Last night a former student reminded me of why I have continued to write and express my core Self — just as I did when I taught. He wrote to let me know how my Morning Pages have helped him through a really rough patch in his life. Mind you, he graduated like twelve or thirteen years ago.
I had helped him, but he helped me, too. His message came at a time when I really needed some encouragement. I was thinking about how I always told my students that I got as much from them as they did from me and how we would be learners together. Bam! My mind, working through the filter of my heart flashed back to a book that I had not thought about for a very long time. I heard the voice: Go get it. Up to my office library I flew, and there it was: Freedom to Learn by Carl Rogers and Jerome Freiberg.
I had used the book in a teacher study group that I led many years ago, as well as it being a chosen text for my masters degree. I started leafing through it and reading the various highlights and margin notes that I had made. It was so awesome: I realized that I had lived the professional life that I so admired through my years of teaching, growing in the concepts throughout my career.
And what were those concepts that were so important to me and that the book espoused? In a way, my philosophy of life is my philosophy of education. I believe that we have to make conscious choices to live through the very logical, no bullshit messages and viewpoints of the heart. If we don’t choose the heart, the ego is the default setting. I’ve said it before: the current philosophy of the prevailing educational system is ego-driven, and that is NOT how learning occurs. Ego says to do what makes us fit in and makes us look good, so for those who vomit on about data-driven schools and know that in order to obtain valid data, knowledge delivery and measurement (testing) has to be standardized, they — as far as I’m concerned — knowingly kill their espoused “life-long learning” rhetoric and produce test-taking, knowledge-numb drones.
Learning is a heart proposition, meaning that learners have to have the opportunity to come to awaken to Self and Self-interests, which in education means that students should develop the bulk of the learning experience. It is a personal, organic development, and the whole person is involved; if not, it is shallow and relatively insignificant learning. This is why I argue that education as a philosophy and concept must be REDEFINED and NOT REFORMED. Repackaging egoic approaches does not make a difference.
What does make a difference is love and trust. How could I so powerfully relate to over 2,500 students in a stupid, narrow-minded, restrictive, creativity-crushing environment? I think that my students knew that I loved and trusted them at some deep, unspoken level, and they responded in kind — a mutual calling forth of love and trust.
This attitude and reality comes from the heart. Love and trust are logical for learning; for students to be self-actualized learners, they must awaken to Self and function as learners in relationship to self.
Oh, I can hear many educators now: “Love and trust? How can those be goals of a teacher?” How can they not be if we understand life, learning, and the future of our race. To me, it is like a unified field theory in physics: choosing heart over ego unites many fields of everyday life, maybe all.
If you are an educator and do not know Freedom to Learn, you should — before any crap about learning communities, learning by some intricate matrix design of curriculum, or any of a thousand other canned programs. As with any meaningful concept, it is not some neatly packaged unit — kind of like a republican democracy.
I could and undoubtedly will yet center some posts around this work, but I would like to focus on this idea of love and trust. In the book, the “love and trust” comes from the record of Alvin White, who served as a visiting professor one spring to MIT. In a very complex course, Calculus of Variations, he taught as I strove to, only he had much more freedom than I did. From one of his student’s evaluations, he observed this about love and trust:
“The concept came from the process of our exploration…Love and trust contributed to the spirit of celebration and were essential ingredients in the process of obtaining knowledge. …Love and trust seem far removed from mathematical logic…Yet if we are engaged in learning and teaching, then all of the disciplines share the process involved in intellectual imagination and creation. Love and trust were natural parts of our learning in the group process. …teaching and learning without love and trust are unnatural” (133).
Get that? Love and trust are essential for creation, no significant, deep learning without them, no joy in learning without them, almost no personal responsibility without them. Teachers who say a student fails are really saying that they failed, failed to establish a classroom and relationship that allows learning and creativity to occur — which, by the way, shows the irrelevancy of grades.
Rogers says, “We are not talking about a method or a technique. A person-centered way of being in an educational situation is something into which one grows…a set of values…that places choice, the significance of responsibility, the joy of creativity…built on a foundation of the democratic way, that empowers each individual” (Rogers and Freiberg 123 3rd edition).
To me, the road to free hearts, souls, and minds that create significance, peace, and love begin with coming to know Self. Education should be an essential element in that growth, and that’s where educational philosophy should begin.
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!