Living Wisdom School is at the forefront of a movement toward more effective, individual-centered education.
As people become increasingly aware that energy, not matter, is the ultimate reality of our world, our understanding of many traditional institutions is undergoing a fundamental change – including the way we educate our children.
These changes are outlined in an intriguing book, from which the following article is adapted: The Yugas: Keys to Understanding Our Hidden Past, Emerging Energy Age, and Enlightened Future, by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz.
The authors present overwhelming evidence for the notion that in recent centuries, humanity emerged from an age of material awareness into a period of growing energy-consciousness.
The concept of cycles of consciousness in human history was clarified by a yogi-sage of modern India, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and elaborated by his disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi.
The authors propose that the education of the future will be based on three pillars appropriate to an energy-aware age: Individualized Learning, Effective Learning, and Holistic Learning.
Almost all countries in the world today provide free education for their children. There are still numerous emerging nations that cannot support public education, but that nonetheless accept its value and importance. In earlier centuries when man’s consciousness was circumscribed by a predominantly materialistic and form-bound awareness, by contrast, education was limited to the wealthy, or to those whose occupation required some education—such as scribes, who needed to be able to read and write.
It wasn’t until the 1600s, during the 100-year transition period at the end of the age of materialism, that the idea of education for everyone began to take hold. The Parliament of Scotland, in 1633, passed the first known law to levy taxes to support public education. The town of Dedham, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, authorized the first public school in America in 1643. Throughout the 1700s and into the 1800s, the 200-year transition period at the beginning of age of energy, the establishment of public schools in Europe and America became more widespread and organized. In 1837, Horace Mann became the first Secretary of the Board of Education for Massachusetts, and established an approach to public funding for public schools that by the l870s was adopted by every state in the United States. By the early 1900s, mandatory education was established throughout the U.S. A similar pattern is found in all the prosperous nations of the world.
Higher education evolved along a similar timeline. Harvard College (now Harvard University) was founded in 1636. Although Oxford and Cambridge, founded in the 1200s, are considered to be the oldest universities in the world, they too went through a transition in the 1600s. Prior to the 1600s, Oxford and Cambridge were focused primarily on “scholastic philosophy,” which was the study of classic philosophy and church doctrine. The “colleges” that made up Oxford and Cambridge had more in common with monasteries than with the higher educational institutions of today, and today one finds many of Oxford’s and Cambridge’s colleges still associated with the chapels and abbeys of their past, such as St. John’s and Trinity College. In 1536 Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in England, and with them the colleges, and set Oxford and Cambridge on a new course away from a purely religious and philosophical focus and into the classics, mathematics, and science, Today there are thousands of colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning throughout the world.
Public schools are a giant step forward in education, but are often seen as a mixed blessing. If public schools themselves were to be graded on their efficacy, many people might give them an F. When schooling is mandatory, all children may go to school, but not all thrive. Even gifted teachers cannot hope to bring out the best in every student when they have thirty or more in a classroom.
Leading educators, often found in private schools and in such progressive public school programs as charter schools and home schooling programs, are pioneering several trends in education, trends that address current needs and that are likely to gain momentum into the future of the age of energy.
Individualized learning: Children are just as unique as adults, yet the current public school model channels them all through the same basic subjects and teaches them in the same way in classrooms around the world. The groundbreaking work of Howard Gardner, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, persuasively argues that all of us, children and adults alike, learn and process information in very different ways. Gardner refers to these as multiple intelligences: bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, naturalistic, intrapersonal, spatial, and musical.
While these specific categorizations of people’s natural intelligence may not stand the test of time, it has become clear that teaching thirty different children in the same classroom, all in the same way, will tend to resonate only with those children who like to learn that way—and will leave the rest at a disadvantage.
Home schooling programs, personalized learning programs, and schools where different educational methods are available, are soaring in popularity in California, and are spreading throughout the U.S. They provide not only a broader choice of subjects than the traditional public school, but allow for different learning styles as well.
Look for this trend to continue to expand and become more practical. Individualized learning is an obvious outcome of the key qualities of human consciousness in the age of energy: self-will x awakened intellect x energy awareness.
Effective learning: A frequent, and rueful, subject of conversation among adults is how little they remember of their public school and college educations. Studies have shown that retention of knowledge goes up enormously when that knowledge is applied in some manner as part of the process of learning. Conventional wisdom has known this for a long time. If you want to learn something well, go out and do it.
While not ground-breakingly new, making learning more effective dovetails well with the approach of individualized learning. Apprenticeships, internships, participation in activities, outings, travel, all may become part of an individualized learning experience for a particular learner, one tailored to his interests and his preferred way of learning.
Holistic learning: Current education for children addresses only the mind and the body. Through classes and mental pursuits, children are taught to use their intellect and reason, and are encouraged to use their bodies in sports and outdoor activities. But their emotional and spiritual natures are rarely addressed.
In America, this lack is in large measure due to the so-called separation of church and state. Teachers in public schools are forbidden to explore spiritual and religious issues, lest they be perceived as trying to win children to a particular religion. But even in so-called religious schools children rarely explore or experience their innate spiritual natures; instead they memorize religious tenets and dogmas.
Children’s emotional natures are similarly left alone, but for different reasons. Only a few gifted teachers are able to help children gain emotional awareness and understanding. The majority of teachers are not given tools or training that could help them encourage emotional awareness among their students. Both the emotional and spiritual natures of children are considered to be the domain of the family, and teachers are told not to intrude.
Attitudes are changing, however: many parents and educators are looking for new ways to incorporate emotional and spiritual awareness into education. For example, in his book Education for Life, J. Donald Walters presents a seminal approach to helping children explore and learn about their emotional and spiritual natures, in ways that are neither religious nor subjective. His approach is to facilitate the process of children recognizing, considering, and learning about their own feelings and subtle natures—without conflict with their own, or their family’s, personal or religious outlook.
Walters points out that there are universal emotional and spiritual experiences. Just as everyone has his heart in the same place, his liver in the same place, uses his legs in the same way to run, needs to eat when he is hungry and sleep when he is tired, so too there are commonalities of emotional and spiritual experience. Feelings are centered in the heart. Positive feelings are accompanied by an increase in, and upward flow of, energy in the body. Negative feelings are accompanied by a decrease in, and downward flow of, energy in the body. Happiness- producing actions are calming, relaxing, and move toward an inward sense of contentment and security. Unhappiness-producing actions make one nervous, tense, and restless.
Children can be taught to be aware of these universal experiences, and as a result, can learn to be more in command of themselves, and much more likely to make choices that lead to fulfillment. This approach, of fostering innate emotional and spiritual awareness among children, avoids the limitations of conventional religious education.