In a blog post about 18 months ago I suggested that National History Day was the best history education program your school couldhave. Today’s post makes the case for the Best Global Education program your school’s social studies/history teachers (and other departments) should be using. That program is called “Face to Faith” (F2F).
As a curriculum specialist, I find the program to be a unique synthesis of pedagogical best practices currently emphasized by a range of educational paradigms. F2F allows teachers to combine technology, global competencies, critical thinking, and academic conversations in a student centered exercise that explicitly develops a skill set transferable beyond the classroom. The F2F program was highlighted in our district’s “Instructional Spotlight” segment during an October, 2013 School Board meeting. The video of that presentation is below and the F2F segment begins at the 35th minute.
I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Newseum and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, about the F2F program. After reading the interview I urge you to reach out to F2F (contact information below) and give your students the opportunity to engage in the best authentic global education experience available.It is a high school memory they will NEVER forget. Enjoy!
1) Describe how you got involved and your role with F2F.
About six years ago, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation contacted me for advice about launching their new education initiative called “Face to Faith” in American schools. I looked carefully at the program and was greatly impressed with the creative use of technology, the innovative approach to study about religions and global issues, and the focus on empowering student voice.
I immediately offered to do whatever I could to encourage the adoption of Face to Faith in public and private schools in the United States. For me personally, F2F is a natural extension of my efforts over the past two decades to encourage more study about religions in schools and to promote First Amendment principles of free speech and freedom of religion.
My role as U.S. advisor to the program is to help ensure that public schools understand that Face to Faith is not only consistent with First Amendment principles, but it advances those principles by educating students about the religious and ethnic diversity in our country and world. Dispelling ignorance about faiths and beliefs – ignorance that is a root cause of intolerance and hate – is critical to protecting freedom of religion for people of all faiths and none.
My first step as an advisor was to bring on board key civil liberties and education groups to signal broad support for Face to Faith as a sound academic program that is greatly needed in schools. Today, the Advisory Board includes people from across the political and religious spectrum – from the American Civil Liberties Union to the American Center for Law and Justice – and from leading education associations, including the National Council for the Social Studies and the National School Boards Association.
2) How do you describe F2F to people?
Face to Faith is a creative way to help accomplish some of the key aims of education in the 21st century such as preparing students to engage in civil dialogue across differences, educating students about the religious and cultural diversity in our country and around the world, and exploring solutions to global issues of shared concern to people everywhere. Moreover, Face to Faith uses technology – videoconferencing and on-line community – to give students meaningful opportunities to express their beliefs and values and to learn about the beliefs and values of others.
Religious and ethnic differences are at the heart of most of the world’s violent conflicts. And in our own country, religious and ideological differences fuel culture wars and divide communities. That’s why Face to Faith is not just another education program – nor is it an “add-on” to what overworked teachers must already do. Rather, Face to Faith helps schools do what they must do: Break down barriers by giving students the civil skills to negotiate deep differences with civility and respect.
3) Can you share some of your favorite experiences or stories you have heard about F2F being used in the classroom?
I have been inspired by the transforming power of Face to Faith in the lives of students. A few examples:
Early in my work with F2F, I heard from students in New York who participated in videoconferences and online dialogue with students in Ramallah and discovered firsthand what it means to live in a land of conflict and division – and what it means to seek understanding across very deep differences.
More recently, I sat in on an exchange between students in Utah and students in the Philippines about how it feels to be a religious minority in a society with a predominate faith. By the end of the discussion, it was clear that the exchange made some in the majority faith more aware of the need to be sensitive to those of other faiths and beliefs in their own classroom.
A couple of years ago, students in a California private school decided to connect with a public school in Utah – a place and culture they knew little about and didn’t understand. At the end of the videoconference, a gay student in California spoke up to say that he used to think everyone in Utah disliked gay people (because of the Mormon church’s involvement in the California fight over same-sex marriage). But the videoconference helped him to see that people can have different views about faith and values but still treat each other with respect.
Face to Faith teaches empathy, promotes understanding, and builds trust. As one student put it: “Even though religions don’t have the same laws, beliefs and concepts, Face to Faith has taught me that people hundreds of miles away are going through the same experiences as me.”
4) What does F2F offer students, teachers, schools? Advantages, possibilities etc…
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation provides Face to Faith at no cost to schools. This includes free facilitated videoconferencing, secure and monitored online community, and a menu of teaching modules on global issues such as wealth, poverty and charity, the environment and the art of expression. Each module exposes students to the ways in which the major religious traditions of the world understand global issues. All of the modules use state-of-the-art cooperative learning strategies and provide civic engagement opportunities tied to the social justice issues raised in the modules.
Face to Faith is a valuable resource for teachers of world history, geography, civics and government, global studies, and world religions. In some schools, Face to Faith is also a club that meets during or after school. Teachers are fully supported by the Face to Faith team, providing regular professional development opportunities, technical support, and teaching resources.
Students develop skills in respectful dialogue, active listening, and conflict management. They have opportunities to build relationships and exchange ideas with their peers around the world in a secure online community.
5) Talk about the F2F network. Where have you grown and what are your objectives for expansion?
Face to Faith is currently being used by some 800 schools in 19 countries: Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Singapore, UAE, UK, Kosovo, Ukraine and USA.
More than 100 American public and private schools are involved in Face to Faith. A plan is underway to expand F2F in the U.S. to 1,000 over the next three years.
6) Who should get involved and how do schools get involved with F2F?
Face to Faith is for students 12-17 and is appropriate for use in public and private schools. It is most often integrated into the social studies curriculum, but it may also be used in other courses or as a school club.
To learn more about Face to Faith, visit www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org. To get involved, register your interest on that web site and the Face to Faith team will contact you. You may also write Kristen Looney, U.S. Coordinator for F2F, who is happy to answer any questions (Kristen.email@example.com)
7) How do you advise schools/teachers that are hesitant to get involved because of the word “faith”?
Face to Faith is not a “religion program”; it is an educational program designed to teach about religions and beliefs in ways consistent with the First Amendment. The focus of Face to Faith is education for peace and understanding across differences. Students of all faiths and no faith are given opportunities to learn from one another and confront issues of shared concern through direct interaction. Using civil dialogue to learn about religions and beliefs promotes cross-cultural understanding, encourages student voice, and promotes religious freedom.
If any public school teacher or administrator has questions about the First Amendment framework for using Face to Faith, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, DC. Over the past two decades, he has been the principal organizer and drafter of consensus guidelines on religious liberty in schools, endorsed by a broad range of religious, civil liberties, and educational organizations. He is author or co-author of six books, including, most recently, First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America. His column, “Inside the First Amendment,” appears in newspapers nationwide. He is Chairman of the Character Education Partnership Board of Directors, serves on the Steering Committee of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools and chairs the Committee on Religious Liberty. He is U.S. Advisor for Face to Faith, a program of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Dr. Haynes holds a B.A. from Emory University, a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and a doctorate from Emory University.