Sunday, October 18, 2009

What do you do with all that power?

I took this photo two and a half years ago while attending the Native American Literature Symposium in the heart of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Reservation. The subject I presented on was the articulation of power through the "pen and ink witchcraft" used to describe treaties in general, and a treaty that was signed with my tribe back in 1795.

It's funny because this blog was initially going to be about a far different subject, but now that I've started writing about this treaty, it's gotten my mind going in a completely different direction. It has to do with power. Yesterday, shortly before the WVU/Marshall game, I had this great conversation with one of my friends about power in the educational sphere. My friend is from Bremen Germany, and his name is Heiko. If you ever get a chance to meet him, he's an incredibly brilliant and articulate guy and a great conversationalist. (And he is responsible for most of the words and phrases I know in German!)

I first met Heiko while he was beginning his graduate academic career here at West Virginia University. He came to check out our campus church service in the late summer of 2005. We had cancelled our gathering that morning, so Heiko and I had lunch at a local Morgantown restaurant called Madeleine's and thus began our friendship. Heiko has since then finished his degree, married another friend of mine, Liz (formerly Bailey), and begun his PhD in Education.

His focus for his dissertation is the use of power in the teacher/learner roles in the classroom. He's doing a lot of his writing about the idea of not holding on to power. There are tons of philosophical writings from people like Michel Foucault who talk all about this kind of power use and usually the idea is held that you need to hold on to power and that all of our relationships are actually about domination and enforcing roles of power.

What if instead we were to yield power and authority? What if instead of teacher's holding all of the cards they empowered students to be proactive in the learning realm. This is what Heiko is exploring. I think his research will be very interesting.

Reminds me of the way God works too. Jesus, the most brilliant person who ever lived, said it this way, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves" Think about it, Jesus, with all of the power available in the universe, sets it aside and serves and empowers. As He does so, He turns everyone's thinking on it's head. The King of the universe, washed feet and lived a yielded life where He sought to empower others. AND He still, empowers others to this day.

What about you? What do you do with the influence and power you wield? Are you an authoritarian? Do you seek to dominate others? Or do you live by a model of service and seek to empower others to achieve even greater good than you? How do you interact with others in your household? Your job? Your classroom? Your friendships?

May you find ways to use the power and influence given to you to serve and empower others, and may you trust in the example of the One who set His life as an example of service and humility.

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