Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings convened a group at the George W. Bush Institute last Thursday to discuss the role faith-based schools play in American cities. The group drew upon representatives from various traditions, including Catholic, Islamic and evangelical educators.
Later, Rawlings said one of the first big words he learned in Sunday school as a kid was “omniscient.” He said he went on to learn “omnipresent,” which led him to think that if God was indeed everywhere, then he is in schools, too. Rawlings, who identifies himself as a Democrat and Protestant, summed up his feelings this way:
“Surely we can create a new way to educate, to fund the best and the brightest in this country,” Rawlings said. “For me, it starts with God being omnipresent in lives across this country.”
So, here’s what I would like to hear you all discuss:
Are people of faith better off focusing their attention on education to schools that reflect their own tradition?
Of course, I imagine most of you think that public schools are valuable. Many of us probably attended them.
But if you really want to make an education dent, especially getting students to discuss God and larger issues of moral consequence, couldn’t one argue that schools that represent the values of a particular faith tradition are the better place to start?
Certainly, Catholic schools have produced strong results. Speaking at the Bush Institute conference,Father Tim Scully of Notre Dame claimed that 99 percent of students in Catholic high schools graduate. Eighty-five percent of those graduates, he said, attend college. And Latino and African-American students who attend Catholic school are two-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college.
What do you think?
Where should people of faith put their focus on education, especially in our big cities? How would you try to move the needle, as the expression goes?
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
Educational institutions are not simply meant to create industry and employment but rather education is primarily for the purpose of character development. The ancient Vedic aphorism states that the sign of an educated man is that:
1. He sees all women, except for his wife, as one would view their own mother.
2. He does not covet other people's property, no more than one would covet garbage in the street.
3. He sees the pains and gains of others as his very own and therefore is compassionate towards other's distress and happy for other's happiness.
This wisdom is naturally developed when one studies and practices the science of the soul. In America we have so many educational institutions, yet how many institutions discuss the nature of consciousness? How many institutions can clearly explain the difference between a dead body and a living body?
Everyone in this world wants to be happy, however to be happy one must know the self and how to please the self. Because of mis-identifying the temporary body as the self, people in general look at the opposite sex or same sex as objects of their enjoyment.
Other people's property is seen with envy. And the pains and gains of others are something to take advantage of and exploit. Therefore, if there is no higher knowledge of the self, the modern educational institutions often can increase materialism and unhappiness within society.