A Culture of Justice

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, in the United States, we observe a holiday in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On reflection, I see that Dr. King’s vision of a “beloved community” has had a tremendous influence on my idea of the Joyful Learning Community. I can also see Dr. King’s influence in other aspects of the Tres Columnae project:

  • our commitment to justice, equity, and transparency in assessment;
  • our commitment to welcome all kinds of learners;
  • our desire to provide many pathways or itinera through the project, so that all different kinds of learners can find a way that works well for them;
  • the diversity of characters in the Tres Columnae storyline – and their interactions, both helpful and hurtful, with each other;
  • our attempt to present a truthful picture of Roman history and culture – the good and the bad – and to help our participants relate these ideas to their own lives, their own nations, and their own cultural circumstances;
  • our rejection of any factory model – or any other model – of learning that hurts some of God’s children – especially the poor and the oppressed;
  • our implicit commitment (now, as of this post, no longer implicit) to give a voice to the voiceless;
  • our commitment to open access, since as many of the project materials as possible will be made freely available to everyone;
  • our overriding commitment to help all our participants achieve excellence;
  • our very organization as a Learning Community in which participants help each other, support each other, challenge each other, and create things for each other.

quid respondētis, cārissimī? Are there aspects of our project that don’t meet Dr. King’s standards? If so, what are they, and what do we need to do to change them?

So Happy Birthday to Dr. King! And, in keeping with the call to serve others on this day, let’s all take a moment to reflect on how well we’ve served those in our care.

  • What are we doing well?
  • What are we doing not-so-well?
  • What, specifically, might we do – right now, today – to improve one thing we’re doing not-so-well?

Then, inspired by Dr. King’s life of self-giving service, let’s move from reflection to action. Let’s all go and do that one, specific thing to improve. I look forward to hearing from you with the results of what you did! 🙂

Tune in later today for the first of several posts about Tres Columnae and Culture. But I think it was important to begin the day with this post, which gets to the very heart of the Culture of our Joyful Learning Community.

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Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Thanks for posting this, Justin – I wish there were moments of reflection like this at my school… but sadly, there are not. There is much talk at my school of the “OU Family” and the “Sooner Nation” – but I don’t think there is really much that holds us together aside from those labels. Having a community of teachers and learners who share the kinds of values and commitments you have expressed here is a really compelling and inspiring idea.

    I’ll share my one doubt, and I think it is one that will not surprise you: personally, I see almost nothing in the Roman world, institutionally speaking, that resonates with my own personal philosophy of life. I do find plenty to resonate with in Roman literature (esp. the fables and comedies) and philosophy (Stoicism has a great appeal, for example), but not so much in Roman social life itself, or Rome’s politics, or its engagement in the world. I wouldn’t exactly call it “the good and the bad” since I don’t want to put myself in a position of passing judgment on the ancient Romans (I’m not sure what the point of that would be) – but I will say that for all that I have a lot of valuable ideas I have gained from Roman writers and philosophers, there are very few actual Roman people, historical figures, who are anything like role models for me. I don’t think my love of Kirk Douglas as Spartacus counts, right? I’ve got a lot of medieval role models, and more and more role models as we move into modern history, but I come up pretty short in making any kind of personal connection between myself and the people of ancient Rome, hence my low motivation to learn a lot about ancient Roman history. So, that’s where I’m coming from here – but I think I will still find lots to enjoy at Tres Columnae even if the cult of the ancient Romans has never been one with a big attraction for me. 🙂

    • Yes, there’s a lot of talk about “schools as family” or “schools as nation” – but often the label or slogan is more important than the reality. One thing I really hope for with the Tres Columnae project is to build the reality; if people like the Joyful Learning Community label, that’s a nice plus, but I don’t want the label to substitute for the real thing.

      You’re quite right about the reality of Roman culture: by and large, they were a bloodthirsty, cruel bunch of people, with a very low regard for human life. But that’s true of most cultures, and really of most people, at least some of the time. I’ll include myself there, especially when I’m watching college football! (Full disclosure, which non-Americans may skip if you’d like: I grew up in Knoxville, so you know what color my blood is, and it ain’t red! 🙂 The rest of the family avoids me on the days of the Florida and ‘Bama games.)

      On the other hand, even amidst all that brutality, these are the people who built the Pantheon and the Ara Pacis. They also produced Vergil’s visions of peace and harmony, both in the Eclogues and in the Aeneid, and Cicero’s philosophical works along with his blood-and-guts political and forensic speeches. I don’t know that we need to see the Romans as role models – I don’t see them that way myself – but I do think we can see them as fellow human beings, products of their time and place as we are of ours. And then, from a non-judgmental perspective, we can look at the “good and bad,” or the desirable and undesirable.

      When I was in high school, my Latin teacher showed Spartacus Every. Single. Year. She claimed it was for the cultural background, but we knew it was really for Kirk Douglas’s chest. She also showed Jason and the Argonauts every year, for a similar pair of stated-and-unstated reasons. 🙂


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