Shared humanity drives educational success

By wayne.steffen on February 19, 2014 @ 1:50am

Bedell, Ph.D., is senior advisor to the White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the U.S. Department of Education. He spoke to about 50 area educational, church and non-profit leaders at a luncheon sponsored by the FPU Center for Community Transformation and School of Education.

Among those gathered February 18 in BC Lounge on the main FPU campus were Deb Nankivell, CEO of the Fresno Business Council; Kurt Madden, chief technology officer at Fresno Unified School District; Larry Powell, retired Fresno County Superintendent of Schools; FPU President Pete C. Menjares, Ph.D.; Stephen Varvis, Ph.D., FPU provost; and Gary Gramenz, Ph.D., dean of the FPU School of Education. Other speakers included Randy White, D. Min., executive director of CCT, and Gramenz.

Too often education discussions are about data rather than children and young people, according to Bedell. Success stories happen when education is placed in human terms. "Relationships are really what make a difference," he said. "Where it's really working is in the lives of real people."

What's working?

· A school district where teachers go to homes and meet children and their parents before each new school year.

· Another district that hires mothers of children in low-performing schools to work with other parents on behavioral problems and other issues.

· Schools and other groups who combine forces to apply for grants they would normally compete for and find more success in collaboration than competition.

· The burger chain owner who offers up to $22,000 in college scholarships and pay above minimum wage to qualified employees.

Not every big idea requires a big budget. In one community, the churches all ring their bells at 6:00 a.m. the day SAT tests are given. "It says, ‘We want students to notice we notice it's a big day,'" Bedell said.

Bedell has a wide background in education and the church. Ordained in the United Methodist Church, he led congregations for 16 years in New York, Maryland and Ohio and has taught junior high, high school, college and theological school. He taught in Swaziland with Mennonite Central Committee, a Christian relief organization and visited schools in Africa, South America and Asia as executive secretary of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities. He is the author of five books and numerous articles and scholarly papers.

Wherever Bedell has been, he has seen that the bottom line in education is not just a grade or a job. "It's about our shared humanity," he said.

(Pictured, from left at table: Pete Menjares, Stephen Varvis, Randy White and Ken Bedell)