On January 18, 2017, longtime Quaker writer, educator and activist Paul Lacey died in Richmond Indiana. Paul was a retired English professor from Earlham College who had worked for the American Friends Service Committee since he became a Quaker at age 18. Throughout his life, he wrote a number of books and essays about Quaker faith and practice, including several on Quaker education.
Many of us at Carolina Friends School were fortunate to meet Paul when the School Life Committee brought him to campus in the spring of 2012 to help facilitate a staff development day on the Quaker character of the School. Paul was profound in discussing the history and current directions of Quaker schools, but when I think back on the time we spent with Paul, I realize that his greatest teaching came through his presence. He was what I aspire to be as a teacher and what I hope my students will become. He was modest, funny, wise, and engaging. Perhaps most importantly, he had an insatiable curiosity grounded in his joy of teaching and learning. He saw his life as a part of a living tradition that embraced the spirituality of education. I remember when Paul visited my classroom; he was as much a learner as he was a teacher. Above all, he made me realize that when you teach, you cannot be afraid of your truth or passions.
In his 1998 book Growing Into Goodness, Paul asked how a Friends school can nurture “the God within” in their students without giving them an inflated, self-centered view of themselves. He reminded us that “the God within” is not the simple affirmation of whatever a student happens to be, but a potential in each of them that needs to be directed and fostered. He remarked that this realization of potential must begin in humility and openness and end in community. In this process, students must understand their limitations and their gifts and discover their authentic capacity to love. I see Paul’s words alive at Carolina Friends School where teachers challenge students, intellectually, morally, and creatively to “grow into goodness.”
-- Jamie Hysjulien
Quaker Corner is a regular feature of the Parent Update newsletter, republished on our website. Articles are written by members of the CFS School Life Committee.