By Linda Houghton
Erik H. Erikson, known for his work in child and human development, used this phrase when he was interviewed concerning his groundbreaking work, Childhood and Society.
He said, "I have nothing to offer except a way of looking at things."
This writing is a response to requests asking that I share some of my views on the current state of what I coined as Emotional Growth Education in the mid 1970's. I too want to state that I have nothing to offer except a way of looking at the field I continue to call holistic education, which encompasses the behavior of learners, their families and their human potential.
My interest in child development and human development began when I was president of the Future Teachers' Association at my high school in 1959. I had the idea that teaching was broader and deeper than the current view of the profession. My life's journey took me in many directions after high school and as I developed my own vision of what a school should be, I landed in Running Springs, California, at the Cedu School. When I walked onto the campus where students were excited and very alive, I knew some part of my own vision had been realized there.
The school incorporated many personal growth and human potential methods popular at the time, and most were very effective. I was asked to train faculty in Child Development after I noted the workshops used at the school reflected Erick Erikson's theory of Child Development. At this time the founder of the program was interested in becoming recognized as an innovative educational program. There was no interest in being what has come to be called a "therapeutic school". This was one of the reasons I was so interested in the program at this school. I knew that so many of the young people taking advantage of this and other programs had not been helped by traditional psychotherapy. This school was a learning community and many of these students were experiencing great breakthroughs in learning and change in behaviors. In essence their lives were greatly expanded. They developed "a new way of looking at things".
After years of working in this new educational movement and founding two other schools with my view of emotional growth and the arts, I became disenchanted with the direction the field was taking. As commercial interest in this type of education blossomed, a great number of schools of this type were developed. This created what I call "back to the future programs." Many of these schools have now become more like the treatment centers that were part of the medical model in the 1950's and 60's. Schools began to call themselves "therapeutic." This term in Western Culture implies diagnosis and treatment. Emotional Growth Education does not belong in that arena.
Emotional Growth should be part of all educational programs both public and private. The early programs that were developed by Mel Wasserman, other pioneers and me were intended to focus on health, growth and learning not on diagnosis and treatment. In my view there should be a clear distinction in these programs. There is certainly a need for therapeutic programs. However, the blend of emotional growth and therapeutic is confusing to parents and professionals in the field of education and medicine. Education is an art not a science. It is based on learning relationships and experiences offered in a traditional classroom as well as outdoor classrooms, travel classrooms, daily living classrooms and work ethic classrooms.
Erik Erikson was first an artist and later came to the field of Human Development. He brought his view as an artist to the work, as did Robert Coles, Marie Montessori and other giants in the field of education.
It is my hope that Emotional Growth Education will stand on its own and continue to offer expanded healing and learning experiences to young people and their families. Emotional Growth Education is a very "alive" method. It must operate outside the box of diagnosis and treatment in order to be meaningful.
About the Author: Linda Houghton has had a lengthy history in the emotional growth industry, founding the original parent seminars at the CEDU Schools, Mt. Bachelor Academy for College Health Enterprises, King George School and The Institute for Emotional Growth Education. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.