Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Education and the Poor

I was recently impressed with an article I read in the Higher Education supplement in the "United Methodist Reporter." In it two friends and frequent contributors to the UM Reporter raise some poignant issues about the church and the universities that our church has founded. What is the future of the relationship between the church and the academy?
Is there a lasting heritage that our church has imbued into the colleges and universities we built?

Today, my sister sent me a link from the NY Times about the prison education program at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. The selective school offers the same professors who teach at the university, which costs $51,000 a year to attend, to the prison population for free. The University is no longer affiliated with the UMC, but they point to the basis for their program being the example set by John Wesley's passion for prison reform.

In the UM Reporter conversation between Andrew and Eric, Andrew raises the issue of our educational institutions' service to the poor. I think the NY Times article gives a great look at a nuanced example. Here is a program that "distanced" itself from the institution in it's 1937 independence from the church, but still indicates an interest in upholding the principles of our heritage.

I love the college environment and the possibilities for spiritual life in that context, and worked at Occidental College for 2 years and UCLA for 1 while I was at seminary. At UCLA, I helped to organize a tutoring program between UCLA and an after school program in Baldwin Village. Students from UCLA would give 3 to 12 hours of their week to helping kids from a pretty gang-influenced part of the city learn to study and cultivate positive habits. The jr. high kids gave their attention and their willingness to learn to the UCLA students.

I think Andrew's diagnosis and desire to see more colleges employ their Wesleyan heritage is right on. He offers further thoughts in a blog post (Oct. 15--couldn't figure how to link it) after the article came out. Good work ya'll.

1 comment:

  1. Nathan -

    Thanks for this post and for the notice about the NY Times piece on Wesleyan. Blessings on your life, family, and ministry as we move toward Advent!

    - Andrew