REPOST: Education in the Future, Some Thoughts – from ~Jean

Posted on July 7, 2011
by 

When I lived on Capitol Hill, I volunteered at the high-powered Capital Hill Day School, where tuition was as much as a year in college. I observed that the kids there were run day-in and day-out by a program set by their well-meaning, caring (but unawake) parents. Many arrived at school before seven in the morning, dropped off by a parent on their way to work, and many of those kids were there at six in the evening, when they were finally picked up.

My job was to monitor their after-school study hall, help with their homework questions, and keep things running smoothly. I soon began to notice that when these kids finished their homework and had free time, they zoned out on computer games. I remember so well asking one young girl if there wasn’t something she liked to do that she could bring to school just in case she couldn’t get on the games. This child had nothing in her life that interested her—and she was always causing a problem because, I think, of her boredom.

Often, after school there were the usual activities of soccer, football, ballet, cheerleading etc., which meant to me that their lives were entirely driven from outside themselves!

There was another teacher there with whom I developed a rapport, and he told me about a school that he and some friends had established in nearby Maryland. The concept of the school totally intrigued me. I suppose it was like Summerhill that we all read about years ago, but before I’d only seen it as anti-establishment, a sort of thumbing of the nose from those who couldn’t make it in the system, just a bunch of hippies.

Now, maybe because I am awake, I understand it’s value. Briefly, here in an over-simplified way is how it works: When parents send there kids to this school, they are asked to buy into the idea that their children need to make the shift from an outer-directed life to an inner-directed life. They are asked to keep their hands off what is likely going to happen to their children as they make this shift. Typically, a child would arrive at the school and be astonished that there were no formal classes and no required learning. All they had to do was show up every day, and they could do whatever they wanted to do.

The result of this was a child who often didn’t know what to do with himself, and so was simply delighted to play day in and day out. Sometimes it was bike-riding, sometimes skate-boarding, sometimes reading—or even sleeping. Depending on the child, this could go on for some months. Gradually, however, boredom set in, and the child began to observe others around him and what they were doing. He began to ask questions, and perhaps one day he decided he himself wanted to do something, perhaps make something, or fix something, and that is when the teacher finally became more than a proctor. If the child wanted to do something that required certain math skills, this was pointed out—and more often than not, the child decided that in order to create his project if he needed those math skills, well, he would learn them. If he didn’t come around to that viewpoint immediately, well then, he didn’t learn about or create whatever it was that interested him. Eventually, if the adults permitted him the necessary time to figure things out for himself, the child usually came around.

Can you see how that situation could/would advance and multiply exponentially in a positive way if the adults in the child’s life could be helped to stifle their anxiety and stay out of the way—and let this special little creature begin to find out who exactly he is?

Teachers can also serve as instructors about the how-to skills necessary to getting along in life. They can offer basic tools to guide children and help them deal with the many situations that will arise for them later in life—as they show up in microcosm in their school life. Teachers can help children learn to be comfortable with establishing their own boundaries with their classmates, with dealing with put-downs from others without losing their own centers. Teachers can do a great job of helping children to learn what loving themselves is all about. Perhaps that is the most important lesson of all, because until that is understood it is impossible to really love another.

I have a Master’s in Music Education, and it means no more to mean than that I walked through the hoops of the system in order to increase my paycheck at my job. To begin with, I went into music because that’s all there was for me. I had never had the opportunity to explore what else was out there that might interest me.  In the degree program, I learned very little that helped me, increased my skills, and made me a better teacher.

Later on in my life, however, when I decided I wanted to make lace, the old-fashioned original bobbin lace that we have all seen antique pieces of, I drove myself relentlessly until I reached a certain point of skill and knowledge. I found teachers whom I respected, I studied in Bruges, Belgium at the Kant Centrum, and I devoted many of my ‘free’ hours each week to learning this skill. Then, I began to teach others. The only reason I gave up lacemaking was that I accidentally discovered painting, and that opened doors for me that went far beyond what lacemaking was all about.

In lacemaking, though, I learned a lot about myself. I learned I love texture, and I delight in fine detail. I learned that I will stick with something until I get it—if it interests me. I learned to like myself better, because I understood that I really didn’t ‘fit’ the general world that my teacher-friends inhabited, and that there most definitely were other worlds out there to explore. I didn’t have to limit myself to the world of my then at-that-time friends.

What I am trying to illustrate here is that when we get passionately interested in something, we will go to great lengths to satisfy our longing to know about it. To all intents and purposes, we will educate ourselves. Teachers can then shift their role to function as wonderful resources in these sorts of schools, and the children they will teach will be filled with boundless enthusiasm and appreciation of their efforts.

As I worked on my own healing, I spent seventeen tough days—and they were only the beginning—at STAR, a retreat where we learned what our life had really been like. During the course of these days, we did a sandbox, and to my surprise I found myself saying, “I want a greater Weltanschauung, a German word that means a greater worldview. This was a word that had fascinated me when I studied in Salzburg, Austria in my junior year at college/conservatory. It was a word that I didn’t think of for many years; it was tucked down deep somewhere in my memory, and even when I spoke it in total surprise at STAR, I had no idea how important that word would later become.

As soon as I got my divorce settlement and realized I was totally on my own—without family or any real support system, I began studying the financial world in order to care for myself, and that was only the beginning. I read avidly for more than a half-dozen years, filling in huge gaps in my life and knowledge. While I don’t have a degree in ‘Weltanschauung’, I have knowledge that many people with degrees do not have. I have it because I hungered for it. I have that knowledge because I have a real passion ‘to know’, and my life has been driven by it. 

Why should our children’s lives not be driven by the passion that should come with life? Why should that passion not be considered their ‘entitlement’? Each of us has a purpose here—an energetic purpose*, bequeathed as our birthright, and why, I must ask, should we not all be living it in as natural a way as getting out of bed each morning? 

This is just a tiny view, a smidgen, of how I see our children’s education could develop in the new paradigm—if we even have education, as suxh! My goodness, at the next level things apparently are going to be very different from what they are here! Sometimes, I wish we would be able to stay right here and just spend our lives and the immortality that we are promised making this world right now, right here, a better one!

* * * * *

*The study of enneagrams is not just a party game. It is a serious study of the nine energies that the ancient, monastic Sufis observed in people on our planet. The study of enneagrams sheds light on our own healing as we learn where our responses to trauma originate. More importantly, it is the study of and a guide to our spiritual path back to God/Source. From my own personal experience with them, I know they can cut healing time greatly, because we can more easily and very directly hone in and focus on our own, personal issues.

** The little handkerchief corner is a piece of Bedfordshire lace that I made some years ago.

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23 Responses to REPOST: Education in the Future, Some Thoughts – from ~Jean

  1. Helene says:

    wow, Summerhill! when I was around 10 yrs old I found that book on my parents’ shelf and read it so many times, I wanted to go there so badly. As for Orson Bean unfortunately he was/is an extreme rightwinger, just about a fascist, so I have to wonder/question what his connection with Reich’s Orgone Box and this private school in NYC is/was…I vaguely recall something about a private school like this when I grew up in NYC, it may have been in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood or possibly on the Upper East Side…as you know you can be so “left” you’re “right” and so “right” you’re “left” politically…cheers, Helene

  2. Jean N Eichberg says:

    As a retired educator, after thirty-five years, all that you share resonates deeply with me. Parents hovering over the education of their children for more stringent academics and endless after-school activities are driven by the ego impulse of more, more, more and without the heart, and thus soul consideration, of what is best for their children. As an early childhood educator, I advocate play as a child’s work and discourage “the hurried child” as outlined by the author David Elkind. Young children and primary grade children alike are now rushed into academic achievement beyond belief. Unlike European education that savors childhood beyond measurable statistics and achievement data, American education participates in stripping the passion out of teaching and learning by standards that value testing geared to mathematical and linguistic intelligences. Technology, though it has an important place in today’s world, captures the outer world for students yet how does it guide the inner world and night language of the human psyche? The child is a whole child – why is that American education buys into the fragmented child? Research indicates that children learn from whole to part – so why do educational policy makers continue to separate the child from the whole of learning? Does the whole of learning not include the natural rhythm of childhood? Is the rhythm of childhood, like nature itself, organic and driven by an internal clock? Waldorf education has much to offer – as does the Reggio Emilio Approach in Italy, as does The Responsive Classroom in Greenfield, Massachusetts, as does the National Association for the Education of Young Children and as does many other grass root efforts that work towards taking the politics of America out of educating it’s youth. Jean N. Eichberg

  3. Nicki Tompkins says:

    Jean, you never cease to amaze me. I appreciate your insights here and more of your background–fascinating–you should write a book in your spare time! Just kidding, what spare time, right. I love you dearly.

  4. Years ago I came across a book called, Me and the Orgone, by Orson Bean. In it he talks about a school in New York City, that unfortunately I don’t remember the name of right now, but sounds similar to what you talk about. It was a breath of fresh air reading about it as was this post.
    Also sometime ago I heard a two cassette tape interview with several teachers in the Waldorf school system. At this point I had never heard of this either. I am certain there are so many other systems out there that put our current one to shame.
    Thanks a bunch for this post. Something good to think about in this increasing time of insanity.

    • Jean says:

      The Waldorfschule is one system that comes very close to what I was talking about. The Montessori system is another. If I had a young child, I would never permit them to grow up in the present corporate-geared educational system. It will make robots of our children, people who cannot think creatively, and who cannot think critically, among other things. I believe that is what it is geared to do. Hugs, ~Jean

  5. Jean you are a treasure and inspiration. Thanks for all you do and your kind patient moderation of those finding their way. My sister let her four children mostly play their way through education at home and travel internationally at every opportunity to help in humanitarian projects etc. When they finally joined the school system as juniors in high school they were so far ahead academically and socially of their peers they became a support system for the teachers and popular with all their fellow students as mentors. They all excelled in college and this year the last two just finished with a grad and undergrad degree and are already eagerly sought by employers.

    • Jean says:

      Thanks, Borje, for sharing this. It gives reality to my thoughts and dreams. . . Hugs, ~Jean

      • In 1969 at 22 years old and fresh out of College, without any educator background or qualification, I walked into a high school asked for a job. They initially turned me down until I said I could play and coach football. I was hired to replace a sociology. history, economics teacher who had been promoted to Vice Principal. He was also a coach of two football teams and two rugby teams. I inherited his classes and his teams. All my teams that year went to regional finals and one won the provincial championship. Students who had been expelled from school were sneaking into my class and participating.

        I was not a particularly good teacher or strategy wise coach but I told each student that I saw them as a genius with unlimited potential. I told them that genius is not only about being good with words and numbers or being able to parrot back what a teacher claims the truth to be. I told them that genius may come through their hands and fingers or their dreams or in many other ways around which a school system would never devise qualifying tests to justify years of entrapment that they would then lablel education.

        Most of all I loved the kids, won their friendship and respect by example but I could hardly ever take anything in the system seriously. I told my teams nothing was more powerful than sticking together as an all for one and one for all unit. I never had a single discipline issue that was not settled between me and the student and had one of the best years of my life.

        I was so heart sick at the end of a year by the banal offerings of the so called education system that I could not endure another year. I painfully left my friends on the staff and in the classes having turned down their counter offer to fast track me as Vice Principal within five years I told them I could not give my life to endorsing a rudderless system that foisted information on students from a morally bankrupt base totally devoid of socially redeeming values.

        I headed off for three years seminary graduate school aspiring to find true values in what amounted to an initial ecstasy that turned into a soul troubling agony as I encountered an even more profound version of a system adrift without lasting values. But that is another story some of which can be gleaned at http://borjemelin.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/escape-from-fables-labels-and-confusing-the-hell-into-people/.

        The bottom line is this: I have three grown children all with their own families and doing very well in life with above average life experience and financial success. Given my traumatic encounter with education, from kindergarten on, I told each of them when they were small that they never had to make me proud by doing well in school and that in fact I had found 19 years of education a serious imposition on my life and great disappointment in investing all this time to find there was nothing there!

        My oldest daughter was “all things school” from kindergarten class leader on – class president, yearbook editor, athlete of the year, star in major school play etc. The other two were generally unenthusiastic about school. Today there is no noticeable difference that education has made in my children’s life.

        What did make a huge difference in my no-college son’s life is the decision he made after a trip to the Far East in 2000 that included the death of his newborn nephew in Thailand. On his return he told me he had decided never to live by discipline again but from then on he vowed to live by inspiration. As a father, businessman and pursuer of adventure and opportunity he has “walked on water” from that time till now.

        They don’t teach Spirit at Harvard but they sure can kill it and stick you with an unconscionable bill that will cripple you financially for life. I agree with these two quotes from Einstein, who is known for his withering take on formal education.

        “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

        “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

        • Jean says:

          Personal stories are so very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing this one! Hugs, ~Jean

          • It is also cathartic to share with like minds heart convictions counter to the status quo, borne largely alone and silently over many years. Thank you for providing an alternate forum and your investment in being an inspirational independent thinker.

            I am convinced that the sudden and dramatic 180° turnaround in the Middle East witnessed in today’s news is largely due to the “unpopular” message you and people like you have chosen to embrace and to publish. Winston Churchill’s quote comes to mind, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Bless you and your kind, Jean!

          • Jean says:

            Agreed! Hugs, ~Jean

  6. Tertiusgaudens says:

    Hahaha, I live right now in a state traditionally well known in Germany for lace making. Here is a nice vid showing the funny stuff, and I love those people…

    This film was made not far away from me, almost around the corner:

    Greetings from Germany!

    • Jean says:

      Oh, Tertius, thank you so much for sharing this! I remember so well my days as a lacemaker and all the wonderful people I met from all over the world! I also have a small bobbin collection – but I never got into it seriously, although I know many who took turning them to a high art! I loved all the various tools that were required. It was such fun to work with them and to understand their use. The history of lace is also an amazing subject! Again, thank you for this. I will share it with friends from long ago with whom I have lost contact. . . Hugs, ~Jean

  7. Shelly says:

    Thank you Jean for sharing your experiences. No wonder you are who you are today what an adventure you have been on! I only hope you are right about the children and education for two selfish reasons :)……xoxox

    • Jean says:

      🙂 You know I love you friend – and also those beautiful spirits who are presently under your care! Hugs, ~Jean

      PS There are other schools out thee like the one in Maryland . . . and these children do extremely well in a traditional college. . . Hugs, ~Jean

  8. This posting and your story make my heart sing! Many thanks Jean!

    Weltanschauung fur mich; Warum werden nicht Leute ehrlich?…..Ich bin immer noch am Lernen.🙂

    • Jean says:

      Oh, this is wonderful statement, Michaele, Thank you so much! Hugs, ~Jean

      Google Translate: Belief for me, Why are not people honest ….. I’m still learning?

      Michele, you obviously speak German, and you might do better at clarifying the translation than me . .🙂 Instead of open mind, could you say ‘open mind’ ?

      • 🙂 Actually my German is terrible; I had to translate it to be honest;
        (Weltanschauug for me: Why aren’t people honest?….. I am still learning)

        • Jean says:

          No, here it is somewhat closer, I think. welt (world) anschauung (outlook). I didn’t know much about the world, almost nothing, and yet out of the depths of me came that statement that I wanted to understand what was going on in the world . . Hugs, ~Jean

  9. Birgit Jonas says:

    Thanks, Jean. Wonderfully expressed. I also feel that children, probably all of them, would be creative geniuses if left and supported as is best for each of them. The present system is getting worse by the day and aiming for the opposite. My consolation is that we all are born into our situation having chosen this for our own reasons, to learn lessons, provide them for others, balance out karma, and I can see that lots of people are waking up. Namasté

    • Jean says:

      Birgit, what I didn’t say is that our children are being asked to spend virtually years memorizing and regurgitating information. There is too much information out there for us to absorb, and I have to ask if it is really necessary that we do so. If we rebel, as many of us do, then we are labelled as poor students – or worse. I have come to believe that this is seldom the case. It’s more likely that we’re just not interested in it, but we’ve been so ‘domesticated’ (see the lovely book called The Four Agreements) that we do not even realize it. We do not even know anymore what we think! This was what I saw was going on at the Capitol Hill Day School.

      On the other hand, when we are not treated like miniature Ken and Barbie dolls – sorry that’s the shorthand I’ve come to use to describe this phenomena, when we are permitted to find our particular gifts, no matter how lowly our present society may view them, we are giving our children the opportunity to live a life of joy and service – a life of purpose. What more can we possibly give them!

      Much information is quite useless in that it need not be stored in our brains, and if we need it, we will find it, if only on the internet, which is where I got my so-called education. The blessing for me was that no one was telling me what to think or what conclusions to draw, particularly about the financial situation, while at the same time life was instructing me in how to take a stand properly for what I believed. As a result, when it came time shortly before the crash in ’08 to take a public stand, I knew how to do so without buying into all the negative energy that came my way. If I had ot learned the necessary skills, I don’t think I could have survived what was tossed back at me. These people weren’t in a place where they could hear me – and they still may not be – but I’d expressed myself respectfully, and so I could step back and let them walk on their own path – a path which has given them the opportunity to learn many lessons – if they choose to do so. I had learned to trust myself, and I did not buy into their demeaning attitude towards me.

      Part of my lesson in that situation was that I needed to find people who were at least open to hearing me . . . and while it was a very painful path, I gradually I have been able to do this.

      Hugs,
      ~Jean

      • I have tucked away with my high school diploma (not long after I graduated; I found it) a hilarious and Oh-so- true Matt Groening cartoon “Life in School” on this “programming” we get fed in public schools. It is a Masterpiece; if you can find it; it would illustrate your point EXACTLY.

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