Quaker Universalist Conversations

Holistic Education

Earth has a global, electronic, technology, service economy. Industrial Corporations shifted operations to lower cost labor, countries. Calling a business telephone number may reach half-way around the world. Schools are creating one-on-one education with PCs, laptops and tablets, plus class interaction with schools on other continents.

But, high school graduates are not prepared to enter a changing world and provide service to societies, without thinking for themselves. Education systems continue to prepare individuals for standardized select the correct answer, state examinations. Group learners are not actually being prepared with team-solving problems for a cooperative grade. Industrial Education discourages our future generations’ broad thinking and realization of new dynamic truths.

In creating thinking students, effort must be put into nurturing pupils’ abilities in mind, body and spirit. Until the 21st century, Industrial Education has prepared young citizens for the industrial economy and academia of the 20th Century. Writers on Holistic Education, similar to Ron Miller, founder of Holistic Education Review, (now ENCOUNTER: Education for Meaning and Social Justice), provide pre-existing examples of holistic education systems, like Quaker (Miller’s), Waldorf or Montessori.

Holistic is an adjective from Holism, a term developed by former South African general Jan Christiaan Smuts in Holism and Evolution (1926), with wholes greater than the sum of the parts. A member of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis, Alfred Adler, translated Smuts’ philosophy into a School of Individual Psychology.

Another member of Freud’s group, C. G. Jung, went a different direction in creating broader psychological beliefs including mere coincidences having real meaning in Synchronicity or intellectual intuition of similar events, opposite of Causality having scientific explanation [see Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, C.G. Jung, 1952].

However, Synchronicity fails to explain the sheerness of the difference between fantasy and reality in many psychological worlds (personal experience, courtesy of brain damage, over 30 years back). For mentally, spiritually, and physically questioning individuals, mere coincidences or mental associations are not a basis for individuals’ futures.

Others, like California Ohlone College Professor, Kim A. Stiles, use a slightly different term, synchronicities [seeThe Lived Experience of Becoming a Holistic Nurse,” Master’s Project, 1998]. With connect the dots type memory, years ago, her correlation with Jung’s belief can be accepted. Yet, individuals see what they wish and ignore views not wished, or selective vision. At times, some recognize what no one else is able to.

There are many ways of determining where one might stand in relation to other members of society. One method, using Jung’s beliefs, restricts everyone to 16 categories, called Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Am I saying all young learners need the MBTI for teachers to understand them? No. It falls extremely short of seeing beneath the surface presented by pupils.

Earth from Apollo 17

In a learning atmosphere, genuine trust and enjoyment, needs to be created in an effort to provide a solid base for future generations. Teachers and instructors need to understand views and backgrounds of the students to comprehend how and what is actually learned. For many teachers, the answer to a question corresponds to what is in books or online, not what was felt or thought from differing viewpoints. Some students may thrive on this. In Holistic epistemology, future generations need responses with varied views and ideas to think about and comprehend, to prepare them for future lives.

Years ago,as a Job Corps Center teacher preparing students for the GED in science and mathematics, I learned that working with teenagers on their levels and methods of learning involved differing pedagogical methods. Applying this awareness required reorienting texts in terms of the culture, spirit, belief, background and behavioral differences of each student.

For example, in a local school’s agriculture class, “What brought you to this agriculture class?” was asked to start the year. A few responses were mechanics, floral, dairy, beef, aquaculture, and equine studies. Some students were honest and said “Because I had to.” These were given a chance to work with others in class, with hope of developing a desire to learn.

In another school’s calculator class, a few students asked to know what was taking place in completed problems, so differentials were shown in written fashion to explain the actual calculus. This provided a base to think about, in answering problems without electronics. Holistic Education takes into consideration each of those personal worlds on this planet and interdependence of all subjects in the cosmos.

Working on students’ levels provides a solid base for each individual to think and learn. Most times as pupils’ knowledge grows, teachers learn. My student teaching mentor, Ed Berlin, actually lived through the WWII. As a learner, it was a pleasure to let him know the truth a researcher had discovered about Hitler’s “Dance on France” after 50 years. Professional student became my real occupation.

In Friends Journal, October, 2013, Caroline Brown’s article “The Last Few Miles” has a paragraph which captures the gift of understanding differences:

There is a difference between reading and experience – between what we profess to believe and what we live and act out. And it is here, in the end, waiting on the doorstep of eternity, that we come to see this truth, if we had not come to terms with it before: to “trust God,” a phrase that sounds so simple, but is quite difficult for a “doer” to accept, because we are so used to acting rather than being acted upon.

This is not an attempt to alter beliefs. It is the word, trust, behind beliefs, which is important in our lives. Without it, we can be tremendous doers, but still fall short of reaching genuine belief or love. Are you a doer or can you be acted upon? We all stand in both positions at differing stages of life.

What happens to our young people may have a strong effect on how they stand in relation to trusting a learning environment. Without taking this into consideration for each pupil, educational trust or love for education, may not exist in future generations.