Instrumentalism

Rather than telling students to study for exams, we should be telling them to study for learning and understanding.

If there is one student attitude that most all faculty bemoan, it is instrumentalism. This is the view that you go to college to get a degree to get a job to make money to be happy. Similarly, you take this course to meet this requirement, and you do coursework and read the material to pass the course to graduate to get the degree. Everything is a means to an end. Nothing is an end in itself. There is no higher purpose.

When we tell students to study for the exam or, more to the point, to study so that they can do well on the exam, we powerfully reinforce that way of thinking. While faculty consistently complain about instrumentalism, our behavior and the entire system encourages and facilitates it.

http://chronicle.com/article/Stop-Telling-Students-to-Study/131622/

Yesterday I had a conversation with PhD student in Creative Writing. She asked what “Spiritual Counselling”meant – it’s written on the outside-facing window of Oasis along with other descriptors of what may happen in Oasis.

Beneath her question was a longing for her work to be understood beyond the technical domain. She had suffered much abuse in her childhood and is writing about her transformation toward wholeness. But who is prepared to really ‘listen’ to her, to give her space to explore the spiritual dimensions of her work? No-one, it seems.

I thought Kylie, our Pagan chaplain might be a good person to be her spiritual listener. I introduced them and invited her to join the chaplains for our lunch together next week, to affirm her yearning for spiritual insight and to join a community who value her journey and will support her in it.

The ‘instrumentalism’ embedded in the university goes much deeper than study and exams. It pervades every aspect of university life.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Bronnie Ware recorded the dying epiphanies of her patients in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, and went on to write into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

The above was reported by Susie Steiner in her blog at guardian.co.uk, Wed 1 Feb 2012 11.49 GMT

Sitting

One lovely and pertinent story that was told at our recent University Chaplains annual conference came from Aboriginal scholar Nerida Blair. She had been trying to recover lost aboriginal culture of a Nation in the north coast on New South Wales. But all seemed lost forever – language, artifacts, history…

One day she was talking with renowned Australian landscape photographer, Ken Duncan, who lives up that way. She was conveying her sense of loss and frustration at the complete annihilation of that once Nation. Ken quietly said to her: “Sit in country and it will tell you its story.”

I wonder whether, in our culture of the quick fix, we do enough sitting. I wonder whether we give our ‘country’ the opportunity to speak to us – at least to give us perspective about what is really of value, what we can hold and what we can let go, what really matters and what is ephemeral.

What some other kids are doing…

While bored kids go on recreational rioting in the UK, it’s good to remember that there are some other kids trying to change the world in another way.

5,139,646 people have watched this video “The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes”. If you haven’t seen it, take 6.42 to be inspired, and think about what a good, loving education can do.

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes

The Chaplain and International Students 1


This video interview reveals a positive relationship between a local church in Denmark and the local University – the university recognising it had a problem and the church willing to help. As a result, a chaplain and a psychologist have begun working as a team to identify the critical issues and to work on them for the benefit of the students.

Dom Helder Camara and the Arab Spring Uprising.

Dom Helder CamaraI had the good fortune to meet Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in north-east Brazil, in the 80’s.

He lived with no lock on his door. The incident of the hit-man from the military government, who had come to kill him in the night, being overpowered by his welcoming embrace and deep spirituality, is a legend. He was a man of considerable moral impact! As an aside, he mentioned that while in Australia, away from his diocese, he expected priests at home to be killed and bull-dozers demolish villages, as had happened when he travelled in the past.

Camara would rise at two in the morning to read and write poetry. There was not a square centimetre of his face that was not lined with grief for the sufferings of his people or instantaneously creased by his puckish beneficent smile. His eyes were dark and playful, sunk deeply into dark sockets. He looked physically dead, only an indomitable spirit keeping him from the grave by a whisker.

I can’t remember what he spoke of that day, but the impact of his image and his compassion for human justice remains.

Today I picked up a book of his from a second hand book table. “Spiral of Violence” was written over forty years ago, yet its message is as clear today. It brought to mind the recent “Arab Spring Uprising”.

 If true development implies the development of the whole person and of all people, then there is not in fact a single truly developed country in the world…You will find that everywhere the injustices are a form of violence. One can and must say that they are everywhere the basic violence, Violence No.1.

No-one is born to be a slave. No-one seeks to suffer injustices, humiliations and restrictions. A human being condemned to a sub-human situation is like an animal – an ox or a donkey – wallowing in the mud.

Now the egoism of some privileged groups drives human beings into this sub-human condition, where they suffer restrictions, humiliations, injustices; without prospects, without hope, their condition is that of slaves.

This established violence, this violence No.1, attracts violence No.2, revolt, either of the oppressed themselves or of youth, firmly resolved to battle for a more just and human world.

When conflict comes out into the streets, when violence No.2 tries to resist violence No.1, the authorities consider themselves obliged to preserve or re-establish public order, even if this means using force; this is violence No.3. Sometimes they may go even further…in order to obtain information, which may indeed be important to public security, the logic of violence leads them to use moral and physical torture – as though any information extracted through torure deserves the slightest attention!…It is the old Inquisition, with the technology of the nuclear and space travel age at its service.

Let us have the honesty to admit, in the light of the past and, perhaps, here and there, in the light of some typical reactions, that violence No.3 – governmental repression, under the pretext of safeguarding public order, national security, the free world – is not a monopoly of the under-developed countries.

There is not a country in the world which is in no danger of falling into the throes of violence.

With this in mind, I commend to you our work at Oasis with students from all over the world, seeking to live as a community of difference, at peace within itself, and at work for peace in the world.