Tag Archives: Book

Moral Courage – Rushworth Kidder

A few points I pulled out of this excellent book:

72

What, then, is moral courage? It can be defined as the quality of mind and spirit that enables one to face up to ethical challenges firmly and confidently, without flinching or retreating. It is a “quality of mind” as well as “spirit” because, like all ethical endeavours, it partakes of both the rational and the intuitional capacities, both left-brain and right-brain activity, both the processes of intellectual discourse and the feelings of rightness and wrongness inherent in each individual.

  • It enables us to face up to problems—not necessarily to resolve them, and certainly not to promise that we will master them, but to address them squarely, frontally, and with determination.
  • It requires action that is both “firmly” persistent and “confidently” assured that its tools—the moral, mental, and emotional elements of argumentation and persuasion—are sound enough to weather serious resistance.
  • Finally, it requires us to act “without flinching or retreating” in the face of persuasions, from the subtle to the violent, that make us want to turn tail and run.

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Step 4: Understand the Risks I
Understanding risk involves the contemplation of possible outcomes…Have I adequately assessed the dangers involved both in acting and in failing to act? Am I clear on the moral hazards, even if the situation involves physical hazard as well?  Do I have a clear picture of the three principal challenges — solving ambiguity, exposure, and loss—inherent in any situation

Ambiguity.

Am I willing to face up to the ambiguity and confusion that surrounds this problem? Can I penetrate its mysteries without being baffled, duped, or mentally overwhelmed? If I fear I could be wrong about the facts, does that
prevent me from moving forward? Or do I have that tolerance  for ambiguity, that confidence in my ability to figure things out, which is essential to moral courage? Can I distinguish persistent firmness in the face of wrongdoing from true moral courage in the face of right-versus-right dilemmas?

Exposure.

Do I recognize the fear of exposure that can inhibit moral courage? Am I willing to make myself vulnerable for the sake of achieving some higher good? Do I acknowledge that by acting with moral courage, I may be thrust into a highly visible leadership role—whether I want it or not? Or am I hoping I can hide and still make a difference? Have I got the focus and stamina to weather the exposure that frequently accompanies morally courageous acts?

Loss.

Do I grasp the peril to my income and position—as well as to personal relationships and public reputation—that may be involved here? Is this the hill I want to die on? Have I underestimated the risk, so that I might lose everything to no avail and be accused of foolishness? Or have I overestimated the risk, so that what I think to be courageous has very little risk at all, leaving me open to charges of mere bluster and bravado? Do I understand that moral courage shines most brightly when the stakes are highest?

 

State of the World Forum Values

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Thoreau’s ‘Walden’

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours – Henry Thoreau

I have the author of this post to thank for encouraging me to read Thoreau’s Walden. In short, it is an author’s reflections on an extended period of time when he escaped the life of the town to live sustainably in a self-built shack in the American woods. Amongst the extended ruminations on the perfection that is nature one finds pointed criticism of times not too far removed from our own.

Thoreau’s basic premise runs that humanity spends a great deal of time in the business of gaining material possessions and undertaking societal niceties that simply create more work. This is a thought that I have reflected on frequently – particularly in the context of the trapped nature of the materially well off.

One innocently enough seeks to have a place to rest their head and thuspurchases a home. With the nature of housing prices the home buyer needs to maintain a significant job for a significant period of years in order to pay off his humble abode in which he lays his head. It seemingly does not take long for a simple longing for an innocent pleasure to lock us into lives we never sought nor want.

I find it sad indeed that while I completed this book some weeks ago I have only found the time to review my notes today. Rereading sections was a perfect centreing act to remind myself of the dangers of living life at too fast a speed. Walden is a beautiful invitation to stop the madness that we have committed ourselves to. Do not expect answers from Walden but significant encouragement to question.

You can access the full text at Project Gutenberg. I have not individually referenced quotes due to the difference between the many editions and the easy task of performing a text search on Gutenberg for interested parties.

Nations are possessed with an insane ambition to perpetuate the memory of themselves by the amount of hammered stone they leave….Most of the stone a nation hammers goes toward its tomb only. It buries itself alive. As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.

Be sure that you give the poor the aid they most need, though it be your example which leaves them far behind. If you give money, spend yourself with it, and do not merely abandon it to them. We make curious mistakes sometimes…There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve. It is the pious slave-breeder devoting the proceeds of every tenth slave to buy a Sunday’s liberty for the rest. Some show their kindness to the poor by employing them in their kitchens. Would they not be kinder if they employed themselves there? You boast of spending a tenth part of your income in charity; maybe you should spend the nine tenths so, and done with it.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches today to save nine tomorrow. As for work, we haven’t any of any consequence.

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.

…wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society. It is true, I might have resisted forcibly with more or less effect, might have run “amok” against society; but I preferred that society should run “amok” against me, it being the desperate party.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favour in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

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Of course I’m happy – I’ve got hundreds of pictures to prove it

I have admired Peter Rollin’s work for some time having come across it during my time in Cairo. His critique of what passes for ‘Christianity’ and ‘Religion’ is both challenging and engaging. I particularly recommend his book The Orthodox Heretic for those who have grown weary of an institutionalised Christianity that seems to have lost a commitment to Jesus’ social teachings (a taste of the book can be found here).

In this post on his website he talks about the importance of self-critique in the context of community. Honesty with ourselves and our community is sadly often lacking in the modern church.

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Class act: ending the education wars – Maxine McKew

I’ve given a voice to the many teachers in schools who are experts at what they do and every day find ways to challenge and stretch young Australian minds

Maxine McKew

9780522866575McKew’s book contains nothing new. That is not so much a criticism of the book but of governments of both stripes who have not heeded the recommendations coming from leading Australian researchers in education. Suggestions that the Gonski ‘needs based’ funding be adopted, that Hattie’s Visible Learning precepts be integrated into all schools and equipping school leaders to direct resources for best student outcomes, have been written about at length elsewhere. Her writing style makes the material very accessible and her public profile will perhaps attract some readers who are not well versed in the topic.

The book is available through Melbourne University Press.

A few quotes that I will be reflecting further upon are reproduced below. They are not my own work – please attribute them to the original author.

[E]xperts possess knowledge that is more integrated, in that they combine the introduction of new subject knowledge with students’ prior knowledge; they can relate current lesson content to other subjects in the curriculum; and they make lessons uniquely their own by changing, combining, and adding to the lessons according to their students’ needs and their own teaching goals.

John Hattie quoted on 3

But Australia’s scores in international literacy tests aren’t dropping because the students who sit those tests don’t know their sounds. They are performing poorly because they cannot comprehend what they are reading. They have poor vocabularies and cannot follow sentences that employ more complex language structures. They cannot read between the lines.

Our low-achieving students – both on international measures and the home grown National Assessment Program, Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests – share one, very telling, common characteristic. They don’t speak “school English”, or Standard Australian English, at home. They may speak a language other than English, or Aboriginal English, or a creole, or “bogan” English – the kind where words like “youse” feature.

Misty Adoniou quoted on 20-21 (read the original piece online here)

Nowadays, families just like [the many migrant families before them], in search of a more settled life and their own piece of Australian magic arrive from across the globe—from the Subcontinent, from north and south Asia, and from Africa. But the children of these new migrant groups are entering a vastly different Australian schooling system. Long gone is the suburban public high school that once brought together the sons and daughters of just about everyone—where the kids of doctors and dentists rubbed up against the offspring of tradesmen and shopkeepers. There is a remnant of this social diversity left in the primary sector, but by high school the divide is acute. The best and brightest (and those who max out on private tutoring) head for the country’s selective high schools. The professional classes opt for high-fee independent schools or the more prestigious of the Catholic schools while trade- and commerce-based families increasingly enrol
in the newer, low-fee, faith-based schools.

That leaves [public] schools…to cater for the rest: the children of low-income or public housing dependant families, urban Indigenous people, and newly arrived refugees.

50-51

What to do?

1. Invest in the training and capabilities of school leaders so that they are operationally proficient and know how to motivate and direct resources towards teachers who are constantly improving their knowledge and skills.
2. Adopt as a standard across the system, and especially in teacher education academies, the key elements of John
Hattie’s Visible Learning approach. Know thy impact should be on the wall of every staffroom in every school across the country.
3. Go for quality…[get] rid of dumbed-down electives. Show students you care enough to make the material intellectually demanding and watch them take off.
4. Listen to the voices of students. They know when they are being short-changed by teachers who are ill-prepared or by schools that are cruising.
5. Create an environment that enables more government schools to develop strategic partnerships with business groups and philanthropic organisations.
6. [Fully adopt] the Gonski funding model [and direct] resources to where the need is greatest.

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Dr Malcolm Bartsch – A God who speaks and acts: theology for teachers in Lutheran schools

resizedimage173247-A God who speaks and acts largeI had the blessing of studying under Dr Bartsch as a post graduate student at Australian Lutheran College. I was also honoured to provide an article to a festschrift issue of the Lutheran Theological Journal to honour his work.

He has been a faithful servant of Lutheran schools in Australia (and overseas for that matter) for a rather significant time. As an undergraduate student taking my Lutheran teaching qualification I was required to read his EdD thesis , ‘Why a Lutheran school? Education and theology in dialogue’, a number of times in different contexts. It was, and is to a certain extent, the key text which discusses the interaction between education and theology in Australian Lutheran school.

Malcolm did not want his thesis published and used in that particular context. For a long time he looked towards creating a more cohesive book designed to fit the purpose of giving staff in Lutheran schools in Australia a solid understanding of the theology and subsequent world view which underpins the schools of the LCA.

‘A God who speaks and acts: theology for teachers in Lutheran schools’ is this book and has been released recently. You can order a hard version of it here. Not surprisingly you can also access a free PDF version on the same page and can obtain a free copy in Kindle/iBook format by sending an email to Lutheran Education Australia.

As a student, teacher, leader and academic in the field of Lutheran education I have been greatly blessed by Dr Bartsch’s work and highly recommend his new book to everyone involved with Lutheran education. It is an excellent and thorough treatment of the basis of the ministry of Lutheran schooling in Australia.

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