Cecil J. Thompson
The education crisis in this century is caught in a triangle of spirit, crises, and culture. Growth is stunted: students graduate and others drop out without the requisite skills to survive in a complex economy and a rapidly changing world.
My reference to spirit here does not only refer to the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of life, but to the Zeitgeist of this century (i.e., spirit/outlook of our times).
The work of the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of life as understood in our faith traditions (or in a deeply humanistic yet non-religious way) is a work of transformation. This transformation is primarily spiritual, and therefore, a mystery to ordinary understanding, but despite the mystery, the spiritual constitutes a mirror in which external life is reflected. In other words, the qualities of love, peace, prosperity, health, joy, etc. are the contours of a wholesome and progressive reflection of life.
On the other hand, the Zeitgeist/spirit of our times is a secular interpretation of the mood of society or the world; it is the direction of life in terms of economics, politics, education, art, etc.
There is a diverse range of voices telling us the direction of education in today's society; and often, it constitutes exclusive interpretation of education in light of the spirit of our times.
Many of these voices paint a devastating picture of the crisis: students failing woefully, especially, in minority school districts, major income disparities between school districts, students not being adequately prepared for Kindergarten, budget cuts in education, lack of parental involvement in student education, deepening student frustration in a process in which they just can't seem to succeed, and a broad refusal to make education a serious priority.
This is a dark picture of education in light of the spirit of our times. The picture speaks to what's wrong in a broken educational system. Yet, we can't be stopped by this; sociologists, after pondering this picture, place it on a firm foundation of irrefutable evidence. We can, of course, after looking at it, go home and have bad dreams.
The Zeitgeist/spirit of our times shows us hopelessness and despair in education which is the cornerstone of culture. If we accept this, then education is stuck in a sordid triangle of spirit, crises, and culture. However, it is clear, in the strictest sense of our humanity, that even though we feel solutions to the educational crisis have to be worked out by the mind, there is a dimension not of social-spirit that gathers us around the shrine of mind as the exclusive province of reality, but Spirit-Spirit in whose mirror the crisis must be examined.
As stated above, the work of the Spirit of life is transformational. Looking at the crisis in that mirror exposes what's missing in the conversation and in potential solutions. The contours of a wholesome and progressive life: love, joy, peace, health, and prosperity reveal themselves as missing elements. When these things are seen as part of the conversation and potential solutions, the picture is no longer stuck in the triangle and it becomes one driven by hope, optimism, and possibility in whose shadows poverty, misery, and homelessness cannot survive.
Also, find an audio clip of Cecil Thompson on education at www.ceciljthompson.blog.com.