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Title:Educating for faithful pluralism
Author(s):Wenneborg, Emily G.
Director of Research:Burbules, Nicholas C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Burbules, Nicholas C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Higgins, Chris; Ebel, Jonathan H.; Hoiem, Elizabeth; O'Gorman, Ned
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
philosophy of education
religion and education
American Christianity
Christian education
Abstract:Different educational philosophies offer different responses to the challenges of living and educating in the midst of deep pluralism. Yet many common responses to pluralism fall short of the ‘principled pluralism test,’ which states that an adequate response to pluralism must enable us both to hold true to our own principles and to make gracious space for others to hold true to their own. In this dissertation, I critique both a liberal approach to education for pluralism, which asks students to stand at a critical distance from their own commitments (whether religious or otherwise) in order to live with others who hold different commitments, and three strategies for responding to the fact of increasing pluralism commonly found among contemporary American Christians: 1) seeking to defend the historic Christian faith and dominate the cultural and political spheres; 2) pursuing relevance to the broader culture yet at the potential cost of assimilating and losing their distinctiveness; or 3) separating from the broader culture and withdrawing into Christian enclaves. Although each strategy contains genuine insights, it is also subject to significant shortcomings, and so ultimately fails to offer an adequate response to pluralism. I advocate instead of an approach to education for pluralism based on faithfulness – digging deep into the resources that students’ commitments afford for living well with others. Specifically, a faithfulness-based approach to pluralism requires vertical faithfulness (to a Being or set of principles that transcends ordinary human concerns and capabilities), horizontal faithfulness (to one’s faith community, to neighbors and a neighborhood, and to the long work of building a society together), and meta-faithfulness (to the very possibility of living together despite our deep differences). In the case of Christian education, sustaining such faithfulness requires not only living but also educating in the midst of the tensions between affirmation and antithesis, between engagement and distinctness, and between humility and hope. In the final chapter of my dissertation, I suggest several ways that Christian families and communities can engage in education for faithful pluralism: through practices of distinctively Christian worship; through practices of speech that prioritize silence and listening as well as a dialogue across differences; and through practices of both giving and receiving hospitality.
Issue Date:2021-04-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Emily G. Wenneborg
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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