Tag Archives: United Methodist

The Choice to be in the Middle Class

Recently I came across a thought provoking blog post written by Chris Lehman, the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, entitled “Making Teachers Rich”.  The article deals with the hot-button issue of merit pay for educators and the notion among education reformers that higher pay for the best teachers  is a key to attracting the best teachers to the profession.  Lehman begins by reflecting on a statement by Jason Kamras, the Washington, DC district’s chief of human capital, who says, “We want to make teachers rich”.  Lehmen then says,

“We shouldn’t.

Economically, teaching should be a wonderfully middle-class career.

You should be able to buy a house in the district you teach in.

You should be able to afford to send your own children to college.

You should be able to teach for a career and then retire with a pension.

You should not feel like teaching is unsustainable economically.

I don’t think teachers should aspire to riches, and I worry that someone who is running the Human Resource department of a major urban district would think we should.”

Lehman continues,

“To me, that speaks to so much that is wrong in our country. Right now we have a disappearing middle-class… and those of us left in the middle class are made to feel that our grip on it is tenuous at best. I worry this creates a dichotomy where there is only “rich” and “poor” – and that is no good for our country. I make more money as a high school principal than I ever thought I would when I went into education…. and I make about 125% what a teacher at the top of the pay scale in Philly makes. That should be enough. What bothers me is that making a teacher’s salary (or even a principal’s salary) doesn’t feel secure. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for Jakob and Theo’s college… and I worry a lot that the pension and social security that should take care of me when I’m retired won’t be there. I worry that the house my wife and I bought could lose value – although Philly has held value much better than most places in the country. Dealing with those issues as a society would go a long way toward making teachers feel much more financially secure than a raise based on test scores ever could.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be economically secure. But thinking that we are going to somehow find the “best” teachers and make them rich is to set teachers off on a chase for something that makes the kids a mere means to an end that we shouldn’t be chasing in the first place.

Let’s make teachers feel secure economically. Let’s make sure there’s a middle class for them to belong to. Let’s make a life of service honorable and secure. But let’s not forget that service doesn’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — “make you rich.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

As a retired pastor and as a teacher, I agree with Lehman completely; and I can’t help noticing that a parallel controversy is happening in the United Methodist Church.  Greed has infiltrated both systems. In the church we think that we will attract bright young people to seek a career in the ministry if we dangle the prospect of a high salary. We try to recruit the brightest and the best young adults to be the future leaders of our congregations.

Somehow, the United Methodist Church has forgotten that Jesus did not seek out and call the best and the brightest folks to be his disciples. He chose rugged fishermen, a despised tax collector, and other ordinary people to be the leaders of his movement.  Jesus did NOT promise  his followers wealth, fame, or adulation.   In fact, he told them right up front that he was headed down a difficult road that would culminate in a cross. As we seek to develop a “culture of call” I am concerned that I am hearing recruiting pitches and I am NOT hearing preaching that asks young adults to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.”

I don’t think we should become a denomination anchored by mega-churches.  I believe we should adopt a new vision of recreating the middle class in the United States, and CREATING a middle class in areas of extreme poverty.  Historically, the Wesleyan movement is credited with preventing a bloody revolution of the poor in England.  Methodists cared for the poor, set up schools, and reformed the nation through their emphasis on spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land.  That is a worthy mission for us now in the 21st century as well.

Instead of enticing young men and women to enter the ministry with a promise of wealth and super-stardom, I believe we should be planning to work toward the restoration of the MIDDLE class.  It will take hard work,  personal sacrifice,  and a lofty vision of staying contentedly in the ordinary middle to make it happen. I believe my petition to General Conference on creating a More Equitable Salary may be a step in the right direction.

Do you agree? Or do we need to appeal to greed  and ambition in order to become a healthy church?

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Filed under Christianity, Education, Education Reform, General Conference, middle class, Public Schools, Reading, Uncategorized, United Methodist, wealth

Human Trafficking Month Resources

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a campaign initiated by Vicki Davis (an award winning education blogger aka @coolcatteacher on Twitter) to raise awareness about the issue of modern slavery. Vicki asked educators to blog or tweet once each day during the winter break from school to help end modern slavery.

I enthusastically joined her campaign, and in the process I have learned a great deal.  In this post, I would like to offer some resources that may be helpful to you as you address the issue of human trafficking.

Recently three organizations working to abolish slavery received an 11.5 million dollars from Google to aid their efforts. Each organization takes a slightly different approach to the fight. The International Justice Mission is a Washington DC based human rights agency that  works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about 12 different countries. The Polaris Project and The Slavery Footprint work together in the US Human Trafficking Initiative. the Polaris offers a Human Trafficking Resource hotline, and the Slavery Footprint offers a great interactive website so people can learn how their lifestyle depends on slave labor.

Educator Larry Ferlazzo has compiled a great list of resources that will be useful to anyone interested in learning more about modern slavery. The CNN Freedom Project is an anti-slavery campaign that was launched in March 2011. They report that 2000 people have been freed so far through their efforts.  Their website has many useful resources. ABC also reported extensively on child slavery  in the summer of 2008. Their news reports inspired my initial interest in abolition, and  although some of the links on this page are no longer active there are still some that might be helpful to you.

My book suggestions to learn more about modern slavery include the following:

A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner–This book by a journalist was published in 2008 and is really a foundational book for anyone who wants to learn more about modern slavery. Many rave reviews.

Be the Change:Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World  by Zach Hunter — The author of this book is a college student and a well known public speaker on the topic of abolition. He has been an abolitionist since age 12 and wrote this book as a teenager.

Sold by Patricia Mc Cormick- This novel about a 13 year old girl from Nepal sold into prostitution by her step-father was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is recommended for grade 9 and up.

The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church has some church specific resources posted on their website. These include bulletin inserts, official church resolutions, small group study resources, current legislative actions, and links to other Christian abolition resources.

President Obama has declared January to be Human Trafficking month; and the United Methodist Church designates January 11th as Human Trafficking Day.  Although I am posting this information on January 6th,  human trafficking education, advocacy, and preaching is appropriate on many different occasions. It can be easily integrated into the curriculum of a high school English class (see this great unit plan for a high school English class and my post on “Teens Stand Up Against Slavery”) and into preaching (there are  many scripture passages that could be useful for this) at various times of the year.

It is my prayer and my hope that educators and pastors will work together to bring awareness to this continuing human tragedy. Together we are a powerful force.

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Filed under Abolition, Education, United Methodist

“A More Equitable Salary” Petition to General Conference

Here is a petition I have submitted to the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.  

           A More Equitable Salary 5 (2) LINK HERE

If this petition is adopted, I believe it will transform the culture of our denomination dramatically.  I believe it will do the following:

1) Change the way our bishops and cabinets appoint clergy to local congregations by removing money from consideration in appointment making

2)  Allow the appointment of new clergy to healthy, thriving churches and the appointment of experienced clergy to struggling congregations

3) Allow all clergy to provide adequately for their family needs and protect clergy from the danger of riches (as Wesley would say)

4) Eliminate the “ladder of success” mentality that currently afflicts the spiritual health and integrity of our community.

5) Restore a sense of community among clergy who are now forced to be competitive with one another

7) Support salaries of pastors in areas where the church serves the poor such as in our central conferences

8) Serve as a CHRISTIAN witness to corporate America and

MOST importantly the adoption of this petition will BRING OUR CHURCH INTO CONFORMITY WITH THE SCRIPTURE (1 Timothy 5:17-18) with regard to our use of money.

Since I have submitted this petition as an individual to the General Conference, I am concerned that it might quietly become lost in the Finance/Administrative Committee. I am hoping that social media will help to bring this petition to a wider audience and will aid it’s passage. I consulted with my bishop as I drafted this petition in order to assure it’s constitutionality, and the petition DOES have some significant support from bishops in Africa, who assure me they will promote it among their delegates. Since MORE than 40% of 2012 delegates will be from central conferences, I believe that this proposal may be adopted if some delegates in the United States choose to support it as well.

So, I am inviting your discussion here. Please offer your concerns, and questions in the comments on this blog; and share this post with others (especially delegates), so this idea will receive the attention I believe it deserves.

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Filed under Bible, Christianity, CTA, General Conference, United Methodist

Cross-pollination

I am finally blogging! I have been an avid tweeter for about two years now, and I find Twitter to be an amazing tool for professional development, amusement, staying current with the latest news, and even a bit of social networking. I tweet primarily with Christians (mostly United Methodists, but a few strays too), educators, and techies; and I try to tweet or retweet information that I hope will be interesting across these disciplines.  I am sure that my religious tweets are sometimes a bit distracting to the educators, and my education focused tweets seem irrelevant to my Christian tweeps; but I hope they are sometimes useful as well. Despite the separation of church and state, I think we should be learning from one another and listening to words of wisdom from each other. Cross-pollination may lead to the creation of new ideas.

Twitter has, and will continue to be a great tool for me. But I have repeatedly found that there are occasions when 140 characters are inadequate to express my views.  So I am taking up blogging to fill that gap.  There are some topics that I am very passionate about, such as the United Methodist Council of Bishop’s Call To Action, my petition to the 2012 General Conference entitled “A More Equitable Salary”, education reform, on-line learning, the seeming taboo of the Bible in public schools, the elimination of extreme poverty, literacy and reading, racism, sexism, and the modern abolition movement. I would like to use this blog to speak in more depth on these topics. But in addition to just speaking, or writing about my own view, I hope that this blog will become a forum for discussion. So I invite you to comment, and join the conversation as well.

I look forward to this new adventure, and I welcome you to this journey.

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Filed under Blogging