Our CSI/SAIS Accreditation Team.  Left to right: Jean Joudon, LS Director at Donoho School in Anniston AL; Marylou Capan, Curriculum Director at Covenant Day School in Matthews, NC; Ellyn Grosh, Chair of Modern Languages at St. David's School in Raleigh; Ken Cheeseman, Head of School at St. Paul Christian Academy in Nashville and SAIS Chair; Bob Vanwieren, CSI Accreditation Director and CSI Chair; Karen Dye, LS Director Episcopal Day School in Augusta, GA; Brooks Batcheller, Dean of Students at Westminster School in Atlanta; and David Ritter CSI Consultant and former Headmaster.

Accreditation has me thinking backwards. On Tuesday afternoon, we welcomed the accreditation team and watched the 20th Year Video. We remembered together the Lord’s many blessings to Trinity School, read Psalm 103, and affirmed that God has done us great good here at Trinity.  

But accreditation has me thinking forwards too. And I have two texts in mind, which I'm putting side by side.

Philippians 3
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Carol Dweck on Fixed and Growth Mindsets
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

Why bring these two texts together?  
  1. The integration of faith and learning.  Philippians tells us about our faith, and Dweck is one of the most cited authors among educators. Where do they intersect and how?
  2. All truth is God’s truth.  What is the truth in God’s revelation in Scripture?  What is the truth from this Stanford psychologist.
  3. We want, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians, to take every thought captive to obey Christ.  What does that look like in this case?

There is, it seems, some resemblance between these two passages, separated by millennia.  Both speak about mindsets--ways of thinking that impact our ways of acting in the world.  Both promote a certain straining and effort.  Both applaud a posture that leans towards the future and leaves the past behind.  

So on the surface, Dweck and Paul seem to be saying the same thing: Press on, lean into the future with striving, don’t rest on your laurels.  

And whatever these two are saying about individuals, I’d like to extend to institutions like Trinity.  Schools, also, need to develop and foster a growth mindset.  Like the people that make up Trinity School, we need to forget what lies behind and strain forward toward what lies ahead.  

At this moment of accreditation, such counsel seems particularly relevant.  We haven’t invited these eight experienced educators to Trinity to document our achievements, talents, or gifts.  We haven’t assembled a team from CSI and SAIS to help us name the things we have done well.  That is not because we don’t think we have done some things well, or because we aspire to some false humility that says “Aw shucks!” about God’s many blessings to Trinity School.  No, it’s because we live in a world where excellence is a vision always unfulfilled, which draws and drives us forward into a future where we hope for that which we do not yet see fully.

And so the deliverable for this week of accreditation is called a “School Improvement Plan.”  I want to thank these eight people from schools in several states for their time and devotion to help us get that Plan as right as we can.  In this way I hope we can all learn a Growth Mindset for Trinity School.  

But there is one really important difference between the Gospel according to Dweck and Paul’s Good News. Dweck says that people with growth mindsets believe “that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.”  This is not quite the same as what Paul says.

I've been reading Robert Caro's Master of the Senate, which is part of his biography of Lyndon Johnson. Caro says that Johnson had an uncanny knack for being able to read people, to know what they feared and what they loved, to be able to put his long Texas forefinger right on the spot that made them tick. (Johnson used this knowledge to much political advantage.) I think that if LBJ were reading these two texts, he would see that what made Paul tick was something different than what Dweck calls the Growth Mindset.

Paul does not believe, at bottom, that dedication and hard work are the keys to the kingdom.  Paul believes that “Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  For Paul, the driving force of his life was that he belonged to God in Christ.  For Paul, the difference-maker was that he knew that Jesus Christ loved him in a way that was perfect--beyond what he deserved to be sure, and even beyond what he could imagine.  Paul pressed on not because he thought he might attain that love and somehow find a way to belong to God.  No, he pressed on because he had this vision of a Christ who loved him outrageously and he heard the Siren Song (“the upward call,” as Paul puts it) of that love and wanted nothing else so much as that.  

A Fixed Mindset says, “I am what I am.”
A Growth Mindset says, “I am what I do.”
A Gospel Mindset says, “I am whose I am.”  

A Fixed Mindset is focused on talent.
A Growth Mindset is focused on grit.
Both are focused on ourselves.
A Gospel Mindset is focused on Jesus Christ.

And so I would like to extend Paul’s Gospel to Trinity School.  May we always know that we belong to Jesus Christ, and may we be focused not on ourselves but on Jesus Christ.  Non nobis, domine, non nobis.


Congratulations Trinity School and thanks Dr. Denton for another great post!

Popular Posts