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Brotherly love and fairness in education

Today’s contributor headed an early childhood department of a Caribbean school system. She shares how prayer inspired her efforts to address academic inequality.

Maria Montessori, the distinguished early childhood educator, said, “Early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society.” I was contemplating this while reading a recent Monitor article highlighting a New Hampshire school district seen as a model of providing full-day kindergarten to schools with a majority low-income population (“On full-day kindergarten, policies still lag behind the promise,” Aug. 15, 2018). The article pointed out that this provision helps enrollees start first grade on par academically with wealthier classmates, thus putting them on track to become productive citizens.

This kind of compassionate care for students who are most in need of help brings to thought the biblical image of a loving God who meets our needs even in the most desperate circumstances. The book of Deuteronomy describes God’s redeeming love and mercy this way: “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye” (32:10).

Some years ago, I was the head of an early childhood department at a small private school system on an island in the Caribbean. The country had recently gained independence from colonial rule, and as was typical of private schools at the time, the majority of the students were from privileged white expatriate homes and were well prepared for kindergarten. Many of the native black children were not advantaged economically, nor were they as well prepared academically. The school’s response had been to “stream” the children based on their abilities, which in effect meant they were grouped primarily based on their race. It also meant that the native students received a less rigorous and academically stimulating education.

Feeling a deep desire to remedy the situation and having seen the value of turning to God in other challenging circumstances, I prayed. Christian Science teaches that God, our heavenly Father-Mother, is infinite, ever-present Love, embracing all creation in His constant care. The family of man – which includes each of us as the spiritual, innocent, capable expression of God – is created in Love’s image and likeness. Therefore our true identity is spiritual and “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). We’re living this identity when we express the spiritual qualities of kindness, compassion, and fairness in our daily affairs.

When spiritual love for our neighbor impels a sincere desire to help those in need, we find that God provides opportunities for us to express brotherly love to our fellow men and women. Every opportunity to engage in acts of kindness that help lift others to a fuller sense of their God-given capabilities and value is evidence of the limitless love of God manifesting itself. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, writes, “The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 518).

My prayers acknowledged that God, divine Love, is impartial and loves all Her children immeasurably. I deeply trusted God to reveal a solution to help these young students.

Soon the idea came for me to offer a series of workshops that gave parents practical tips on how to support their children academically. Although this was offered to all, it was the parents who needed this support who responded enthusiastically to this new idea. This approach also led to productive conversations with colleagues at staff meetings, and over time the practice of streaming was discontinued, which meant that all students received equal educational opportunities. To me, the harmony and fairness expressed during these developments illustrated God’s loving guidance and tangible care.

We can all follow Christ Jesus’ example in humbly listening for and obeying God’s gentle commands to love and serve one another. Opportunities abound for each of us to help one another and to contribute collectively to the betterment of society!

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