There’s a reason American Slave Code forbid black literacy.
There’s a reason genocidal dictators abolish “normal schooling” and execute intellectuals.
Education builds knowledge.
Education fosters relationships. Education empowers the disenfranchised.
Education equips all of us to build justice and sustaining positive social change.
At this very moment, at the end of 2016 in America, my Facebook and Twitter feeds illuminate the following dis-eased parts of our culture:
- The Southern Poverty Law Center reporting on documented acts of hate speech and threats against religious minorities since the presidential election—more than 400 between November 9 and November 14, 2016 alone.
- The rise of neo-Nazism and the so-called “alt-right.”
- Swastikas painted on schools, churches, and synagogues.
- Friends and colleagues threatened because of their race or religion.
- Misinformation about Islam. Misinformation about Judaism. Misinformation about Christianity. Misinformation about atheists and agnostics.
Teaching is my vocation. Education has taken me from a rural coal mining town to study at Oxford University. Teaching in St. Louis and in the Bronx, I have seen the transformative power of literacy, rigorous education, diversity, and relationship.
I believe learning is transformative.
Exposure to other points of views naturally enriches our own understanding of the world.
Relationships with others strengthens our own communities and professional lives. Basic knowledge about other religions and cultures allows us to participate more fully in our civic and political process.
And increased interfaith understanding allows us to work for social justice and live more fully—whatever our professions or contexts.
Lately, I will admit: I have despaired.
I have worried that perhaps knowledge isn’t enough. Maybe we humans are a lost cause, doomed to live in isolation, fear, and homogeneity. Hopelessness paralyzes me.
And while I am inspired by the commitments and calls for reflection and learning I see in my friends, family, colleagues, and congregation, this is not enough.
It is time for us to do much more than repost, like, read, share, and even donate money.
We must be willing to change.
My belief that education can change us for the better led me to design a series of online certificate courses that are radically accessible and affordable.
The online certificate course features:
- voices of religious and ethical leaders,
- accurate and necessary knowledge about religious traditions,
- and the skills we need to negotiate difference, live through the shaky places of fear and not-knowing, and become the leaders for which the world cries out.
With this invitation—indeed, with this cry for transformation—I also invite others to highlight resources that can foster deep learning and just civic work.
We must learn to be changed, because the paralysis of despair cannot withstand the light of learning.