In his article ‘The Making of a Good Citizen in Malaysia’, Ahmad (2004:195) posed the question: “of what value is it to young people to learn the terminology of concepts drawn from social sciences, like social mobility or cultural diffusion or economic depression, without seeing them demonstrated in the lives of real people and the history of real societies?”
Today I pose a similar question: “of what value is it for young people to learn the terminology of biblical concepts, like social justice, equality, advocacy and human rights, without seeing them demonstrated in the lives of real people and the ‘present’ in real societies?”
Reading these concepts is like looking into a chapter of a citizenship education book, yet, these global issues are not unique. They have been around for many years. How is it that our knowledge and understanding of the world has increased over time but, needless to say, no ‘viable’ solution has been found for poverty, inequality, discrimination and marginalisation? We continue to fund charities that advocate for the eradication of poverty and stand up for ‘education for all’, yet after countless years, we are still left to create numerous policies and laws addressing these same issues. Have these global issues become a commodity? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Attributed to Albert Einstein).
Adventist education has the potential to be the flagship of transformative learning; learning that promotes critical thinking and inspires advocacy. In my five years of working in Adventist education, one thing has become clear to me. For many young people, Jesus and the teachings on grace are often just a theory. Theory they have read in a book and are being educated and ‘tested’ on. They are able to recite biblical facts and even preach moving sermons, but the concept of Jesus is not made real.
In a world where acts of service, like feeding the homeless and aiding the vulnerable, have turned into feel-good practices, I look to Adventist education to reflect the life of Jesus. What can we do to make Jesus’ ministry more than just a theory? How do you ‘make’ a good citizen?
Vanesa Andreotti’s (Andreotti and de Souza, 2008) ideas of learning the world through other eyes gives us an insight into how biblical principles can be put into practice. Andreotti challenges one’s own position within this globally connected world. If I aspire for human rights for all, I need to consider how my consumer behaviour affects those who produce the outsourced products. If my desire is for equality, I need to stand up against the celebration and immortalisation of controversial figures in public spaces.
Only when, understanding the effects of our actions on the lives of the others, will we be able to make a meaningful change in our wider community. Adventist education is centred around learning to serve and the (re)building of character. This pedagogy has the ability to drive social change, inspire our young people to critically assess their actions and become agents of change.