Campus & Community

Speaker challenges educators to trust and embrace the heart

Parker Palmer told educators not to factor out the heart when it comes to teaching.

The author, educator and activist spoke to a crowd of nearly 1,400 people at the Ritchie Center Sept. 23 as part of the University’s Bridges to the Future lecture series. This year’s theme is “A Nation Still at Risk: The Future of Education.”

Palmer said trust needs to be put back in the education system and all educators need to explore self-knowledge — no matter their spiritual beliefs — in order to be better practitioners.

“If you choose a life unexamined, please do not take a job involving other people,” he told a cheering crowd.

Palmer founded the Center for Courage and Renewal, which oversees the “Courage to Teach” program for K-12 educators. The program focuses on renewing the inner lives of professionals in education and other fields.

David Fulton, assistant director of Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts, has been in education for 17 years. He attended the series of retreats through the Center for Courage and Renewal and was at DU Tuesday night to listen to Palmer’s speech.

“Going through the program was great,” Fulton said. “I’d love to make it part of our benefit package —  medical, dental and the Courage to Teach. At Mapleton, we need to retain more people.”

Palmer said of the 120 people who’ve been followed since completing the program, only three have left the profession.

Joel Witzel, a DU graduate student pursuing a PhD in higher education, said he agrees with Palmer’s idea that religion needs to be pursued alongside education.

“You can’t have a movement unless you have spirituality,” Witzel said. “You first have to decide who you are, then know what you’re about and then you can create a movement.”

As a former teacher at the Center for Character Development at the Air Force Academy, Witzel said Palmer’s ideas reaffirmed the need for such a center at the Academy. He hopes to incorporate the ideas when he returns to the center after completing his degree.

As part of DU’s seventh year of Bridges programming, Palmer spent a week at the University in discussion with faculty, students and community members.

A panel of local administrators and educators will discuss K-12 reform in winter quarter,  and Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You, will speak in spring. Dates will be announced on the Bridges site.

the speech. Audio is low during the first few seconds.

[Editor’s note: This story was updated on Sept. 24 to correct Joel Witzel’s name. We regret the error.]

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