Identity and purpose: what are we educating for?
Anglican Schools, Southern Queensland: Our vocation is education ‘driven by a vision of humanity shaped by the image of God, visible in Jesus and present in every human being’.
There are six markers common to Anglican identity in schools. The essential mark is Incarnational – making visible what is true. Each of the other five marks make visible our commitment to intellectual, pastoral, missional, faithful and hospitable realities.
Anglican Education is faithfully Christian, for light and liberation. It is education framed by a vision of humanity shaped by the image of God. Anglican schools are committed to excellence, outstanding education that enlightens and releases each student to live into the fullness of their name, dignity and giftedness as children of God. Anglican education forms flourishing lives for a flourishing world.
The test of identity in our schools is a question of purpose: what are we educating for?  Each school in their independence and autonomy can and must answer this question. To assist in this process a model is offered. Like identity, the language of purpose expressed in this model is incarnational. Purpose is a commitment to making visible what is true: dignity, wisdom, hope and justice.
2.0 Biblical grounding
The God of Creation is invested in the flourishing of all. The self-emptying God who makes room for creation self-empties in the incarnation, becoming truly human. When Jesus the Christ first entered public life, he entered the synagogue and was handed the scroll of the book of the Prophet Isaiah. He turned to what we now call chapter 61. The words Jesus chose describes his work in the world. It resonates deeply with ours and is the text that frames our vision.
Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Anglican Schools work is education. Its context is faithfully Christian, for light and liberation. This is because of who Jesus is and what Jesus does. Just as Jesus’ presence in the world is purposed for light and liberation, so is ours. We invite light and liberation to describe our fruit and test our work.
This is a lofty vision, so lofty as to make it impossible to ever ‘arrive’. This is an eternal purpose with no end to the striving. Underneath ‘light and liberation’ sit four domains. They are concrete, measurable, elegant, logical, resonant with Jesus the Logos, philosophically robust and effective pedagogical frameworks. They provide instruments for our schools to work with, facilitate the development of learning and teaching cultures while providing tools to record, track and report on progress.
3.0 Educating for: the four domains
Dignity – honouring what is precious and true
Wisdom – building up deep knowing
Hope – developing values tuned to the common good
Justice – forming character and practices for healthy, peaceable communities
Educating for Dignity (ontology: honouring what is precious and true)
- cultivating habits of seeing: essence, beauty, dignity, truth, harmony, humanity, community, possibility, goodness and the sacredness of life;
- honouring the truth within the subject, the student and the space between them and the teacher
- modelling respect, especially for the preciousness and inherent worth of each person
- enabling the flourishing of the whole person in community.
Educating for Wisdom (epistemology: the practice of deep knowing)
- nurturing the love of learning; developing talents, confidence and mastery in the arts of learning;
- enabling discipline and rigour in skill development across intellectual, social, physical, emotional, spiritual, moral, cultural domains;
- cultivating a hunger for wisdom, and mastery in knowing how we come to know;
- engaging mind with heart, body and soul in practices of deep knowing.
Educating for Hope (hermeneutics: values tuned to the common good)
- awakening students to values and values systems, paradigms and formative frameworks; (applying critical thinking skills to test and appraise)
- forming outward facing consciousness, with values biased towards loving kindness, the choosing of life and the common good;
- Enabling relationships of trust within vulnerability, deep rooted resilience, agility in difficulty, courage in adversity.
Educating for Justice (ethics: character engaging in healthy communities)
- enabling the capacity for students to be fully present to the other, a ‘being-for’ across diverse contexts, without anxiety;
- equipping hearts and character to work for each other’s flourishing, serving neighbour and the common good:
- creating habits of generous hospitality, community building, peace-making, kindness and mercy, justice and solidarity.
These for domains have a substantial pedigree and draw heavily on the outstanding work of the Church of England Vision developed by their Education Office. These four domains correlate directly with theirs. This is done with their permission and blessing. We are indebted to their intelligence, expertise, commitment and in acknowledging their work, we express our deep gratitude. There is also a localised adaptation that overlays this framework and is peculiar to the Anglican Schools, Southern Queensland. Each domain has an underlying philosophical framework. This brings a logic to the domains and places each of them in a specific order. It allows school leaders, educators and the student community a scope to go as deep as their inquiry and hunger takes them.
5.0 Philosophical scaffold
There is no need to complicate the four domains. They will always be described as educating for dignity, wisdom, hope, justice. These are the concrete domains that usher in light and bestow liberation. The following philosophical scaffold behind these domains provides a profound richness. They need only be used to deepen understanding where the context and community are open and willing and by their use greater light shines. The do locate the ordering of the domains to our work here in Southern Queensland.
There is an ‘is’ness’ to things, a truth or essence of things seen and unseen. This relates to the subject and the observer as well as the space that is created between them. There must be a correlation in learning with the truth of things ‘as they are’.
In the educational context, this means honouring the essence of the subject, the student and the space created between them and the teacher.
Knowing is at the heart of learning. The learning journey is not just about acquisition and accumulation, even across different realms involving mind and heart, body and soul. It requires skill in knowing how knowing grows.
In our learning communities, this means embracing different ways of knowing and engaging in deep knowing.
Meaning is projected into the lives we live. This includes religious, philosophical and cultural values systems. Often called a lens, it is essential to be awake to the lens(es) we are formed into. It is essential to be able to re-form these and be free to engage the world through an intentional values framework that is true to our identity.
Students are given the skills to test and challenge meaning and values systems. At the same time an intentional values culture is practiced and held up. At its simplest this may be described as ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.
It is reasonable to expect students to be in the world in a particular way. It is reasonable to expect the privilege of light and liberation that comes through an outstanding education seeks the welfare of the community in which we are bound, “for in its welfare and prosperity we find our own”. Applied ethics is a logical end point of education.
Character formation is a necessary part of learning. The privileges won in education are purposed for something bigger than private profit, institutional or state-based gain. The light and liberation we receive must be directed toward the light and liberation of others and the good of society as a whole.
1. In the language of Simon Sinek, this is the difference between a ‘why’ and a ‘just cause’ (vision). The why never changes: the image of humanity grounded in the heart of God will never change. The driving organising notion of human being formed in the image of God will never change. The question asked in this paper relates to the vision, the just cause.
2. Anglicanism in education asks what does our community need? Not how can our schools form faith or furnish our churches with what we hope for. Anglicanism responds to the needs of the world, just as Jesus did. In this way, church is a consequence of Anglicanism, not a cause. It explains why schools and schooling has a long history within Anglicanism – communities and society at large needs quality education. Anglicanism makes a meaningful contribution to this essential work. See the writing of Martin Percy in ‘The Humble Church’ who in turn is drawing down on the foundational work of Richard Hooker.
3. See Jeremiah speaking to the exiled in Babylon, 29.7: But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into Exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.