

all in all, an extremely useful workshop for anyone doing religious educaiton in a local congregation.

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