EDUCATING FOR SHALOM – Christians in Education


I’m thinking of starting a campaign. There are just too many ‘againsts’. A new one was added this week when Nicky Morgan announced the launch of the new website ‘educate. against . hate.’, incongruously borrowing the title of an LGBT education programme as its tagline. Aimed at parents, teachers and school leaders, it offers advice on how to spot signs of twisted ideologies.

There was yet another call to educate children from the age of 4 against sexual exploitation by teaching them how to spot an abuser. This, even though two-thirds of abuse happens in the home, perpetrated by someone known to the child and probably therefore trusted by them. During the autumn the new website was launched, providing plenty of advice for parents on how to educate their child against alcohol, substance abuse, eating disorders and online exploitation.

There’s advice in abundance against poverty, including access to the tax data of everyone working in the UK in order to locate the courses most likely to lead to a lucrative career. We’re constantly educating against. Against poor mental health. Against hate. Against poverty. Against bullying. Against exploitation. Against underachievement.

But nowhere is there anything about educating for the positives. So I think it’s time for a campaign. Let’s educate for good health. For compassion. For people to be the best that they can be. For strong, loving relationships. For peace. For love.

Let’s educate for shalom.

Shalom is often taken to mean peace, but that is just one small part of a word which also encompasses completeness, wholeness, health, welfare, tranquillity, rest, harmony and prosperity. It encompasses all that we would wish in terms of human flourishing for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world. When you wish someone ’Shalom’ you are wishing a blessing of wholeness for them.

Viewed in this way, education takes on a new perspective. It’s no longer about identity politics. It’s no longer about cultures of measurement or materialism. It’s about developing a vision for human flourishing. It’s about the positive transformation of living in right relationships with ourselves, with each other, with God and with nature. It’s about asking how we can serve God and serve others through our work and with our lives. It’s about inspiring awe and wonder through our teaching. It’s about helping each child and young person in our care to be whole and complete in spirit, soul and body.

Prosperity is no longer measured by the number of shiny things we can acquire, but by the peace, wholeness and harmony that we experience in our relationships, our work and our leisure. Our young people will ask not: ‘How much can I earn?’ but ‘Who can I be?’

At the Conservative Party Conference last October David Cameron talked about children who are having ‘their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate’. That’s something that the Bible talks about, too, although it includes us all. The apostle Paul urges ‘to be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2 NIV); the ancient prophet Jeremiah said that ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked’ (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV). But instead of educating  to defend ourselves against the outcomes of a world broken by sin, how much better to teach for the positives of people  actively living for a world made whole?

Instead of aiming to become global leaders in character education or maths, instead of shaping a world class curriculum that will turn us into a global economic power, let’s educate for wholeness and be known as people who are complete, prosperous, at peace and in harmony with ourselves, with each other, with the world and with God.

Let’s educate for shalom.