Reflection: John Duley’s Faith Journey and Morality in Education

As an educator and community leader I can say that a child without direction can get lost very quickly in this fast-paced, ever-changing world. Teaching a child that they matter and are important gives them a sense of purpose and belonging that doesn’t always come from home. A message from Edgewood Village Network Center director Awna Ari

This is the fifth post in a series by guest blogger and MSU professor emeritus John Duley. In it, he shares how his personal faith and experience in education have flourished together in his life and work in Edgewood Village. He posits that moral leadership is essential in education as the world moves toward the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

When I was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1948 I was ordained as a teaching elder commissioned to serve in higher education. After seven years as a campus minister at Penn State University I was offered the opportunity to take a one year sabbatical and chose to study with the divinity faculty at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England, around the contemporary concern about the Ministry of the Laity in the World of Work and Community Service. During the year I was given an invitation to attend an international meeting of the directors of the Evangelical Academies of Europe who were deeply involved in the Ministry of the Laity in the World. I was also asked to direct a World Council of Churches work camp of international students in Tonbridge, England. Later that year I participated in a week long work camp in Iona, Scotland with the Iona Community, assisting them to rebuild the Abbey. The Iona Community is dedicated to working for peace and justice around the world. In 1957 I became an associate member of the community. My membership in the Iona Community has shaped my life and work since then.

Finding My Theological Voice – a poem by John Duley

The Meaning of the Gift

Heart on fire

With clarity of

Vision

Direction

Purpose

Grasped by Enthusiasm

Excitement

Energy

Knowing the “Truth”

The Church as the People of God,

His Life-Giving Stream,

Flowing out from the sanctuary,

Bringing life,

Justice

Peace

Wherever it goes.

What has it meant and what does it mean?

Seeking to see the Hand of God at work in history,

Committing to participate in the movement

Of the Spirit for the renewal of the Church.

Experiencing the gift of community in the work of the People

And “The Ever-Present Possibility of the Intrusion of the Unexpected.”

 

In 2009, at the beginning of the Edgewood Village Scholars Program, I felt like we were acting like a bunch of lawyers drawing up legal contracts for parents to assure their participation in the whole-hearted support of their children. I felt we needed a different approach. We turned to poetry and art and invited Guillermo Delgado, the artist-in-residence at the Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH), to develop with their students and ours a mural expressing what we stand for.

Image of a mural in a garden that reads "Now is always the time when more good can be done!"

Mural painted by Guillermo Delgado in the community garden at Edgewood Village that reads “Now is always the time when more good can be done!”

What does this have to do with the need for the reformation of public education for the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)? In his book Thank You for Being Late, Thomas Friedman makes a strong case for a moral basis to be built into a reformed public education for the Age of AI, but could not find a way to do it. At Edgewood Village, there has always been a strong emphasis on morality in our programming. The Art of Leadership Program created by Denise Stein, was adopted by the Village Scholars through Mark McDaniel, CEO of Cinnare (Celtic for compassion), a venture capital fund. Awna Ari, a recent director of the programs of Edgewood Village, provided the following description of the program.

“The Art of Leadership Youth Program is designed to give students a vision and purpose for the future. In East Lansing we have served youth leaders over the course of four years, and many students return each year and go on to become leaders of the program themselves. These students learn how they can make a difference in their communities, at home, and at school. Each participant (coaches and course leaders included); examines their core values. They then create a personal life vision that guides them in everyday life. This is revisited each year as values and visions change over time.

The students in the program showed improvement in confidence, manners, cooperation, leadership, and community involvement. Art of Leadership has been a life-changing experience for everyone involved. Students learn to become who they were meant to be in the world. They learn about the impact they have on change, no matter how old they are. These types of programs are essential to creating and teaching to the whole child.

As an educator and community leader I can say that a child without direction can get lost very quickly in this fast-paced, ever-changing world. Teaching a child that they matter and are important gives them a sense of purpose and belonging that doesn’t always come from home. We have seen such amazing things come from these students. They guide and mentor younger students and even become role models for siblings and parents. As a coach, course leader and parent I am honored to have served in this essential work and hope to continue to empower people to live to their fullest potential.”

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