December 2012 Archives

Seasons Greetings!

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In this season of Light and Love may we resolve to bring out the best in ourselves and our children. In school we join a community of learners - all of us - as we provide those experiences that promote growth and excellence. Even so, there are sometimes bumps in the road: the best in each of us is not always readily apparent!

In her books The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B-Minus Wendy Mogel reminds us that our children's most challenging traits - like stubbornness, ignoring directions, and "over-the-top" emotionality - will become their signature strengths - like tenacity, independence, and passion. To some extent - despite our best efforts to control these young people! - we are just along for the ride as the continuing revelation of each child's development unfolds. As we embrace the wholeness of each of us may we recognize that God does not make mistakes: every person is to be valued as we grow into goodness.

Blessings to you and yours. I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.

 

In peace,

Teacher John

Quakers and the Enlightenment

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One of the many blessings of my position as Quaker-in-Residence is the opportunity to visit classes and discuss Friends practice in the context of a course of study. A recent visit to Christine Kulke's AP European History class resulted in my reading several essays on how others viewed Quakerism in the 18th Century.

 

The French philosopher Voltaire was quite taken by the Quakers he met on his travels to England.  As the Enlightenment strove to be an Age of Reason - a response to the "irrational" ideas of organized religion and nationalism - the Quaker practices of simplicity and integrity seemed to resonate well with a scientific approach to world. Indeed, both John Dalton and Antoine Lavoisier, eminent scientists of the 18th Century, were Quakers and found easy compatibility with their philosophical rationalism.

 

Voltaire loved the egalitarianism of Meeting for Worship - everyone is a minister! - and praised the Holy Experiment of William Penn's Pennsylvania, the only example of honorable dialogues and treaties between American Indians and Europeans at that time. He also found the figure of George Fox quite alluring: this simple man was able to convert people to the Children of the Light (an early name for Quakers that is a favorite of mine) on the power of his oratory and presence. Even from his own privileged position in society - many of these philosophers were upper class folks - Voltaire found much to admire in this English sect.

 

And what about our own Enlightenment?  Two versions of the word come to mind: to "walk in the Light" as a beacon of truth and to "unburden ourselves" of the trappings of our cluttered world as we simplify our needs. Is our life a striving toward the Light, approaching the peace and community we all might cherish?

 

It is my privilege to work with all of you. May the holiday season and the new year bring us all Light and Love.

 

In peace,

Teacher John

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