The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School

The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School

The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School

The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School

Synopsis

Honoring young voices -- Deep connection -- Silence and stillness -- Meaning and purpose -- Joy -- Creativity -- Transcendence -- Initiation -- Conclusion: from fear to dialogue, from standoff to collaboration.

Excerpt

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote and recorded an instant classic called “The Talkin' Dust Bowl Blues.” Among its many bittersweet lines is this one: “That soup was so thin you could read a magazine through it.”

The 20th century, for all its scientific and technological amazements, might be described as a century of thin soup, and not only because too many people went hungry. It was a century in which we watered down our own humanity—turning wisdom into information, community into consumerism, politics into manipulation, destiny into DNA—making it increasingly difficult to find nourishment for the hungers of the heart.

Education has not been exempt from this process. Early in the century, eager to create factory workers who could produce material prosperity, we took teaching and learning—that ancient exchange between student and teacher and world in which human beings have always explored the depths of the soul—and started thinning it down into little more than the amassing of data and the mastering of technique.

That's the bad news. the good news is that the educational soup became so thin—and our hunger for real life so deep—that in the last decades of the 20th century people started seeing right through it. Teachers, administrators, parents, and citizens who care about education have been working hard to reclaim the integrity of teaching and learning so that it can once again become a process in which the whole person is nourished.

Parker J. Palmer is a writer, teacher, and activist who lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
His most recent books are The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's
Life and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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