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Opinion & Essays - April, 1994 Issue #27 

by: John Sarchio, Academic Director
Rocky Mountain Academy
Bonners Ferry, Idaho

(The following is a unique view of education. The author published it in the Rocky Mountain Academy Academic Newsletter, January 17, 1994 after working at RMA for nine months.) 

RMA has a non-traditional approach to education which is highly personalized and individualized. You do to get, you live to learn: you can't be passive or play it safe and be a good learner. RMA education is about putting oneself on the line, being active, and taking risks. While we provide a strong, competitive academic curriculum, the success of the academic program at RMA is dependent on and in conjunction with the emotional growth program. While bright students may be able to get "A's" regardless of their underlying emotional issues, the truest and deepest value of education can only be achieved to the extent that the student can approach learning with openness, honesty, self-knowledge, and personal responsibility. While grades are important for practical reasons (i.e. admission to colleges and universities), the real goal of secondary education is to expose students to a variety of viewpoints (e.g. literary, historic, scientific) which will increase their understanding of life and themselves, and provide a direction for their future. Education is not just an endeavor of the intellect-it is an endeavor of the whole person: body, mind, heart and spirit. 

Our educational approach didn't just happen. It is purposeful. Students do not immediately go into classes because they are not immediately ready to benefit from them. However, "school" starts the minute they walk in the door. Initially, what we provide is the proverbial school of "hard knocks," but with a safety net. The safety net is the relationships that the students develop with staff. Staff become friends, mentors, guides, and holders of mirrors. What students will learn first is what they have become. If they are successful in completing our program, in addition to their many academic gains, they will learn who they truly are. Academic education AND "self" education are the portal to the future. 

To me, education and change are synonymous. As we continue to change, we will only get better at bringing value to the young people with whom we are entrusted. 

Copyright 1994, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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