An Educational Initiative

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Gard Jameson

By Gard Jameson, Urantia Foundation Trustee and Chair of the Education Committee, USA

For some time many within the Urantia community have pondered on the importance of the need for training teachers and leaders, the sense that study groups could use an educational boost, and the feeling that the teachings could be having a larger impact in our world's culture. On the weekend of June 8th and 9th a small but dedicated group of educators gathered at 533 Diversey in Chicago, USA to consider our educational opportunities.

The group of educators in attendance at the Educational Initiative consisted of four educators from Europe and twenty one from North America. Jane Ploetz (USA), one of the organizers of the event, said she was looking forward to the "concert" that would be emerging from our work together. Dr. Marilynn Kulieke (USA), another organizer, indicated that many changes are occurring in the field of education which might be beneficial as the group thinks about the direction that it is undertaking. Gary Deinstadt (USA), chair of The Urantia Book Fellowship education committee expressed his hopefulness for this process. Dorothy Elder (USA), founder and leader of The Urantia Book Internet School, indicated that she had been dreaming about such an initiative as this for a long time.

Marta Elders (USA) ably lead a process known as Appreciative Inquiry to help the initiative move toward some realistic goals. This process recognizes the sanctity of personality and attempts to draw the best in people, affirming past and present strengths. It is a four step process: Discovery (What gives life to the educational process, a sharing of experiences), Dream (What might be?), Design (What should be?) and Destiny (How to empower, learn, monitor, and adjust?), which is designed to build upon the assets of the group in order to foster its vision.

Instead of approaching organizational initiatives by identifying problems and their causes, Appreciative Inquiry attempts to appreciate and value the best of what is now taking place, beginning with establishing real community. The objective at this year's gathering was to move through the Discovery and Dream stages of the process. During the discovery stage participants told their stories of educational achievement. This allowed each person to experience the commonalities and differences of perspectives.

In the Dream phase there was an attempt to envision what might be in our community. Small groups explored personal dreams of what education might look like within the context of the Urantia Community. Line Charland (Canada) shared the power of her educational experience with the African spiritual teacher, Moussa Ndiaye, and how she felt as if her soul had been midwifed through that teaching experience. Sara Blackstock (USA) shared her dream of seeing the teachings move into family life and provide a transforming influence. Charles Olivea (USA), emphasized the importance of friendship and humor in the learning environment. He stated: Teaching is a noble act because of the possibility of friendship, and Teaching requires provocative questions. John Ploetz (USA) emphasized the importance of understanding the media of the next generation as they listen to iPods and gather information from the web. Agnes Lazare (Belgium) pointed out that a good teacher makes the student feel at home" Chris Halvorson (USA), leader of one of the most popular study groups in North America, emphasized the need for passion and intuition. Excitement, he shared, is contagious…The teacher must learn how to get out of the way. Betty Zehr (USA) shared her view of the importance of one-on-one teaching by telling a story of her ministry to an internationally-known violin player dying of a brain tumor. Jerry Prentice (USA) emphasized that our job as Urantia Book readers is to infuse the great spiritual principles into our culture. After each person shared their dreams, the group looked for common themes.

The participants will reconvene in June, 2008, to engage in the Design and Destiny phases of the Appreciative Inquiry process. Until that time, participants made personal "commitments to action" until the group meets again. Elisabeth Callahan (USA) called for us to form a "university of spiritual living." Ralph Zehr (USA) shared the dream of preparing a seminar on cosmic citizenship. Gaetan Charland (Canada) intends to continue his efforts to empower study groups and develop a network of study groups. Claire Mylanus (France) will continue her work sponsoring study groups. Jeff Wattles (USA) plans to share his work on a text based on truth, beauty and goodness. Polly Friedman (USA) envisions building Field Service Teams which will bring the teachings to other parts of the planet.

Though no definitive conclusions were arrived at, it was exciting to see educators from throughout the world gather and address part our sacred trust, to bring forth the teachings of this revelation into the thought and heart streams of humanity. If you have any thoughts about the Education Initiative, please email Tamara Wood at [email protected]

"The purpose of education should be acquirement of skill, pursuit of wisdom, realization of selfhood, and attainment of spiritual values."

Educational Initiative participants
Educational Initiative participants

Foundation Info

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