MEA is deeply grateful to National Catholic Education Association for allowing the adaptation of Validating the Vision for use by Anabaptist-Mennonite elementary, middle and secondary schools. The basic Christian commitment shared by both associations made the adaptation process a relatively easy task. MEA values the Validating the Vision chapter on Foundation Documents and offers this prologue as a foundation to empower Mennonite schools in their use of this document.
Anabaptist-Mennonite Education Distinctives
Anabaptist-Mennonite education is described and shaped by five distinctives identified by The Mennonite High School Project, a study conducted for Anabaptist-Mennonite schools by Dr. Michael Wiese of Anderson (Ind.) University. 1 The distinctives are:
- Educational excellence
- Peace and service
- Faith-infused opportunities
Anabaptist-Mennonite education is centered in Jesus Christ and following him daily in life. Thus, it is in the ordinary routines of school life that a discipleship for daily living is best nurtured. Anabaptist-Mennonite education accomplishes this disciple formation in partnership with the home and church.
Excellence in an Anabaptist-Mennonite school includes both the academic and the co-curricular program. It is measured by the quality of relationships as well as test scores. The culture of the Anabaptist-Mennonite school encourages holistic excellence that forms lifelong learners who are critical thinkers, collaborative workers and leaders in the church and local/global communities.
Anabaptist-Mennonite education is education in and for Christian community. It is envisioned that our graduates "will follow Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit grow in communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world." 2
Anabaptist-Mennonite schools seek to nurture students in a personal faith and in building a caring community within the schools as well as with supporting congregations, alumni and parents. Building community where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is a collective school goal as well as the goal of each classroom.
Peace and service are foundational understandings that both inform and shape curriculum, school activities and life together in the Anabaptist-Mennonite school. Peace starts with a right relationship with God and includes just relationships with all of humanity and the environment. According to John Van Dyk in The Craft of Christian Teaching, the kingdom becomes visible through caring relationships between teacher and students, and student-to-student. 3
It is important for Anabaptist-Mennonite schools to be peaceful as well as empower students to make peace by sharing the gospel in word and deed. Anabaptist-Mennonite schools emphasize servanthood as the way of the Christian. According to Mennonite Education: Why and How? "the ultimate purpose of education as practiced by the people of God is to aid in living as a reconciled and reconciling people." 4
The foremost opportunity of an Anabaptist-Mennonite school is to offer an excellent holistic Christ-centered education that prepares students for life and daily witness. A global vision and a diverse student body create many opportunities for students to grow in self-understanding and in accepting others different from themselves. Through the curriculum and co-curricular activities, students discover, explore and develop their gifts.
Anabaptist-Mennonite schools are dynamic, creative, agile centers of education in touch with both church and society. They are able to offer value-added opportunities that make them attractive to both parents and congregations. Anabaptist-Mennonite schools work collaboratively through the activities of the Mennonite Schools Council.
The theology of Mennonite Church USA provides the foundation for Anabaptist-Mennonite schools. This theology is best articulated in Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective 5 adopted by the General Assembly of Mennonite Church USA. The core values, mission, vision, philosophy and educational outcomes of Anabaptist-Mennonite schools are to be congruent with these foundational documents.
Anabaptist-Mennonite schools seek to practice discipline and pedagogical programs in keeping with Anabaptist-Mennonite pioneer educator Christopher Dock. His biography, written by Gerald Studer, continues to provide a vision for Anabaptist-Mennonite education.6
Following in this tradition, Anabaptist-Mennonite schools are shaped by restorative discipline practices, respecting the student as an individual in community, and providing a common experience to create community. The teacher is a role model who selects educational practices that teach academic content through respect, mutual support and integrity.
Students are nurtured and taught to build community and to establish a community of common caring where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Community seeks a common vision of love, caring, forgiveness and grace. Students are empowered to build a network of connections that make them a vital part of the total community. 7
Teaching styles reflect an Anabaptist understanding of life together in community. According to Richard Hughes, director of the Center for Faith and Learning at Pepperdine University, this means that teachers do their work on behalf of the church. He further states that this vision calls for countercultural teaching that inspires students to countercultural commitments.8
The Goal of Anabaptist-Mennonite Education
Mennonite Education: Why and How described the ultimate purpose of Anabaptist-Mennonite education as follows:
"Students who graduate from Anabaptist-Mennonite schools should see themselves as part of the people of God who live as a covenant people, have been reconciled, and bear the fruits of the new humanity. They live as God’s servants and witness to God’s purposes for all humankind and all creation." 9