Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jesus Loves Racists, Too (Part 3)

Churches as a site of learning
            If you have not read the previous two blog posts in this series, I encourage you to do so.  Going back to my Marvel movie analogy, however, this post will be like Dr. Strange, but a lot less entertaining.  So far, Dr. Strange has not been super connected to the overall story Marvel is telling, however based on my limited knowledge of comic books, I assume that he will become a lot more important.  Such will be the case for this post.  If this is where you are starting in the series, you will have missed a lot of background, but that background is not necessary for you to understand this entry.  This post will nevertheless, be crucial for you to have read to understand what comes next.  Additionally, this post will likely be the shortest, as I will use it to define a key concept that will provide a foundation for the remainder of the series.  That concept is public pedagogy.
When discussing education, many people think about schools.  I would like to make a clear distinction between the two.  Schools are a place where one can receive an education, but schools and education are not synonymous.  This statement then begs the question of “what is education?”  Education is learning.  Learning happens through experiences (Dewey, 1938).  Because learning is constantly occurring, it is not helpful to limit our discussion of education to only schools, or sites of formal education, especially when discussing social issues such as race.  I am not discounting the important role that schools play, but I am arguing that looking at other sites of learning is just as important.  Ellsworth (2005) expands places of learning beyond schooling to include more subjective experiences (such as affect [the psychology term] and sensations) encountered through “media, architecture, entertainment, art, social engineering, or politics” (p.6).  This type of learning falls into the realm of public pedagogy. 

More concretely defined, public pedagogy is “forms, processes, and sites of education and learning occurring beyond or outside of formal schooling (p. 2)” that involves a pedagogue who intends to instruct the citizenry through relational and ethical dimensions (Burdick, Sandlin, & O’Malley, 2013).  Churches are a site of public pedagogy.  Churches usually have some sort of leader or leadership team who serve as the pedagogue, and they are given a unique role in education because people voluntarily seek them out to attend.  Unlike schools which require compulsory attendance that ends at a certain age, churches are voluntary and people can choose to attend them for a lifetime.  As a result, they can experience a lifetime of learning in this one site.  People willfully turn to religious institutions in the US to seek meaning in life, find direction, receive social support, and look for relief when crises arise (Emerson, 2006, p. 7).  Religious congregations also serve an essential role in immigrant adaptation and support (just as schools do), the production of culture, social network formation, and the construction of norms and worldviews (p. 8).  Although social issues such as race and racism are addressed in the curriculum of some schools, and interracial contact occurs in some schools, some would argue that because schools are secondary institutions when it comes to relationships, they are less effective in diminishing racism.  Primary organizations where close, long-lasting relationships are formed are more effective in teaching about race if those relationships are cross-cultural (Yancey & Emerson, 2003).  Churches are a primary organization and are therefore worth looking at from an educational point of view, specifically when studying the issue of race. In my next post, I will introduce the concept of hidden curriculum, and discuss how churches teach about race.  It turns out this post was not much shorter than others. My apologies, but I hope you will continue reading! 

Burdick J., Sandlin J., & O’Malley, P. (2013) Problematizing Public Pedagogy. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience in education. New York, NY: Collier Books.
Ellsworth, E. (2005). Places of Learning. New York, NY: Routledge.
Emerson, M.O. (2006) People of the dream. Multiracial congreations in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Yancey, G., & Emerson, M. (2003). Integrated Sundays: An exploratory study into the formation of multiracial churches. Sociological Focus, 36(2), 111–126. Retrieved from

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