Aristotle wrote; "There are no generally accepted assumptions about what the young should learn, either for virtue or for the best life; nor is it clear whether their education ought to be conducted with more concern for the intellect than for the character of the soul."
Aristotle's concept; through universal education, the citizen will become informed enough to be able to debate the wisdom of public policy and to recognize those who were qualified to be elected as “the guardians” of society and democracy.
Twentieth and 21st century school curricula are based on the 19th century philosophy that the primary emphases of education ought to be on the socialization process and the acquisition of pragmatic knowledge and utilitarian skills.
Since the 19th century, the overarching goal of school curricula, was and still is, to provide the individual with the means to be economically self-reliant.
From the mid-1800's onwards, education was viewed as a means of perpetuating the national-cultural identity of the country. The system ferreted out a select group of male students who were further educated in the established universities. Thus, an elite corps of intellectual and political leaders self-selected from the general populace, with the primary function of debating and preserving the tenets of the common cultural identity and guiding its further evolution.
Industrialization of the economy required a disciplined and industrious working class. This was achieved by structuring schools on a factory model that focused on the self-discipline of the work ethic, on knowledge that would be economically beneficial to the individual and to the social economy, and on processes of character building that molded the individual’s character to the moral and ethical standards of the society. These were the requirements of the educational system through which the child developed a relationship to the whole society and came to understand his/her place in that society.
The emerging common culture in the United States and colonies like Australia, was Eurocentric and, essentially, reactive against the cultural influences of imported slaves and the indigenous populations.
Together, these influences gave definition to the common cultural identity of the nation. They also shaped the psychological, pedagogical, and curricular foundations that defined how the individual would assimilate society's cultural identity and their role and place in their society.
19th century industrialization needed a specific format for learning that graduated people who could be applied to the needs of a rapidly developing class of wealthy industrialists.
It's a veritable tragedy that in 2020, school curricula remain focused on producing a person capable of economic self-reliance to the almost total neglect of that which nurtures our soul - creativity.
the following text is a summary of the book, "Nurturing the Souls of our Children", by Robert Mitchell
"Contrast that with developing a democratic consciousness in young Greeks during the era of the great Greek philosophers. Education was not a haphazard undertaking, but was determined by a subtle blend of a formal education and religious rituals. A formal education took place under the guidance of philosophers such as Diogenes, Pythagoras, and Zenon. In the Greek city-states of the democratic period universal education for young male citizens was the law. Male citizens learned natural science, aesthetics, writing, history, philosophy, mathematics, art, and athletics. Additionally, under the tutelage of the most astute philosophers, the young citizen’s education was a subtle blend of mystical and rational perceptions of reality accentuated by studies in sacred geometry, harmonics, and astronomy that heightened their vision of a harmonious cosmos.
Fast-forward from 300BC to the late 19th century and the primary psychological goal of the educational process was to prepare European-centric males to govern their instincts and passions through reason, as defined by the tenets of pragmatic rationalism and the Protestant ethos. That psychological goal established the standard that served to ferret out a group of intellectually talented and morally virtuous young men who would debate, define, defend, and perpetuate the common cultural identity and the social, industrial, and political institutions of the new nation.
In America, Jefferson’s concept followed the classic model—that is, Aristotle’s concept of the guardians as products of an educated citizenry. Jefferson was strictly opposed to the feudalistic European idea of an aristocracy of hereditary “birth-right” and wealth. In his view, merit in both virtue and talent were to be recognized and promoted through progressive levels of education and were to become the basis for the social, economic, and political advancement of the individual. All Protestant males of European origin were to have the opportunity to exhibit their virtue and talent through an open educational opportunity.
In America the compulsory grammar schools were open to children generally between the ages of seven and twelve. Grammar school students studied English, mathematics, science, Western civilization, Christian morality, and American civics. The curriculum emphasized the Protestant ethos and the intellectual disciplines that led to an active consciousness and rational self-governance.
The goals of the common school were to train the working classes, middle classes, and gentry in a common set of social beliefs, values, and behaviors, expressed in a rational, social self-discipline under the direction and will-power of the individual’s active consciousness. These demanding requirements were intended to produce a virtuous and industrious working class.
They were also necessary to produce a general population of citizens that would be morally and intellectually equipped to elect the national leadership. In Jefferson’s view, the natural aristocracy could only ascend to leadership positions if the electorate was sufficiently educated to recognize superior talent and virtue. Jefferson took the liberal position that the best leadership would emerge from the broadest possible electorate. These two concepts justified the harsh reality of the common schools in which individuals were molded into citizens of the democratic republic.
The educational system’s current approach to a cultural education—if it can be considered that—is based on a fragmented-historical approach. That is, it looks at history as a linear progression along which various cultures rise and fall. (A contrasting approach would be that of a cultural continuum that has both prehistoric and historic periods embedded in it.) The historical approach to the cultural education of young people is fragmented into four subject areas: religion, art, literature, literature, and history.
Whatever instruction in religious values that a young person receives comes from outside the public education system, for in the public schools, broaching religious topics in classroom discussions is generally avoided.
The various religions each have ethical and moral systems that, to one degree or another, may include sacred values that transcend religious and cultural differences. But what prevails in public education is the non-religious ethical system of secular humanism—a rule-based system that does not emphasize the spiritual, or mystical, qualities on which the transcendent characteristics of personality are based. At a minimum, those mystical, transcendental qualities of the personality might be conveyed to young people through religious rituals and ceremonies such as the bar mitzvah and bas mitzvah.
(1) the child is aware of puberty and that it means a transformation of status, from childhood to adolescence. That is, the child is aware of the significance of the initiation;
(2) the transformational experience is accompanied by specific and vital learning;
(3) there are three clearly defined stages in the child’s transformation—(a) separation and preparation, (b) a specifically defined ordeal, and (c) a conclusive celebration;
(4) learning activities are different for boys than for girls. Boys need to individuate from their mothers. Girls need to gain acceptance and recognition by the whole community;
(5) the psychological effect of the initiation experience results in the internalization of a new, positive self-concept; and
(6) the young adolescent sees him- or herself as a responsible carrier of the culture.
Thus, the psychological themes of initiation lead directly toward cultural-identity formation in the child’s personality. A second subject that can serve to draw the transcendental mystical qualities of character up into the personality is a study of art, when it is properly included in a cultural education curriculum. However, in many schools—those that have not dropped their art programs altogether—art is taught simply to convey graphic, plastic, and performing techniques.
While technique is important, a gifted art teacher can draw creativity out of the child by inspiring young people to create artistic representations of what the child holds to be sacred in themselves. Such stimulation comes from a soul-to-soul, archetypal communion between the art teacher and his or her students and kindles a response from the child’s own creative spirit.
Thus the art class becomes an important element of personality and cultural-identity formation by stimulating the individual child’s relationship to the sacred. Art education can also include art history, so that a viable program in the arts can augment the courses in literature and history.
The student is taught that, within the framework of linear history, different cultures rise to prominence then fall—to be replaced by more dominant cultures. In this way, the fragmented-historical approach to a cultural education emphasizes a linear and progressive historical continuum, where various cultures ride the wave of historical progress.
There are three important, subliminal conclusions that are drawn from this historical approach to cultural education. The first is that history is a record of the struggle between cultures for dominance on the world stage. The need for that competitive struggle is a root-cause of cultural conflict and warfare. In subtle ways, students are taught that that conflict is necessary because human progress can only result from a competitive struggle.
The first difference can be seen in the classroom methodologies that are used to develop, in the child, a rational way of looking at the world. Second, at the core of the concept of the sacred trust in education is the relationship between children, teachers and parents. The third difference lies in the way in which we evaluate or assess the progress in the child’s development.
The worldview and interpersonal relationships of young children are sentient and imaginative, or pre-rational/arational in nature. Children express their dominant sentient and imaginative consciousness through instinctive, intuitive, and feeling-toned ways of knowing that can be equate to the mytho-magical archetypal images of a perceptive soul-consciousness.
Childhood education, even at very early childhood stages, emphasizes the development of the rational intellect and the active mode of consciousness under the Freudian psychological theory that the self-conscious ego is at the center of the personality. This excessive emphasis on early ego development in our culture is evidenced by the goals of the “Head Start” program; by an emphasis on interactive books, video games, television programs, and toys that short-circuit the child’s imagination; and by the emphasis placed in both the home and social-educational environments on the behavior of self-vigilance.
The development of an integrated consciousness is affected by intertwining objective learning with a subjective, participatory relationship between the teacher and the child. Good teachers develop feeling-toned interpersonal relationships with their students, and this sentient bonding must enjoy the blessing and participation of parents. However, because the current educational structure is based on the conceptual foundation of education as a public trust, there are two important factors that have a detrimental effect on the intimate bonding between children, teachers, and parents. These are class size and the duration of the teacher-student relationship. Sentient bonding between teachers and their students cannot be achieved in overcrowded classrooms.
As testified to by many full-time early childhood teachers, one teacher can effectively manage a class of no more than about fifteen students. However, to further the goal of soul nurturing in the classroom setting and bring about an integrated consciousness in the child, the child-adult ratio should be reduced to about five to one. This can be accomplished when a class of twelve to fifteen students has three full-time adults in the classroom—a teacher, a full-time teacher’s aid—who might also be an apprentice teacher—and a parent-volunteer.
Nurturing the child’s soul takes time. One school year is not enough time for a teacher to develop both a trusted nurturing relationship with students and a mutual bond with their parents. This goal is best achieved when the same teacher remains with the class for at least three years—kindergarten through second grade, or the years of early childhood education, and third through fifth grades, or the intermediate years. These lead up to the cultural education curriculum that begins in the middle school with the three years of the sixth through eighth grades and continues for the first two years of high school. Though it is a common practice in European schools and in the Waldorf system for the same teacher to remain with the same class over a period of time, this concept is as yet only experimental in public education in the United States.
This is best served when files of the child’s schoolwork are maintained and discussed in frequent consultations between teachers and parents. Conducted openly and honestly between adults who share a dedication to the child’s personality development, these consultations create a broad-range, subjective profile. This profile is more focused on all of the factors affecting the child’s development and not just on an objective profile that results from measuring the child’s intellectual progress against an established standard. This concept of evaluating files of the child’s work is also currently being used in some districts.
Early childhood education places a five-year-old child in formal kindergarten classes with up to thirty or more students to a single teacher. The child is progressively transferred from one teacher to another, year after year, and he or she is evaluated according to a formalized grading system. Standardized testing sometimes begins as early as the second grade. These early childhood education programs emphasize mental consciousness and socialization processes that affect personality development during the child’s earliest formative years. These programs are consistent with the educational goals of both the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education and the fundamental concept of education as a public trust.
But these types of early childhood education programs cannot be reconciled with the objectives that were outlined for the sacred trust. In other words, these currently accepted goals and the government policies that support them do not nurture the child’s soul and are not consistent with the child’s natural development.
In redesigning the early childhood program to meet the requirements of the sacred trust, the first consideration is that mental consciousness, the rational way of knowing, should only gradually be introduced and integrated with the child’s natural, pre-rational ways of knowing. Second, the child should remain with the same teacher from kindergarten through the second grade. Third is the elimination of a formal grading system and standardized testing. The early childhood program can continue with fundamental skill development in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but it can also incorporate soul nurturing by emphasizing the methodologies of creative play, storytelling, and art.
Emphasizing these particular methodologies and requiring new, prospective teachers to serve a two- or three-year internship as a teacher’s aide are considerations of teacher education programs that should not be overlooked in the development of a new educational paradigm. Most early childhood teachers already use elements of creative play for guiding motor development in both physical education and art. But creative play can also be incorporated into the social studies and science curriculums. Through play, young children express the child archetype in their personalities and relationships. Incorporating creative play into the curriculum helps the child learn appropriate social behavior as an expression of the soul and not as a conditioning of the ego.
In his book The Child, Erich Neumann says: The world of play is of extreme importance not only for children but also for the adults of all cultures; it is not a world to be transcended. It is especially important for children. Only an individual embedded in this symbolic reality of play can become a complete human being. One of the main dangers implicit in this modern, occidental-patriarchal culture with its overaccentuation of rational consciousness and its one-sidedly extroverted adaptation to reality is that it tends to damage, if not destroy, this pregnant and sustaining symbol-world of childhood.
Also, a 1967 British report entitled “Children and Their Primary Schools” echoes Neumann’s observation by explaining the importance of play in educational environments. The report discusses how play is really the principal means of learning during the child’s earliest years. It goes on to say that this is how “children reconcile their inner lives with external reality,” which is another way of saying that through play the child is able to integrate pre-rational and rational ways of knowing.
The report says that in play, “children gradually develop concepts of causal relationships, the power to discriminate, to make judgements, to analyze and synthesize, to imagine and to formulate.” Each of these is an important foundation to further learning but, more important, they are fundamental precepts of personality development and, therefore, speak to the developmental factors in the educational process.
So, creative play is fundamental to an educational process that draws out the natural transpersonal energies of the child archetype and channels them into the social environment. Nurturing of the child’s soul draws up into consciousness the sentient and imaginative energies inherent to the child archetype to incorporate them into ego development. These make creative play a primary means by which rational understanding is subtly integrated with the child’s natural pre-rational way of knowing.
An example of how creative play can be channeled into skill development is the Rudolph Steiner technique for teaching writing, as shown in Marjorie Spock’s book Teaching as a Lively Art.
The process begins with the use of fluid and translucent watercolor paints on paper. This form of artistic, creative play directs the child’s attention attention toward the creation and visualization of form on a page. The teacher then directs the child’s attention to the fact that the borders between different intensities of a color and between different colors create boundaries that can be defined by lines. This leads to drawing, which leads to the formation of letters.
But letters and words are also associated with sounds. The teacher expresses these in rhymes, songs, and stories. Through the interrelationship of line, form, sound, story, and picture, the child develops the skill of writing as an expression of creative play. This can be contrasted with the technique of rote memorization of letters, sounds, and meanings of words.
As children learn letters and words, so, too, they learn to read what they have written. Similarly, Spock shows us that creative play can be used as a method of teaching arithmetic. First, a “body language” association with numbers is established, counting fingers, toes, and limbs.
Then, the teacher uses manipulatives—wooden or plastic blocks in different geometric shapes—to teach the fundamental arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). By the end of the second grade, the child can use these operations on whole numbers, recognize the concept of simple fractions, do measurements, and express numerical relationships. These are also enhanced through stories, which introduce the child to story problems that can be solved mathematically.
The early childhood teacher’s second fundamental methodology is storytelling, which can be used in the teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Telling children fairy tales, legends, and myths fosters images of archetypes and archetypal relationships. In the educational environment, these stories help the child to psychologically recognize the archetypal patterns on which a conscious personality is built. In these stories, the child encounters symbolic representations of the archetypes of the mother, the father, the hero, the princess, the trickster, and so on.
But these stories also tell the child that by listening to their own archetypal, inner guiding spirit they will be successful in life. Thus, a fisherman’s boy becomes a heroic prince. A woodchopper’s daughter becomes a princess. In these personality archetypes, the child discovers the transcendental qualities of character such as nobility, virtue, courage, reverence, and so on.
Finally, an important moral lesson of fairy tales is to learn to distinguish between malevolent and benevolent inner voices. When the teacher is a good storyteller, there are two other lessons to be learned. First, when the story is told in a manner that is both dramatic and true to the traditional model, it is a form of transpersonal communication between the adult and the child. That is, the archetypes in the story take on a life of their own that bridges the gap between adult and child and generates a soul-to-soul communion between them. Second, storytelling serves the vital function of stimulating the imagination. This in turn serves another vital function consistent with more mundane educational goals—the skill of imaginative visualization.
Catherine Farrell, formerly of the California Department of Education’s Word Weaving and Storytelling Project, says: Storytelling helps a child see through the mind’s eye. In an age of television, children are very lazy about imagining for themselves. But the visualization skill is critical for reading comprehension. You can’t read Crime and Punishment without being able to visualize the characters and the scenes.
The early childhood teacher’s third primary technique is art. According to Jung, Neumann, and other psychologists, the arts serve to solidify perceptions that, in the child, have not yet entered consciousness. For example, child psychologists often use drawing as a means by which the child can express feelings and intuitive relationships that he or she is unable to express through rational faculties.
The use of artistic expression, especially in troubled children, is more positive than “acting out.” Additionally, in the primary grades the use of plastic arts, such as modeling from bee’s wax and clay, can help develop manual dexterity. The arts of music, dance, movement, and drama all come naturally to the child and are important means for learning motor control.
These three techniques—creative play, storytelling, and art—are fundamental methodologies of a curriculum that nurtures the soul of the child. They establish a solid foundation for rational learning objectives and awaken the individuation process by stimulating self-awareness and self-expression.
With early childhood education given over to an informal system, the child’s formal education might not begin until the intermediate grades. Here too, however, the three conditions of the sacred trust still guide the educational process. First, the emphasis remains on imaginative and sentient soul-consciousness. The rational way of knowing is carefully and progressively integrated with the child’s natural ways of knowing. Second, the teacher-child-parent relationship should be developed over the three years of the intermediate grades. Third, evaluation processes should attempt to balance the subjective observations of the child’s overall development, from both teachers and parents, with objective means of assessing knowledge acquisition and skill development.
The dominant psychological characteristic of intermediate level students (eight to ten years old) is to relate to the world through the imagination and through sentient, feeling-toned responses.
This is consistent with a mytho-magical and perceptive way of looking at reality that is inherent to both primitive peoples and to the realm of childhood. As we shall see, Jung and other psychologist agree that the sentient, or feeling-toned, way of knowing can also be considered a rational expression. However, our intellectual form of rationalism equates feelings with irrationality and treats the mytho-magical realm and the sentient form of rationalism as something to be overcome. We therefore conclude that, to develop rational consciousness, the child’s sentient relatedness to the world must be controlled or repressed.
This is particularly true of our perspective on personality development in eight- to ten-year-old boys. Here again, it is useful to turn to formal psychology for clarification. The works of both Carl Jung and two early-twentieth-century educators and psychological researchers, Isabel Myers and her mother, Katherine Briggs, demonstrate four psychic functions that manifest themselves in the personality.5 Sensation is the means by which we gather information from the objective, outer world—empirically, or through the five senses. Intuition (Latin for “inward looking”) is the means by which we gain information from the subjective, inner world, and it is an important element of soul-consciousness.
Both sensation and intuition are irrational psychic functions that gather information but do not psychically process that information in order to make rational judgments. On the other hand, the rational functions involve psychic processing that leads to forming evaluations and judgments.
According to Jung and Briggs-Myers both thinking and feeling are rational functions of the psyche. Thinking gives rise to a hierarchy of intellectual evaluations and judgments that are refined by learning the intellectual processes of logic. We attempt to make our logic—that is, our conscious evaluations and judgments—objective but, in making those assessments, we cannot completely exclude our own subjective point of view. Feelings are equally rational because, though they are non-logical and subjective, they still lead to a hierarchy of values. Those feeling-toned evaluations and judgments suggest that soul-consciousness is related to a sentient rationalism that is different from the mental rationalism of the mind-ego complex.
Children can display an uncanny sentient rationalism that leads to subjective feeling-toned value judgments. For example, children might value a relationship with a pet, or an imaginary friend, more than with an adult because that relationship is based on feeling-toned perceptions.
Relationships between children and adults, particularly in our society, are very often based on the power differentials of the egos or on the authoritarian roles played by the adult. The sentient rationalism that characterizes a child’s relationship with a pet reveals a psychical connection between child and animal. This is demonstrated in the rare but not unprecedented circumstance where a pet is instrumental in saving a child’s life. This sentient way of knowing is inherent in the child, and it can be encouraged and developed so as to guide the child toward constructing a consistent hierarchy of feeling-toned values.
This development of the sentient way of knowing will balance the later development of the mental rationalism of ego-consciousness. Thus, acknowledging and cultivating a sentient rationalism is the first of two psychological factors that nurture the soul of the child at the intermediate level of education. The other psychological factor is the child’s perception that there is an inherent paradox in the nature of reality.
To explain this perception, we need to recognize that the child of eight to ten years is developmentally a recapitulation of the prehistoric stage in human cultural development and the mytho-magical form of consciousness. In primitive cultures, rational valuations are based on sentient perceptions. That is, sentient rationalism dominates every aspect of the primitive individual’s mytho-magical relationship with the physical and metaphysical environments. Like the primitive, sentient perceptions and imagination lead the child to recognize that reality has two aspects that are much like two sides of the same coin. There is a “spirit world,” which can be very real for children, and a material world, which is what we refer to as objective reality. Often, we look at the child’s vision of the “spirit world” as excessively imaginative and conclude that the excesses of the imagination must be repressed because they interfere with learning an objective way of evaluating reality.
But it is that vision of the “spirit world” that gives the child, and the primitive, the ability to recognize the world in both its sacred and its profane aspects. For example, the primitive sees a tree in the forest as part of the sacred-profane complex of the cosmos. Though a modern individual might see the tree as profane, raw building material, the primitive acknowledges that the tree also has a spirit. That is, the tree is sacred, and it must be treated with reverence. When it is cut, it is cut for a purpose—perhaps to serve as a ridgepole for a new house. Cutting the tree, curing the wood, perhaps carving figures and designs on the new ridgepole, and setting it into place in the house are all acts that are ritualized so as to show reverence for the sacredness of the tree, because the spirit of the tree lives on through those transformations.
Storytelling can be a fundamental technique for teaching the literary arts and writing skills. In the intermediate grades, the child is better prepared to become a full participant in these activities by retelling stories both orally and in writing, and by telling and writing stories from his or her own imagination. The child need not be limited in story concept, but is guided by the teacher toward identifying a subjective hierarchy of feeling-toned values and a perception of the sacred-profane complex existing in the cosmos. For example, a child may write a fantasy story based on a futuristic vision. Those kinds of visions often involve advanced technologies, much as a child might see in a science fiction film, but the teacher may point out that the technology has no soul, for it is not matter imbued with spirit.
The teacher would then encourage the child to develop the story in a way that balances the sacred (the mystical and the spiritual) with the profane (the empirical and the physical) by drawing out the elements of soul in his or her characterizations and settings, giving one character grace and beauty, another nobility and courage, wisdom to another, and yet to another a dark side—to show that there is always conflict in the cosmos. The child can then be encouraged to arrive at conclusions in the story, which aid in ordering his or her system of feeling-toned evaluations and judgments. The soul of the child is nurtured through the process of consciously assimilating imaginative and feeling-toned perceptions that are ordered according to the child’s awareness of this sacred-profane complex.
In arithmetic, the same conditions hold true. For ancient civilizations, the sacredness of the cosmos was revealed in four disciplines: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and harmonics. In intermediate school mathematics, the child can be introduced to the qualitative concepts of numbers—one as unity, two as duality, three as the trinity, or triumvirate, etc.—as well as the quantitative concepts of numbers that develop analytical intelligence such as applying mathematical operations to story problems and problems involving fractions and decimals. The teacher can also introduce the artistry and form of geometric representations.
As Robert Lawler says, “Geometric diagrams can be contemplated as still moments revealing a continuous, timeless, universal action generally hidden from our sensory perception. Thus a seemingly common mathematical activity can become a discipline for intellectual and spiritual insight.”6 In contemplating geometric forms by drawing them, the child overcomes the strictly empirical view of reality and discovers the sacred and mysterious unity that binds the components of the cosmos together.
Topics in social studies, history, and science can be developed within the same parameters of ordering feeling-toned value judgments and retaining the balance of the sacred-profane complex. Thus, topics might range from dinosaurs to astronomy and from Ikhnaton to Caesar to Robert Fulton. In exploring these topics, a plethora of factual knowledge coexists with the inherent mysteries that captivate the child’s cultural imagination. This great variety of topics—explored in time frames lasting from several days to several weeks—is an opportunity to develop the curiosity, self-awareness, and creativity of the child. In addition to the fundamental curricular requirements—English, history, math, and science—foreign language and computer literacy may be introduced in the intermediate grades.
Physical education in the intermediate grades should emphasize sportsmanship and be integrated with other types of physical exercise, such as eurhythmics, which is a performance of harmonious body movements set to music. All of these areas of the curriculum provide the child with the opportunity for creative expression through the graphic, plastic, musical, theatrical, movement, and literary arts.
The young adolescent experiences both the biological changes of puberty and a psychological transformation from childhood, dominated by the pre-rational ways of knowing, to adolescence in which his or her rational consciousness develops to a point where it is more attuned to the intellectual and abstract ways of knowing.
While some young adolescents show a stronger tendency toward a personality dominated by the intellect, almost all adolescents seem to pass through a period when the sentient-imaginative and intellectual ways of knowing display some degree of balance. This might manifest as a harmonious equilibrium in, for example, a young adolescent in whom the child archetype is balanced with curiosity and eagerness to learn about the world. Or it might manifest as an intra-psychic conflict. Today, that conflict is evident in many young people who are uncertain about how to relate to adults and to others outside their peer group and have lost their sense of wonder and curiosity about the world.
In our five-year cultural education program, the primary focus for the student is on the revelation of his or her cultural heritage: the raw material of a cultural memory that is the basic component of the individual’s inherent cultural identity. The curriculum itself follows the chronological sequence of the human cultural continuum, from the prehistoric through the historical cultures. Every aspect of this curriculum—a humanities block of studies as well as science, math, foreign languages, arts, and physical education—is studied, discussed, and practiced in terms of the student’s self-awareness and self-expression. That is, the emphasis of the educational experience is on personality development within the framework of a study of the human cultural continuum and its developed systems of sacred values. The stimulation of a cultural memory takes place primarily through the humanities block of studies.
At each grade level, the humanities block consists of literature, history, religion, and art combined into a consistent study of culture. The curriculums in science and math are coordinated with the humanities block. Foreign language is a separate curriculum. It is also the primary course for teaching about other contemporary cultures. The arts are assigned to their own time block, but are also utilized throughout the academic curriculum.
Physical education and sports are required throughout all five years and, as with the arts, may be used to enhance the humanities. Over the course of the cultural education curriculum, the student studies six progressive topical areas:
1. The culture and history of the microcosm of the state and local community where the child lives
2. The cultures of prehistoric, tribal societies throughout the world
3. The cultures of the ancient civilizations, with an emphasis on Greek culture and democracy
4. The development of all of the world’s major civilizations up to the modern age
5. The cultures of American Indians and a critical study of the foundations of our European-American cultural identity
6. A survey of American cultural history from the Revolutionary War to the present
Additionally, each of the cultures studied is looked at from four different aspects of human cultural expression:
1. Cosmology as expressed in mythology and literature
2. Social structure, history, and government
3. The community’s relationship to its physical geography and natural environment
4. The ceremonies, rituals, and religious practices of the community
It is the purpose of this curriculum to provide a structured and integrated program of studies adequate to the student’s need to become an individuated, self-directed, and contributing member of the modern community. The curriculum emphasizes an individual cultural identity that is self-aware of a place in the cultural continuum of humanity. It emphasizes the attributes of character in the developing personality by focusing on the sacred values revealed through cultural studies. And, it emphasizes critical thinking.
Without question, it takes a unique cadre of individuals to direct, without restricting, the powerful libidinal energies of young adolescents. Our curriculum is designed to utilize those energies to achieve goals of subjective self-awareness, and this requires teachers to be sensitive to the sentient and imaginative needs of their students. From the standpoint of academic preparation for middle school teachers, it is important that they become proficient scholars of the subjects covered in the humanities, the sciences, math, and the arts.
At the middle school level the academics are not so rigorous, but they do require that the teaching cadre develop a consistent and interrelated philosophical and psychological approach to education. This is best achieved through the teacher’s interdisciplinary proficiency. As with the primary and intermediate grades, middle school teachers need to be proficient storytellers, artists, and dramatists. To assist in bonding with students, academic teachers may also play active roles in teaching arts and physical education and directing other after-school activities.
It is important that teachers maintain the stance of dedicated professionals, but this does not imply the kind of distant objectivity that often defines “educational professionalism.” The nature of our cultural curriculum requires a professional ethic that includes the teacher’s subjective involvement with his or her students.
This professional ethic is best regulated within the parent-child-teacher triad of the sacred trust, and not by standards of professional behavior imposed by an educational bureaucracy. The importance of this subjective bonding becomes evident when we view the curriculum content in terms of a non-religious, educational, cultural initiation."