[Paleopsych] Religion and Education: Recasting Agreements that Govern Teaching and Learning

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Recasting Agreements that Govern Teaching and Learning:
An Intellectual and Spiritual Framework for Transformation

[First, the summary from CHE, then excerpts from the article.]

Thursday, May 26, 2005
A glance at the spring issue of Religion & Education: Questioning the 
"agreements" of academe

The first step toward meaningful change in academe is taking stock of the 
underlying agreements that govern higher education, says Laura I. Rendón, a 
professor of education psychology at California State University at Long Beach.

Consciously or unconsciously, she says, faculty members and administrators have 
made agreements about their professional lives. One of those agreements, she 
says, is to be addicted to work.

"Faculty and administrators are socialized to believe that the 'best' academics 
are those who are constantly publishing, getting millions of dollars in grants, 
putting in long hours, working on weekends, and traveling extensively," she 
writes. "When we ask our colleagues, 'How are you?' we almost never get the 
answer: 'Oh, I am so relaxed! I got so much rest this weekend. I had time to do 
everything I wanted to do with my family."

Ms. Rendón says she was forced to acknowledge her own work addiction when a 
younger colleague died of colon cancer. For the scholars who mourned their 
friend's passing, it was a "wake-up call to slow down, assess the error of our 
ways, and recognize that there is more to life than our academic work," she 

She also identifies five other agreements in academe: to value mental knowing 
over other types of intelligence; to keep faculty members and students 
separate, with knowledge flowing in only one direction; to pit students against 
one another in competition; to insist on perfection from students, not allowing 
them to be tentative in exploring new concepts; and to value Western structures 
of knowledge to the exclusion of others.

Those agreements should be recast, she says, if higher education is to honor 
"the whole of who we are as intellectual, compassionate, authentic human beings 
who value love, peace, democracy, community, diversity, and hope for humanity."

An excerpt of the article, "Recasting Agreements That Govern Teaching and 
Learning: An Intellectual and Spiritual Framework for Transformation," is 
online at http://fp.uni.edu/jrae/Spring%202005/Rendon%20Excerpt.htm

--Kellie Bartlett


Volume 32 Number 1
Spring 2005

Recasting Agreements that Govern Teaching and Learning:
An Intellectual and Spiritual Framework for Transformation

Laura I. Rend?n

If we can see it is our agreements which rule our life,
and we don’t like the dream of our life, we need to change the agreements.

Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements1

In The Four Agreements2 Don Miguel Ruiz, a healer and teacher who studied the 
teachings of the Toltec in Mexico, explains that the mind dreams 24 hours a 
day. When the mind is awake, we dream according to the framework of what we 
have been taught and what we have agreed to believe. When the mind is asleep, 
we lack this conscious framework, and the dream changes constantly. In the 
awakened state, we function according to society’s Dreamfield—a collective, 
holographic reflection of our shared beliefs. Don Miguel elaborates on the 
concept of human dreaming:

The dream of the planet is the collective dream of billions of smaller, 
personal dreams, which together created a dream of family, a dream of 
community, a dream of a city, a dream of country, and finally a dream of the 
whole humanity. The dream of the planet includes all of society’s rules, its 
beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be, its 
governments, schools, social events and holidays.3

Don Miguel provides additional examples citing that when we were born, we were 
given a name, and we agreed to the name. When we were children, we were given a 
language, and we agreed to speak that language. We were given moral and 
cultural values. We began to have faith in these agreements passed on to us 
from the adults we were told to respect and to honor. We used these agreements 
to judge others and to judge ourselves. As long as we followed the agreements, 
we were rewarded. When we went against the rules we were punished, and pleasing 
others became a way of life, so much so that we became not who we really are, 
but a copy of someone else’s beliefs. As we became adults we tried to rebel 
against some beliefs, which we began to understand made little sense or were 
inflicting harm. For example, some of us may have been told we were dumb, fat, 
or ugly. In our educational system, some social rules have created inequalities 
and injustices such as belief systems that view women and people of color as 
lacking in leadership, as well as having limited intellectual abilities. But 
many of us became afraid of expressing our freedom to articulate a different 
truth because we feared punishment for going against the prevailing belief 
system, even when we had no role in creating it. The dominant belief system is 
powerful, entrenched, validated and constantly rewarded by the social structure 
that created it—so much so that when even when we begin to see that some of the 
agreements in the belief system are flawed and in need of change, we find it 
very difficult to challenge them. Don Miguel notes that we need "a great deal 
of courage to challenge our own beliefs. Because even if we know we didn’t 
choose all these beliefs, it is also true that we agreed to all of them. The 
agreement is so strong that even if we understand the concept of it not being 
true, we feel the blame, the guilt, and the shame that occur if we go against 
these rules."4

Like Don Miguel, I believe that a group of people can theorize to develop a set 
of agreements to guide a transformational change. For instance, a core group of 
higher education faculty and administrators can consciously begin to hold the 
same thoughts that represent a newly formed vision of teaching, research, 
leadership and service. A small, but critical mass of individuals can create 
what Malcolm Gladwell5 calls a "tipping point," a boiling point when an idea, 
trend or social behavior, like an epidemic, bursts into society and spreads 
like wildfire. In higher education, our shared beliefs about teaching and 
learning constitute the agreements that guide our present pedagogical 
Dreamfield. This Dreamfield is fraught with some powerful, entrenched 
agreements that, though shared by many, are in need of revision because they do 
not completely honor our humanity and our freedom to express who we are and 
what we represent.


I write with three purposes: 1) to expose the privileged agreements that govern 
teaching and learning in higher education; 2) to provide an intellectual and 
spiritual framework for recasting the agreements in order to transform teaching 
and learning; and 3) to join the many existing voices of educational 
transformation to contribute to the generation of a new "tipping point"— a 
movement that wishes to create a new dream of education. The foundation of this 
dream is a more harmonic, holistic vision of education that honors the whole of 
who we are as intellectual, compassionate, authentic human beings who value 
love, peace, democracy, community, diversity and hope for humanity.

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