Academic journal article Journal of Character Education

THE IMPACT AND IMPLICATIONS OF FAITH OR WORLDVIEW IN THE CLASSROOM: The Priority and Importance of Character

Academic journal article Journal of Character Education

THE IMPACT AND IMPLICATIONS OF FAITH OR WORLDVIEW IN THE CLASSROOM: The Priority and Importance of Character

Article excerpt

In their quest for universally applicable methods, modern teacher educators have often downplayed teacher identity, including a teacher's worldview or faith. From a postmodern perspective, however, the connections between teachers' identities and practices are being recognized and explored more as the two elements are increasingly being seen as interdependent and virtually inseparable. To explore how students understand this connection, the authors surveyed 58 teacher education students at a Christian university to discover the connections they foresaw between their teaching practices and their faith or worldview. The authors found that while most students did not perceive their faith or worldview directly informing their pedagogical methods or curriculum, the majority of them did foresee indirect ways of integrating their faith or worldview in the classroom. The major way students saw the two connecting involved the teaching or moral virtue. The authors make suggestions as to how teacher educators can develop these connections by educating students about constitutionally appropriate ways to integrate the study of religion and character education in public schools.

In the quest to find effective and objective educational methods applicable to all, modern teacher education usually ignored or downplayed matters of identity. Public school teachers, in this modern view, should teach only facts, common information, and general critical thinking along with basic skills such as reading and writing, without allowing their own identity or the stories and worldviews connected to that identity interfere with these tasks. A teacher who is a Latino, a Pentecostal, a woman, a Democrat, a member of a two-parent family with five siblings, or a product of life in the American southwest should not allow such factors to influence how she educates children. Instead, she should teach in the same way she would conduct a controlled scientific experiment. This modern perspective on the proper role of teachers is aptly summarized by Barry Kanpol (1998b), "[T]eacher education has been historically caught up in methodological practices that distance the prospective teacher from the self" (p. 57).

In our postmodern age, which recognizes and explores the connections between one's identity and one's teaching, some scholars are beginning to recognize the impossibility as well as the undesirability of such a scenario. We cannot expect public school teachers to divorce their identity from their teaching. Neither teachers nor students are objects within a scientific experiment. Moreover, asking public school teachers to distance themselves from their various social identities (e.g., gender, ethnicity, race, faith, etc.) may lead to students to feel alienation and the loss of moral guidance and bearings (Hunter, 2000; Kanpol, 1998a; MacIntyre, 1984; Nash, 1999; Purple & McLaurin, 2004; Taylor, 1989; Tirri, 2003). In fact, James Davison Hunter (2000) argues that attempts to separate teachers and students from their particular identities and the cultures associated with them actually leads to the impoverishment and even death of character. It is the particular moral content of distinctive worldviews, Hunter argues, that gives them vitality, focus, and force in the lives of those who adhere to those worldviews. Kirsi Tirri agrees and argues, "Teachers cannot separate their own moral character and the professional self from each other" (Tirri, 2003, p. 67)

Yet, despite these arguments, many teacher educators and administrators are likely to remain unsure or concerned about future teachers bringing one particular aspect of their identity-their faith or worldview-into the public school classroom. After all, the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment as prohibiting endorsement of a particular religion or of nonreligion (Greenawalt, 2005; Haynes & Nord, 1998; Haynes & Thomas, 2001; Nord, 1995; Sears, 1998). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.