This session explores a phrase from the Foundations and some of its possible implications. The focus of the session is on education and development as a key part of creating a ‘true social order’.
Resources needed: a copy of the Foundations (also in Quaker faith & practice at 23:16), note paper and pens; for exercise 2A, large paper (e.g. flipchart paper), pens, post-it notes, plain paper, old magazines to cut up, and glue (e.g. Pritt Stick); for exercise 2B, printouts of the passage to be read and guidelines for worship sharing; for exercise 3, copies of Quaker faith & practice, large paper, and pens.
Opening worship – 5 mins
Introduction – 5 mins
You may like to invite members of the group to say their names and share either why they have chosen to attend this study session, or something they are leaving behind to be with the group. It is also often helpful to say something about why you have chosen to offer this study session and what interests you about the content.
1. What is ‘full development’? – 20 mins
Read aloud, or ask someone to read aloud, point 3 of the Foundations: “The opportunity of full development, physical, moral and spiritual, should be assured to every member of the community, man, woman and child. The development of man’s full personality should not be hampered by unjust conditions nor crushed by economic pressure.” In pairs or threes, take five minutes to draw a sketch or make some notes about a person who has had the opportunity of full development. What personality traits might they have? How do they respond to injustice? What kind of work would they choose to do?
Once the pairs/threes have generated some ideas, join them up into groups of four to six people. Do the two pictures in your group have much in common? Can they be brought together into a more complex picture of ‘full development’? Give the groups ten minutes to work on this.
In the last five minutes, ask the groups to share their conclusions with the whole group.
Either 2A. Education for full development – 30 mins
What education would someone need in order to achieve the full development described in the previous exercise? How can education help to overcome barriers of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and class? As a group, you could create a ‘mood board’ showing the key elements. This can be done in three stages of ten minutes each: writing, drawing or collecting material individually; sharing and discussing contributions in small groups (perhaps the groups of four to six from the previous exercise); and showing and explaining contributions to the whole group.
Contributions can take many forms. For written notes, offer post-it notes and suggest single words or short phrases. For drawings, remind people that a sketch or diagram is enough. For images, a range of old magazines or similar with pictures including people and places give a good selection from which to choose.
It may be helpful to remind people as they move from one stage to the next of the focus question, “What education would someone need in order to achieve full development?” and that education includes moral, physical, spiritual, emotional, and personal dimensions as well as the intellectual aspects on which formal education often focuses today.
Or 2B. Role of the Adult School Movement – 30 mins
Read out, perhaps by asking people to read a paragraph each, the passage on pages 6-8 headed ‘The Need for the Schools’ from A History of the Adult Schools. (A range of download options for the whole digitised book can be accessed from that link. You may wish to download and print out copies of these three pages in advance to hand out to members of the group, and ensure that you have read it through yourself.) The reading may take ten minutes or so; there is no need to hurry it.
This passage positions the Adult Schools firmly in the context of churches and congregations, rather than schools and colleges as we now think of them. They grew out of First-Day Schools (from the Quaker practice of referring to Sunday as ‘First-Day’, the first day of the week) and taught skills such as reading and writing through the medium of Bible study. After the reading, offer this context if it seems appropriate, and invite the group to wait in worship before responding.
Responses could take the form of worship sharing. If a focus question would help the group, suggest, “Are the situations motivating the Adult School Movement still around today?” If your group is not familiar with worship sharing, it may be helpful to consult the suggested guidelines from Being Friends Together. Alternatively, asking people to only speak once in a discussion or taking turns to speak as in a go-round can help to ensure that everyone in the group has space to respond.
3. Quaker education – 20 mins
Ask members of the group to indicate, for example by raising their hands, if they have any experience of Quaker education. If anyone does not, point out that this study session is a form of education offered by and mainly about Quakers! People may also have experience, first- or second-hand, of: Quaker schools, Woodbrooke courses, Woodbrooke on the Road and similar day workshops, Quaker Quest, reading Quaker books, other study groups at a local or area meeting, and offering information or explanations to non-Quakers.
If members of the group are willing to share anecdotes about their experiences of any form of Quaker education, allow about ten minutes for this. If few or none are forthcoming, you could read or ask members of the group to read passages from Quaker faith & practice chapter 23. Passages 23.71 to 23.85 deal with education, and 23.72, 23.80 and 23.81 are especially likely to be useful.
From your own stories and whichever passages you have read, what do you pick out as distinctive about Quaker education as compared with other forms of education? You may like to make a chart with two columns showing ‘Quaker’ and ‘secular’ or ‘other’ approaches to education. (Be ready to write some things in the middle or on both sides, or add a third section if appropriate.) This could be done in small groups or a scribe asked to write on a flipchart for the whole group.
Notices and closing worship – 10 mins