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News & Views - May, 2000 Issue #69

Educating Body, Mind and Spirit

A Message from King George School’s Founder
By Linda Houghton

The range of interactions a living system can have with its environment defines its ‘cognitive domain.’ Emotions are an integral part of this domain. Recent research strongly suggests that there is an emotional coloring to every cognitive act.” - Fritj of Capra, The Web of Life 

Here, at the end of the 20th century, we have still not been able to understand just what our children need in order for them to make a contribution to our future as well as their own. Education took a back seat in the days of the Industrial Revolution, when we chose to create a school system using the factory as a model.

Now we are paying the price. Our children spend eighty percent of their days in these factory-like settings where they are expected to adjust to the system. Somewhere along the way we lost the concept that education requires a calm, caring atmosphere, and attention to the group process as well as to the individual.

We have a window of opportunity as this century comes to a close. We can focus on our outdated systems and make a sweeping change or we can watch their demise as we diagnose more students with “failure” simply because the established system does not meet their needs.

As a country, we decided that everyone should have the opportunity to be educated beyond basic literacy. In 1897, the Supreme Court of Michigan ruled that public funds could be used to finance secondary schools. This created an educational solution, which has since become a logistical problem. These public secondary schools were modeled on the factories of the current age, creating an environment designed to “manufacture” educated workers and productive citizens. In some measure, this effort has succeeded. For a century, a high percentage of our youth have completed a secondary-school education.

However, as our model for business has changed in the last century, the educational model has not. Private and public schools continue to focus on the “bottom line” of financial matters, creating larger and less educationally effective school programs. Great numbers of students graduate from secondary schools unprepared to contribute to the culture at large. These students have missed the opportunities to expand their horizons both intellectually and interpersonally.

It is not a new idea that emotions are integral to learning, or that the arts are a form of full self-expression. However, a school curriculum that considers emotional growth and creative expression central to the development of the intellect might be considered radical to our regulated, systematized approach to education. The learning environment that challenges this notion and considers art and healthy emotional growth as central is not new, but is a return to the roots of education as experienced in ancient cultures. These cultures lived with arts and self-expression, which became central to the stories, legends, and ceremonies that shaped their lives. Art in these cultures expanded the understanding of relationships: mind to body to spirit, earth to humanity, person to person.

If our educational environments are to survive as true communities of learning, we must teach the value of full creative expression, healthy emotional growth, the fulfillment of intellectual challenge, and the importance of service to the whole.

I have long held the vision of a learning environment where the human spirit is honored as central to the intellectual development of the person. North American Boarding Schools’ first school, the King George School, has become the manifestation of education for body, mind, and spirit.

Copyright © 2000, 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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