Rereading Wendell Berry’s 2012 Jefferson Lecture, I came across this paragraph, which helped me keep in mind all that I had been thinking about, not only about stewardship (remember oikonomos?) but about its relationship to place and land and people.
Economy in its original—and, I think, its proper—sense refers to household management. By extension, it refers to the husbanding of all the goods by which we live. An authentic economy, if we had one, would define and make, on the terms of thrift and affection, our connections to nature and to one another. Our present industrial system also makes those connections, but by pillage and indifference. Most economists think of this arrangement as “the economy.” Their columns and articles rarely if ever mention the land-communities and land-use economies. They never ask, in their professional oblivion, why we are willing to do permanent ecological and cultural damage “to strengthen the economy?”
All of us involved in the “corporate economy” – and we all are, and many of us hate it – should be asking this question: To what extent does the economic activity I am involved in strengthen and build communities, care for people, protect the land and those working on it, who sustain us?
Pastoral care – the type of work that I am first and foremost called to as a school leader – takes its name from a strong agricultural metaphor. We cannot give the growth – only God can do that – but we can provide the land, the grass, the nurture and the protection needed for children to do the growing, under God’s hand. In doing so, and taking this view of school leadership, we find, suddenly, that a community, a family, a coherence springs up around us, almost as though it is a physical law. It benefits and “warms” everybody, even when there are pressures. An industrial approach does not. Keri Facer, in her excellent Learning Futures, points out that everyone in education functions as people – we cannot ever remove the effects of what we do from people, and we cannot make or approximate people into machines. It is a pastoral environment, and the challenges we face (the gaps between rich and poor, young and old, digitally savvy and digitally terrified) are pastoral challenges. There may be, as Berry points out, no political oppression in an economy. This does not mean that there is not oppression, downtreading, of people.
Administering, stewarding, the grace of God in its various forms, is a people thing, not a numbers thing.