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

A Visit to the Hare Krishna Temple

The Hare Krishnas have been in Adelaide since the 1970’s and are well known for their low cost restaurants and free food distribution to the aged and homeless. I was interested to know from Sucharu (centre, above), my guide for the morning, whether the needs of those they serve in Hurtle Square are growing – whether, in their experience, the gap between the “rich” and “poor” was growing – as I had heard reported on ABC Radio recently. The answer was a definite yes. They are finding that the disposable money of those they serve is eaten up by the struggle to keep a roof over their heads and basic survival.

Our conversation then turned to the bigger picture of cooperation among religions in serving the community. For the Hare Krishnas, every moment is a moment of consciousness of God, every person is a child of God, and every act, an act of service to God. In Sucharu I found no impediment to cooperation among religions.

In fact, we agreed that we live in a time in history when we need to put aside what is not helpful in our religious traditions to utilise the best of our religions to work together on the big issues facing humanity.

I came away, refreshed by their generosity of spirit – and also by a lovely morning tea of mango, gulab jamun (an Indian sweet desert) and orange juice.

New friends!

 

 

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.

A Prophetic Moment

In the religious wilderness of the United States of America a fresh shoot has sprung up which promises new hope for a harmoneous multifaith society.

On September 6, 2011, Claremont School of Theology, a distinguished United Methodist seminary with roots back to 1885, joined in partnership with The Academy for Jewish Religion, California, and the Islamic Center of Southern California/Bayan College. Together, they and a number of other affiliates have joined to create Claremont Lincoln University (CLU), an institution like none other, training imams, pastors, and rabbis. Seminarians will have separate curricula and degree programs for clergy formation, part of a larger set of offerings and degree options focused on the interdisciplinary, intercultural, and multireligious needs of the world in the 21st century.
Click here to read the full article. 

The keynote address at the opening was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation!
Here it is:

Claremont Keynote

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