A New Global Education

Creating a Balance Between the Modern World, a Peaceful Future and Local Realities

Whole Child Education

Commentary

There is active discourse and experimentation in holistic models of education that has much to offer international education.  In international development, holistic generally refers to the integration of various facets of life such as economics, livelihood skills, health education and nutrition into education.  Holistic education also attempts to nurture the development of the whole person - this includes the intellectual, emotional, physical, social, aesthetic and spiritual (J. Miller 2005). The aim of holistic teaching is to facilitate a more fully integrated learning experience rather than the fractured and alienated learning experience and consequent life experience produced by much modern Western pedagogy (Orr 2005).  Both here in the US and in other countries such as India, educational thinkers have stressed the necessity to gear education to the whole child. This thinking tends to be outside of the mainstream of educational thinking.  Yet looking at the whole of a child’s life is necessary when education is being used as a tool of transformation, empowerment and change.

When looking at what education could be, we need to look beyond seeing education as a tool to train the mind or prepare for a job.  Education can teach us how to use our mind, how to respond peacefully, how to find and follow our passions.  This type of education comes not just from learning about these things but from experiencing them in the classroom.  Simply teaching a new set of ideas is not enough unless the emotional, behavioral and spiritual aspects of these ideas are addressed in the student’s life.  Classrooms could be a place of caring, understanding and creativity rather than a place filled with fear and conformity. 

A number of approaches to education are holistic in nature such as integral education, transformative education, constructivist approaches, Gandhi’s Basic Education, peace education, mindfulness education and values education.  The aim of this section is to explore these many views of education and broaden our scope of what education can mean.

Holistic Education

Adapted from “A Brief Introduction to Holistic Education” by Ron Miller

Throughout the 200-year history of public schooling, a widely scattered group of critics have pointed out that the education of young human beings should involve much more than simply molding them into future workers or citizens. The Swiss humanitarian Johann Pestalozzi, the American Transcendentalists, Thoreau, Emerson and Alcott, the founders of "progressive" education - Francis Parker and John Dewey -- and pioneers such as Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner, among others, all insisted that education should be understood as the art of cultivating the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of the developing child. During the 1970s, an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education -- a perspective known as holism. A holistic way of thinking seeks to encompass and integrate multiple layers of meaning and experience rather than defining human possibilities narrowly. Every child is more than a future employee; every person's intelligence and abilities are far more complex than his or her scores on standardized tests.

Holistic education is based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to spiritual values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning. This is done, not through an academic "curriculum" that condenses the world into instructional packages, but through direct engagement with the environment. Holistic education nurtures a sense of wonder. Montessori, for example, spoke of "cosmic" education: Help the person feel part of the wholeness of the universe, and learning will naturally be enchanted and inviting. There is no one best way to accomplish this goal, there are many paths of learning and the holistic educator values them all; what is appropriate for some children and adults, in some situations, in some historical and social contexts, may not be best for others. The art of holistic education lies in its responsiveness to the diverse learning styles and needs of evolving human beings. Holistic education cannot be reduced to a set of techniques or ideologies. Ultimately holistic education rests in the hearts and minds of the teachers and students.

Krishnamurti

"The intention of education must be the inner transformation and liberation of the integrated human being who is free of fear.  From only such people, society can be transformed into a place of peace." – Krishnamurti

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 - 1986), spent his entire life talking about education as being the agent not only of inner renewal but also of social change (Thapan 2001). For Krishnamurti the purpose of education is not merely acquiring knowledge, gathering and correlating facts; it is to see the significance of life as a whole (Krishnamurti 1953).  A constant theme in Krishnamurti's declarations of the intentions of education is internal freedom - the deeper freedom of the psyche and the spirit, the inner liberation that he felt was both the means and the ends of education (Forbes 2005).

Krishnamurti’s discomfort with the present world order stemmed from his understanding of the human condition wherein no one is truly happy but ensnared within a psychological world of sorrow, jealousy, pain, anger, envy and troubled relationships. This inner turmoil, Krishnamurti understood, could not lead to harmonious relationships or a good society. It could only create conflict and contradictions that resulted in fragmentation and chaos. These conditions in turn led to exploitation, oppression and war. This was the basis of Krishnamurti’s search for a new or different kind of society that would result in harmony and well-being among individuals or groups of individuals (Thapan 2001).

Krishnamurti has been described as a ‘revolutionary teacher who worked tirelessly to awaken people—to awaken their intelligence, to awaken their sense of responsibility, to awaken a flame of discontent’ (Thapan 2001). He asks, “If you dominate a child, compel him to fit into a pattern, however idealistic, will he be free at the end of it?” (1953). Merely to stuff the child with a lot of information, making him pass examinations, is the most unintelligent form of education. (Krishnamurti 1948).  It is important that education should in fact ‘awaken intelligence’ and not simply reproduce a programmed machine or trained monkey, as Krishnamurti put it (Thapan 2001). He felt that most schools emphasize preparing young people to succeed materially in the society that exists (Forbes 2005).  Krishnamurti established nine schools – one in the US, one in the UK and seven in India.

Waldorf Education – Steiner

“For it is essential that we should develop an art of education which will lead us out of the social chaos into which we have fallen during the last few years and decades.  And the only way out of this social chaos is to bring spirituality into the souls of men through education, so that out of the spirit itself men may find the way to progress and the further evolution of civilization.”  - Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) sought to solve the double problem of society and education by recommending imagination, inspiration and intuition (McDermott 1984: 293).  He developed the Waldorf School as an example of the kind of educational advance that is possible when the teacher and educational philosophy are rooted in a spiritual awareness of the child and the learning process. He did not intend the Waldorf School movement to spread worldwide, or become and enormous system, but rather he wanted his countless pedagogical and curriculum indications to serve as a model for future experiments in educational processes based on the true development of the child (McDermott 1984: 295).

Waldorf Education (adapted from Rudolf Steiner College)

Waldorf education balances artistic, academic and practical work educating the whole child, hand and heart as well as mind. Its innovative methodology and developmentally-oriented curriculum, permeated with the arts, address the child's changing consciousness as it unfolds, stage by stage. Imagination and creativity are cultivated as well as cognitive growth and a sense of responsibility for the earth and its inhabitants. Under the warm and active instruction of their teachers, children are provided with a creative and nurturing environment in which to develop, grow and learn.

Since its founding by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Waldorf school movement has grown to over 800 schools throughout the world, over 150 of them in the United States and Canada. Steiner's detailed psychology of child development has been supported by modern research in education and neuropsychology. Through Waldorf education, Steiner hoped that young people would develop the capacities of soul and intellect and the strength of will that would prepare them to meet the challenges of their own time and the future.

Montessori Method

"Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war." –Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952) visualized a new world where children could grow up in an atmosphere of peace and respect and extend that attitude into adult life.  She approached education as a scientist by using the classroom as her laboratory for observing children and finding ways to help them to achieve their full potential.  The Montessori Method of education combines a philosophy of freedom and self development for children within a structured setting. Building upon children's intrinsic desire to learn, Montessori created ideal environments full of opportunities for children to experiment and initiate their own education. This learning environment is continually adapted in order that the child may fulfill his greatest potential - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The Montessori classroom prepares its students for each successive developmental phase, allowing them to take responsibility for their own education making choices, changing and becoming unique human beings.

Montessori stressed the need to change our attitudes about children and their treatment. The philosophy underpinning her work is one of respect and care for all children: the ideal Montessori teacher is gentle, sympathetic and always looking for the best in every child. Montessori saw the child as a motivated doer, rather than an empty vessel. She observed that learning was enhanced when people have a sense of control and interest over what they are learning (Lillard 2005).  This allows children to enjoy learning and not learn for the sake of an extrinsic reward such as a good mark (Lillard 2005).

Montessori schools can be found worldwide. The world’s largest Montessori school is in Lucknow, India.  City Montessori School educates 30,000 students from pre-primary through high school.  CMS was honored with the UNESCO prize for peace education in 2002.

Related Links

Dalai Lama Foundation – Education for Ethics and Peace

http://www.dalailamafoundation.org/members/en/peaceDatabase.jsp

Fabulous resource.  Topics include:  Peace Studies, Youth Peace Education programs, Prevention of conflict & conflict resolution,  Humanitarian Assistance & Reconstruction, Database & Collections, Teaching Peace.

Dalai Lama Center for Peace & Education

http://www.dalailamacenter.org/

Dalai Lama’s Official Site

http://www.dalailama.com/

Holistic Education, Inc.

http://www.holistic-education.net/index.html

Informal Ed

http://www.infed.org/

This online encyclopedia is a rich sampling of key people, theories, and ideas that formed the roots of many progressive and holistic educational practices.

Mindfulness in Education Network

http://www.mindfuled.org/

This network as established in 2001 by a group of educators who are students of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. The purpose of the network is to facilitate communication among educators, parents, students and any others interested in promoting contemplative practice (mindfulness) in educational settings.

Paths of Learning

www.pathsoflearning.netgreat resource on holistic education.  Online library.

UNESCO: Non-Violence Education

http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=2201&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

UNESCO’s focus on non-violence education for 2001 - 2010

Resources

Forbes, Scott (2005).  Jiddu Krishnamurti and his insights into education.  http://www.Holistic-Education.net/articles/articles.htm

Gallegos Nava, R.  Holistic education: Pedagogy of universal love.  Brandon, VT: Foundation for Educational Renewal.

Halstead, J. M. and Taylor, M. J. (eds) (1996). Values in Education and Education in Values.  London: Falmer Press.

Holzman, Lois  (1997).  Schools for growth: radical alternatives to current educational models.  Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Assoc.

hooks, bell (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge Press.

Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1953). Education and the significance of life. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.

Krishnamurti (1948) 5th Public Talk, 26th September, at Poona.

Langford, Peter E.  (2005).  Vygotsky’s developmental and educational philosophy. New York: Psychology Press.

Lillard, Angeline (2005).  Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.  New York: Oxford University Press.

McCarthy, Coleman (n.d.).  Strength through peace: The ideas and people of nonviolence.  Washington, DC: The Center for Teaching Peace.

McDermott, Robert A. (Ed.).  (1984).  Essential Steiner: Basic Writings of Rudolf Steiner.  San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Miller, John P.  (2006). Educating for wisdom and compassion: creating conditions for timeless learning.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Miller John P.  et al. (Eds.). (2005). Holistic learning and spirituality in education : breaking new ground.  Albany: State University of New York Press.

Miller, Ron (2000). Caring for a new life: essays on holistic education.  Brandon, VT: Foundation for Educational Renewal.

Miller, Ron (1990). What are schools for?: Holistic education in American culture. Brandon, VT: Holistic Education Press.

Noddings, N. (1984). Caring, a feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Stephenson, J. et al (Eds). (1998). Values in Education. Routledge, London.

Tripp, Peggy and Muzzin, Linda (Eds.).   (2005).  Teaching as activism: equity meets environmentalism. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press.

Wink, Joan and Putney, LeAnn G.  (2002).  A vision of Vygotsky.  Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


A New Global Education