Religious Exploration Blog – November 2012

Moral GPS—that is what the lesson plan should have been.

This is what a teacher graciously pointed out to me after leading children that day. The lesson was centered on this idea of a “Moral Compass.” What I did not think about was this: is a compass something our children will understand or ever actually use, whether they are 4 or 9 years old? Moral compass, what an antiquated notion. The lesson really should have been “Moral GPS.”

“Education at its best—this profound human transaction called teaching and learning—is not just about getting information or getting a job. Education is about healing and wholeness. It is about empowerment, liberation, transcendence, about renewing the vitality of life. It is about finding and claiming ourselves and our place in the world.” –Parker Palmer, from To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey

If we are going to teach our children to claim their place in the world, we do need to instill in them a moral navigation system, whether it’s a compass or a GPS. And this question of ‘instilling’, of how we communicate meaningful lessons to children, was the topic of discussion during a Saturday morning meeting with the RE teachers for this year. We engaged in rich discussion over this quote from Parker Palmer. One teacher commented “You know, we are going to make mistakes and that’s okay. We can model how to make a mistake. We can model imperfection.” In other words, we can model being human in humane ways. That’s how we teach.

I think if there is something I can promise this congregation, it is this: I will model imperfect humanity, over and over again. It is easy to get caught up in the details. I will probably pick another outdated learning prop in the near future. But whether we are navigating using a compass, a GPS, or the stars, I believe we are on similar journeys and looking for some good company to help us along the way; to help our children find their ways. For me, that is what church is about: good (and imperfect) company. Church is about focusing on relationships, not just the details. Because when our child’s GPS’ battery dies, she is going to be real glad somebody in the congregation brought along that compass.