By Jessica Connor
Courtesy of S.C. United Methodist Advocate
COLUMBIA—Some of South Carolina’s religious leaders joined Nov. 18 to tackle significant education issues facing children in this state.
Bishops from the Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and United Methodist denominations gathered at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Columbia to hear Gov. Dick Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education and former two-term governor of S.C., speak on “Our Call to Education” during the 2013 LARCUM Bishops’ Dialogue.
Regardless of anyone’s political persuasions, “We all share in the common goal of providing our children with a quality public education,” Riley said in his morning message. “Anything that works has the word ‘partnership’ in it.”
Before a packed room, Riley gave an overview of the various public education issues in this state, from the challenge of raising standards above minimally adequate, to the rampant poverty impacting schools in the Corridor of Shame and elsewhere. Hunger, homelessness, anger, illness and safety concerns are all impediments to a good education, Riley noted, and education advocates also need to focus on those issues when addressing the whole.
“Almost half of the students in America are categorized as poor,” Riley said. “It’s so big to wrap our heads around.”
Riley said top goals and issues include ensuring that students graduate from high school prepared for college, careers and citizenship; have a high-quality education centered on 21st century skills such as critical thinking, teamwork and technology; have access to strong early childhood education, which he called an “economic necessity”; attend quality afterschool programs; utilize technology better; and have top-notch teachers. In Finland, he said, teachers are paid more than lawyers, but that is not the case here.
“In our nation, we are in a critical moment of transforming education reform,” Riley said, noting he wants to see commitment and passion about education in the public at-large. “Public education is everybody’s business.”
The day also included a worship service at Trinity with a homily by the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina. Bishop Waldo reminded the crowd how Scripture gives countless examples of the necessity and desire for learning.
“Our minds are gifts from God,” Bishop Waldo said. ‘We are called to bring out the gifts others have. Our stake in education is our response to Christ’s command that we love one another. We are called to give ourselves to the children of this state.”
Attendees also had the opportunity to converse in small roundtable groups about how LARCUM churches can work together and be stronger education advocate. A bishops’ panel rounded out the day.
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