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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Public Education Sunday

Presented by Featuring students from Suitland High School’s Center for the Performing and Visual Arts; Rev. Diane Teichert with Marilyn Pearl, Worship Associate


Public Education Sunday

November 13, 2011

A homily by the Reverend Diane Teichert

Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church

Toward the end of her Chalice Reflection, Marilyn Pearl compared sports education to arts education. I want to say that in both, and indeed in all kinds of teaching, but especially of young people, the role of the teacher is both sacred and powerful.

A teacher of young people has a role that is both sacred and powerful. In the past week, it has come to light that a teacher, a teacher of sports, a coach at a major university, violated that sacred trust, numerous times. Such things are done, and not just by teachers. Anyone in authority over others is in a position to take advantage of their power and violate the trust placed in them. Coaches, clergy, therapists, politicians, bosses, parents, teachers in every field -  it happens. It’s wrong. And when a young person is the victim, it’s evil.

The reason to bring it up today is only partly to say something about sports as compared to the arts in our culture.  Just this past week, the new president of the University of Maryland – College Park gave a state of the university address to the faculty. Who is the number one highest paid state employee, he asked? The UMD basketball (men’s, of course) coach. I looked it up; he was brought in this year at 2.5 million dollars. Who is number two? The football coach. And athletics isn’t even making money for the university anymore. The department has been spending down its reserves the last few years, he said.

Nationwide, huge amounts of money are spent recruiting athletes to universities, where they will play without pay, like celebrity slaves, and may or may not come out with a degree worth anything, which is a pity. If they don’t make it into professional sports – it might be useful to have learned something in college.

What about talented art and music students, like we have with us today? Will the top universities scout them? Once enrolled, what will their professors be earning? What is going on here?

But the real reasons to bring this up today is to be reminded that 1) evil is in our midst, 2) money protects the powerful, and also 3) a loving faith community emboldens people for good.

Let this be a gathering, let this be a place, indeed let all houses of worship be places, where children – indeed all people – learn they are human beings with inherent worth, dignity, and a right to say no, and are emboldened to find help.

Let this be a gathering, let this be a place, indeed let all houses of worship be places, where witnesses learn moral courage and are emboldened to speak up.

Let this be a gathering, let this be a place, indeed let all houses of worship be places, where perpetrators and potential perpetrators learn that only the truth about themselves will set them free and are emboldened to confess and seek help.

But the vast majority of teachers and others in authority honor the sacred trust placed in them, with deep humility and a high sense of purpose.

I hope the students here today – whether at Suitland, or another, High School, the University of Maryland, or other colleges and universities – and all of us who once were students, as each of us surely must have been – I hope each of us can recall a teacher who inspired us in ways so profound they are difficult to adequately describe:

The teacher who sees in students not only who they are, but who they might become. The teacher who expects, and gets, a lot from the students, yet conveys care and encouragement in a way that builds confidence and strength from within. The teacher who believes when it seems no one else does. The teacher who models the kind of adult the student hopes to become.

I invite you to take a moment to silently call to mind, with gratitude, such a teacher in your life.

Now, I invite any of you who currently teach or once taught in public schools to rise and receive our thanks in the form of applause, on behalf of all teachers everywhere.

Today, in these student performances, we enjoy the fruits of the labor of teachers of the arts. In a moment, through our Special Collections, we will offer our support to specific teachers at a specific school. Meanwhile, we honor and celebrate the sacred and powerful role of teachers in our lives.

Amen.

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Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church • 3215 Powder Mill Road • Adelphi, Maryland 20783-1097
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