Choice Theory in Beirut
I am in Beirut. Yes, Lebanon.
As I write this there is a beautiful sunset to the west and the lights of the city, like stars, are beginning to come alive and twinkle. I hear the sounds of sirens echoing from the city below. I see the sunset, the sky turning gorgeous shades of darker hues, and hear the sounds of the city from my third floor dorm room, my room with a view. Quite spectacular, actually.
I am in the Middle East for the first time in my life, invited here to share the ideas of choice theory. My perception of this area of the world is that it tends toward authoritarian approaches to life, maybe especially so in the Muslim community, and both of these thoughts were confirmed by Beirut natives in discussions after I arrived. Still, though, there is a desire by teachers here to consider the principles of choice theory.
My presentations occurred on Sabbath afternoon, October 19, and most of the day on Sunday, October 20. Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University, is a co-presenter with me and gave his talks on Friday evening and Sabbath morning. There were three things I wanted to emphasize during the comparatively short time I had to introduce the group to the concepts of choice theory. They were –
1. God designed us for internal control based on freedom.
2. Positive relationships are the foundation on which other success pieces are built.
3. Schools can be need-satisfying places that students and teachers want to come to each day.
Sabbath afternoon really focused on the first theme, including the idea that since God created us for internal control even He won’t control us. Sunday focused on some of the choice theory elements – understanding the basic needs and the concept of the quality world – that contribute to fulfilling the second and third themes.
One of the quotes that supports the idea that we have been created for internal control, and the quote that years ago first alerted me to a possible similarity between Ellen White, one of the SDA church founders, and William Glasser, says that
The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals. The brute has only to be accustomed to submit to its master; but the child must be taught to control himself. The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast, no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher. Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous. Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57
This quote led me to further reading of Ellen White’s books, which then led me to a detailed comparison between Glasser and White, and which ultimately led to the writing of the Soul Shapers book. Both Glasser and White explain, describe, remind, warn, invite, and encourage. Their written words state ideas in ways that get our attention. For example (a few other quotes shared during the conference) –
True education is not the forcing of instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind. Education, p. 41
Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education. Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 58
The latter quote provided the idea for the name of this blog. For Ellen White, “the better plan” had everything to do with working with students in a way that honors the internal control with which they are designed. These are just some of the quotes that spurred our discussion during the conference.
This is a picture of Jimmy Choufani and me as we talk about the Sunday afternoon session of the conference. I can’t say enough good things about Jimmy! He will read this and probably be a little upset at me for saying these nice things about him, but . . . well . . . tough. Jimmy is a gifted educational administrator. If you haven’t been to Beirut, it may be hard for you to understand what he and his team have accomplished at Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School (BASS). Ed Boyatt and I had the privilege of observing in classrooms today at the school and I am impressed. I am impressed with the organization and structure of the school, the ability of the teachers, and the level of respect by the students.
This last picture is of me and Isaac Atem Thon Atem. Isaac is just about to complete his teaching degree at Middle East University and attended the conference over the weekend as a future teacher on the lookout for good ideas. He approached me during one of the breaks and asked if he could purchase one of the Soul Shaper books. I didn’t bring any with me to sell, but as I listened to him tell me about his plan to return to South Sudan and to teach there, I quickly said, please, take my copy. It is a privilege for me to support Isaac. He is a gentle soul ready to go to a difficult place and do what he can to make life better for his students.
I never imagined that choice theory would bring me to the Middle East, but it has and I am very thankful for it. I look forward to a few more days here, and to discussions about the future of choice theory in Beirut!