The Emergent Grace Movement

Christian Hope for Lasting Mental Health

Classrooms and Injustice: the Mental Health Crisis

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It is my conviction that nowadays teachers and students alike figure among society’s victims. Classrooms are a site of injustice and we are amidst an evolving educational crisis. This is impacting everyone’s mental health. Our educational crisis is at the core of the mental health crisis, and it radiates into our churches on a weekly basis. This is because

1) we have adopted schools’ formational practices in our churches for at least the last fifty years and

2) we are being trained out of social justice awareness because of top-down legislation

We have succumbed to the industrial model of schooling, transporting it into the church, leading to the industrial model of faith formation. Well guess what? It isn’t working anymore. If it ever did.

Classrooms in Particular

While the mental health of many adults may be languishing, things are particularly challenging in classrooms. Teachers have to stay tied to a room. Students are compelled by law to go to school. And this compulsive schooling filters into society at large.

Often teachers hold themselves to a very high standard, but we need expectations paired with compassion for teachers.

When I say that something needs to change, I don’t think that what needs to change is that our schools should only be secular or only religious.

Yes, the absence of God and faith in the curricula is contrary to our wiring as faithful creatures made in the image of Christ.

But religious indoctrination is dehumanizing and perhaps even malformational.

At issue is what kind of rituals and routines are being taught, even unconsciously, in the classroom as our students go about their days? And are the expectations on teachers reasonable? Sustainable? Compassionate? How are we acknowledging the struggles of the educational sphere to one another?

Classrooms and Injustice: Violence Meets Narrative

Not only are schools the sites of shootings in the United States, but they are also the sites of racial and gender/sexual oppression. However, this does not mean that the solution to this problem is more graphic recounting of injustices–which can traumatize students of color and shame white ones. Nor does it mean we need more explicit or graphic sexual education programs with the new variations and definitions of the times. No, we need compassionate rich narratives that help students imagine a better future.

We need not hide the negatives of racial injustice and profiling in the past. Particularly since these injustices remain today. But we also need to pair students’ awareness of injustice with sound social justice analysis and action.

Maybe the problem is that we have lost a cohesive narrative.

In my book What I Remember of the Little I Understand: A Memoir of Finding Mental Health in Christ, I talk about how I had put knowledge above wisdom as a graduate student. It was a therapist who finally taught me not to put knowledge above wisdom.

But I feel like with our data-driven approach, we are frequently putting knowledge above wisdom in our society.

This is seen, also, in the death of affirmative action. There is so much wisdom that people get from the prolonged suffering that comes with living in a racialized society. But here we are putting knowledge above wisdom. We are no longer factoring in that wisdom as we make college admissions choices. I feel like we must and that we will find a way to work around this.

It starts when we counteract violence with narrative as we come to terms with classrooms and injustice in our society.

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