Earlier this summer I found myself engaged in an online discussion about the future of teaching, the question posed as follows: will those schools that do not adapt to the new reality of the internet continue to be sustainable and what is the future of teaching?
The question itself seemed to beg a false either/or choice: embrace the virtual world and survive, or adhere to face-to-face learning and perhaps go the way of the dinosaur. In the headlong drive to take on technology, it seemed to me that a more fundamental question remained unasked and unanswered: what is the goal of education to begin with?
I found myself referencing Sir Thomas More, whose sixteenth-century wisdom still applies: “One of the greatest problems of our time is that many are schooled but few are educated.”
More believed that the goal of education is to “entice the soul to emerge from its cocoon.” This required, he believed, that we be exposed vulnerably to the transformative events of an engaged human life. And at the heart of this transformation is the human encounter.
It seems to me that our challenge as educators has not changed much since the sixteenth century. Like More, I remain firm in my belief that the human encounter is at the heart of a true education; and that encounter requires a skilled and very human teacher. Schools that do this well and bravely will be always relevant and cherished.
We do, however, have more and new ways to engage in meaningful (or meaningless) human encounters.
So for me the question is less whether we adapt or die, but how can we make sense of this “brave new world” of burgeoning technologies to enrich the human encounter, to feed the soul rather than starve it, and to broaden our hearts, minds, spirits, and creativity rather than stultify or commodify them?
Episcopal schools are in an extraordinary position to grapple creatively with these tensions. How will we respond?