Two days ago, I talked about education being redefined. I practiced it in my classroom. My redefinition is based on drawing out the hearts of students, building on who they are as core Self, and equipping them to fulfill life purpose. This can be accomplished through an integrated curriculum in a democratic classroom — at least that is one philosophical base that may take a myriad of shapes.
It’s not like I’m the only one who wants this shift. The democratic aspect of this, though, makes it a bit “messy,” as democracies always will be — and I use “messy” because a democracy focuses on individuals and not a set national curriculum (or state or district)neatly administered to everyone. Students can design their own curriculum, and when they do, they excel in learning because the motivation is intrinsic.
I also want to say that I am not writing untried, theoretical gibberish: I practiced it for parts of seven years, and although I couldn’t fully implement it, the philosophy shaped what students and I did together for the rest of my career. My 85 or so page master’s thesis is based directly on the organization, development, and observations of using an integrated curriculum in a democratic classroom. I used the same principles to develop teacher study groups, too. The philosophy, the foundation, is solid.
I would like to give you a sense of how I did this. I’m not sharing how we developed curriculum, but I am going to share the sort of activity that I did; however, we never did this specific one, simply because there would never have been enough time. Here it is:
Today, you will be required to view a photograph (at top of page). Then, you will need to answer a series of questions about that photo. You will determine the questions. You will find ways to answer the questions. You will, then, outline a project or work idea based on your thoughts from the picture. Your grade/evaluation will be what you think of your completed project idea based on this question: How does this project show who I am and allow others to see that I have worked for the highest good that I can currently express towards them and myself?
I know some of the questions that can result from this. Why are the flowers that color? How does the soil affect growth? What mathematical concepts are involved in plant structure? How do these plants fit into an ecosystem? What do the flowers make me want to write about? And so it goes. However, it takes questioning the questioners to help them discover what is in their souls — and much exists there.
Why am I even sharing this? I care deeply about the state of this nation and this world. From its inception, America had a shot at developing this type of learning. All created equal, Unalienable rights, We the People — it wasn’t easy, it was messy, it began a democracy.
The narrow-minded thinking and engineering of education today is to my thinking an informal conspiracy of a relatively limited few, an oligarchy, really, who want workers to be produced for their profit and insure societal control. It sounds good to many and makes sense to many because the controllers believe their own egoic lies, so they share their ideas with passion and power. I will deal with this more; if not in my posts, I know I have already dealt with it in my novels.
In contrast, I desire self-actualized students to be entering adulthood knowing themselves, their life purpose, and their relationship to this amazing Universe we live in. This stands in diametric opposition to what goes on in most schools today, because even if schools appropriate the words, they remain ignorant of how to accomplish the reality of them. I get so sick of seeing district mission statements about creating lifelong learners and they, knowing that the best research clearly shows that constant testing kills intrinsic motivation, do it anyway in defeat of their own missions. Really?!!
Our hope, my hope, for a mutually respectful world of peace and advancement of the human race rests on multitudes awakening to self, knowing their hearts, and enthusiastically forging ahead in life purpose. Education plays a crucial role in this: it will either crush the human spirit by deadening it, or it will use the principles of enlightenment and self awakening in learning. It will either focus on dumping knowledge into those poor, empty little heads, or it will labor to draw the infinity that exists in each one of us out of those young souls in purposeful, practical ways. I choose education, the drawing out. Current mainstream practice is not education at all. Like I said, redefinition.