Navigating the 21st Century: A reality check amidst constant change

In education and in life in general we are in the midst of immense change, which can be unsettling and disturbing. Much of that is because we assume that our current life experiences have been the norm forever, when in reality, it has only been within our lifetime.

As I have written about before, when we think about our own school experiences we may feel like it has been done this way forever, but it is actually a small percentage of time in human history. People managed to learn before the industrial-age school began and they will continue to learn after its demise.The key is that different times call for different approaches that ensure relevancy, effectiveness and impact within the changing context.

Last night within my faith community I heard a speaker talk about being ‘Christian and Contemporary’. Leon Fontaine, from Winnipeg Canada, commented how core message of our faith remains constant, yet its expression needs to reflect the times in which we live in order to be more relevant. My experiences of growing up in a family with a strong faith are very different from those my adult children experienced and it will be different again for their children. Yet what we believe as the foundational Christian worldview remains the same. Much of the concern over change reflects what our politicians may call ‘non-core’ – in the faith community this may be the music, the style and duration of gatherings, dress codes and community service activities. These things can and must change, the core values must not.

In the 1980’s there was a dedicated campaign by the bank employees to try to stop the installation of ATMs, as it would change banking and people would lose jobs. I still remember the phrase from the ad:

Banking is people, friendly people, banking is people not machines

What would have happened if that ad was successful? No ATMs in Australia. It seems ridiculous now. Is the system of a bank teller handing over cash and managing minor transactions core or non-core financial activity? Does it reinforce the essential values of banking?

So our challenge in a constantly changing world is to heighten our discernment. When we are faced with change, in any situation – stop and think, then ask yourself these questions:

What is core and what is non-core?

What is essential to my values and foundational beliefs?

So here’s a question: Which of these seemingly normal conditions and expectations remain as we know them?

  • Buying your own home as the normal aspiration
  • Training and skills for job for life
  • The working week and the working day
  • National identity

Call me Pollyanna (Google her if you are under 50) – but I’m not doom and gloom about the future. I believe that world economic, climactic, social, political conditions may seem to change and disrupt what we think as normal, however, we were created with incredible innovative, collaborative, creative and problem-solving abilities that have found amazing solutions to significant problems in the in the past and will continue to do so into the future.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

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