My Opinion on Teaching Qualifications
Article ID: 10751
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: July 2nd. 2006
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I recently had a friend of mine, who also studies on the Pagan path, ask me what my feelings were on the following areas of how Pagans today go about obtaining knowledge, and what I feel qualifies people on the path to teach others:
o Certification from a church/temple/path-based teaching that is online
o Certification from a church/temple/path-based teaching that is not online
o A specific number of years studying
o Innate knowledge and wisdom, or "gifts" of birth
o Self-dedication or self-teaching
I think that all the methods listed can be valid ways of attaining knowledge. Some people learn differently than others, so each method can be good depending on the personality of the person seeking the knowledge.
However, I do not feel that any of the suggestions alone are qualifications for teaching people a spiritual path. True, I do feel that having a certification can be helpful in conveying the point that one knows what one is talking about; and those who teach need knowledge of the subject they teach to others. This, however, does not mean that one is qualified to teach others what they have learned. Teaching is a gift, and one that, I might add, not everyone is lucky enough to have. I have been to groups where people who have obtained “qualified” background in Paganism try to teach it, but have gotten nothing out of it. I have also been to groups of mostly self-taught Pagans which are just people getting together to talk about what they believe, and I have gained more there than I thought I would. To me it is the knowledge that is conveyed that makes the difference.
I think that certification from a church/temple/path based teacher who is not online can have its pitfalls, just as with any educational experience. Many would probably disagree, but this is my opinion, so I am going to express it. Certifications from a religious organization can give a person some credibility, but in doing certifications this way, many aspects can be left out in favor of teaching what the particular sect wants to teach. This can lead to a close-minded view of other religions in general a problem which we as Pagans have worked hard not to replicate. I have heard stories of (and seen personally) situations where one group of Pagans fights with another all because of the semantics of different sects of the Pagan path. It’s hard enough for us to achieve recognition as it is, without fighting amongst ourselves over whether one is “self taught” or “coven trained.” This distinction, in my opinion, detracts from the religious experience as a whole.
It's not that I think being online certified in anything is a bad thing, but in getting a certification online, one sometimes misses out on the vital information that is conveyed person to person. This goes even beyond the scope of religious teachings, and for me, is equally applicable to the recent craze of attending college solely online. I would rather have a doctor operating on me whoactually went into a classroom and dealt with patients in person than one who went to school online and got his or her skills from a computer program. (I know, not about religion, but still I think this applies.) I would rather learn from someone who is actually living what they are teaching than from a computer that really has not feelings or thoughts to offer.
While I am aware that there are supposedly people who are qualified to be teaching these online religious courses on the other end of the computer, unless I can see these teachers and actually interact with them, they really are, to me, nothing but a computer. One has really no idea if these “teachers” even really practice what they preach or if they are there just to give you things to do in the hope that you truly believe what you are trying to learn. There are too many people out there today claiming "High Priest/ess" on the Pagan path that have little knowledge or practical experience behind them. Unfortunately, since we live in an Internet world, this is becoming more and more common. Especially since there are places online now where one can obtain a religious ordination in under five minutes and all it takes is that putting in a name, address, and email address. Voila: instant minister! How do I know this, you ask? Because I have one. I do not go around advertising it, however, because I did this just to see how easy it was to get a certificate proclaiming me to be a religious official. One of my friends sent me the site a long time ago and told me to go there, so I did not really believe it was legitimate. If I wanted a real ordination or a degree, I would go to a qualified teacher and obtain one.
I think that in the Pagan world too many newbies to the path tend to lean toward what these "High Priests" and "Priestesses." I use the quotes because online you have no idea who is real and who is not. I am not saying that everyone is not entitled to their opinion as to what it means to be Pagan, Wiccan, or whatever, because I am sure that many of us have different opinions on that matter. However, what I am saying is that there has to be a line drawn somewhere as to what are acceptable teaching and learning situations and what is not.
If one really wants to attend “school” this way as far as paganism goes, I think that it would be better then to be self taught in many respects than to spend the money paying someone to teach us. Self teaching is for the most part what the online schooling is about. Though here again, I have to say that being self taught is not something that makes for a good teacher. Who knows how each person interprets the same sentence? And, beyond that, what is to say that the self taught is not just making up the definitions and gathering a bunch of less knowledgeable followers whom they can brainwash? A cult could emerge from such a beginning.
I myself am a self taught Pagan through life and research. I began learning nine years ago and have yet to stop learning and adapting what I learn on a daily basis. I think that there is validity in being self taught, just as there is in being taught by a formalized group or coven. I do not denigrate anyone for saying they are a self taught and dedicated Pagan, nor do I scorn anyone who tells me they have formal training. Every path to enlightenment has its valid points in my view, and however we choose to attain our own,is completely up to us as individuals. All I have to say is "keep an open mind, along with keeping open eyes." If something does not seem right to you, do not continue to do it thinking, “oh well this will get better” or that it is how it “has to be" because that’s what you are being told.
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