Sunday, March 16, 2014

Future Schools and Holistic Education as the Practice of Freedom for Growth through Learning

A Scientific* Rationale for Holistic Education (*in the sense of holistic science)

"Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and human freedoms" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 26,  2).    

What is it to be 'human': The human organism is a social organism with a social brain. The human personality or 'human nature' is a function of the instinctive sense of responsibility to oneself for complete psychological development for humanisation which is a function of moral or 'spiritual' development... development of moral consciousness or 'conscience', an emergent property of brain functioning. Mature rational conscience is the basis for moral responsibility and spiritual insight or 'intuition' of creative social intelligence required for accurate social evaluation ..  creative and thus effective adaptation to changing social conditions... adaptive social behaviour. The system of moral values or 'morality' of rational conscience is required The human capacity for socially adaptive behaviour is a function of the development of the brain's intrinsic capacity for perception of the social reality as a whole. Holistic perception allows for complete cognition which enables the individual to relate to others, initiate understanding and create amicable relations between individuals and social groups. It is this social intelligence which is ultimately required for survival of our species. If development is not completed the individual remains at the egocentric level of consciousness or 'immature'. The immature individual has a dichotomous perception of the social reality ('they' and 'us') which leads to incomplete cognition and lack of understanding.The limited understanding resulting from the limited perception of human egotism translates into our inability to resolve critical human problems.  If immature individuals are in positions of power over others and yet have not reached the appropriate level of understanding, they will make decisions which lead to misunderstandings, conflict, destruction, wars and other so-called 'evils' of human societies. Much of recorded human history involves power politics and power struggles involving the immature reactions and responses of immature egocentric adults who have mature adult powers of influence.

                "The most dangerous members of our society are those grownups whose powers of influence are adult but whose motives and responses are infantile" ( Overstreet. The Mature Mind. 1949) 

  A Holistic Vision: Humankind with its collective egoic mind and its collective psychopathology or 'psychosis' makes it a threat to its own survival. There is urgent need for positive social transformation through individual evolution of consciousness from the basic egocentric level of consciousness to the higher levels of human morality or 'spirituality'. Human spirituality is the 'creative spirit' or 'life force' which emerges with the development of moral consciousness or ‘conscience’ and is thus a function of the natural organic growth process which generates the unfolding of the human personality and guides human evolution. In order to transform our world, we need to recognize and respect human developmental needs, to offer our children an education which provides them with the conditions of freedom which they  need to engage their instinctive motivational needs for growth through learning...  natural process of construction of moral consciousness or mature and rational 'conscience' required for complete psychological development or self-actualisation.  .. and thus to cultivate their potential for  complete humanness...  to develop into complete human beings...  Children are persons to be honored who must be offered a education which aims for their complete human development and so enables them to become  responsible socially balanced adults with attributes of moral intelligence and wisdom of compassion which is required for creative and effective social adaptability. With inadequate conditions of fear and insecurity, moral development is arrested at the consciousness level of the ego-needs for security and self-esteem. The resulting frustration of growth to maturity results in the psychologically immature state of arrested development. The subsequent dysfunctional growth and development or 'neurosis' results in the limited cognition of egocentric perception and the auto-construction of authoritarian conscience which is inadequate for full understanding and effective adaptation.

            "To save us from ourselves we need to give up our attachment to the cultural beliefs which hold back our evolution and surrender to the urgent call of the life force. “  (Ron Miller. Holistic Education: A Response to the Crisis of Our Times)

Human adaptability and survival depend on the accurate perception of reality as a whole or 'holistic reality.' Accuracy of perception is a function of the extent to which one develops beyond the limitations of the ego and its egocentric mode of irrational thought and behaviour patterns. Consequently we can bring about the much needed positive change through individual and collective transcendance beyond ego i.e. 'self-transcendence'. Self-transcendence is a function of the capacity to transcend one's mind made self and relate to one's fellow human beings by connecting to their human core, their humanity or essence through the instinctive emotion of unconditional love which is the power by which we can transform the world. With self-transcendence we are be able to experience unconditional love and so engage in authentic relationship based on the accurate evaluation of self, the 'other' and the world.  We need education for cultivation of creative intelligence and empathy required for effective human adaptability...  education for complete human development (development of the brain/mind) ie. 'whole person education' or 'holistic education'.  In this context it is the responsibility of the educator to facilitate learning in such a way that the individual can perceive the social, political, and economic contradictions in their social environments and then take appropriate action against the oppressive elements in order to be able to think intelligently and effectively and so resolve their human problems. 

        "The greatest danger lies in our ignorance. We know how to find pearls in the shells of oysters, gold in the mountains and coal in the bowels of the earth, but we are unaware of the spiritual germs, the creative nebulae that the child hides in himself when he enters our world to renew mankind." (Maria Montessori The Asorbent Mind 240)

        Today there is a fundamental shift away from the traditional paradigm of education based on the belief that children have to be 'taught' the human values required for social adaptability... a shift towards the new 'holistic' paradigm of education which is based on the understanding that human values are instinctive and therefore biologically based. Holistic education is based on awe and reverence for the inner life of the growing person; the aim of human growth is the fulfillment of the power of moral responsibility or 'self-empowerment'.  Holistic education is concerned with individual freedom which implies social responsibility.  As responsible education' for responsible freedom', holistic education is for the freedom to engage in meaningful learning experiences and to accomplish natural educational goals of human excellence.  Creativity and productiveness or 'work' is positive and meaningful...  has psychological value when it engages moral or ‘spiritual’ development enabled by the conditions of freedom which are required for personality integration or 'integrity' and integration with one's environment. The recognition of the psychological value of work in human psychological development is the basis for the organization of schools for humanity. 

      Whole-person or 'holistic' education aims for optimal human development is a pedagogy of liberation or 'freedom'. The end result of a pedagogy of freedom is the full humanisation of the individual and the society. Holistic education is education for a culture of peace, for sustainablity and for development of morality or 'spirituality' of the human species as a social species. The human species depends for social adaptability and survival on complete psychological development or 'maturity'. The complete human being has an intuitive understanding of the higher moral values... the metavalues  or 'spiritual' values... compassion, truth, beauty, justice, love...  of moral consciousness or 'rational conscience'. Rational conscience... or the 'human spirit' is fundamental to intelligence which is moral and therefore creative, productive and adaptive. Children become morally intelligent adults only if they have been provided with an education which allows for their complete psychological and moral or 'spiritual' development. Adults whose natural developmental needs are suppressed by social conditioning... who are not spiritually developed... do not reach maturity and operate with distorted value systems, unbalanced thought patterns. The resulting dysfunctional modes of behaviour contradict the interests of their own humanity, the humanity of their children and the humanity of the rest of humankind. Holistic education is based on understanding and respect for children's psychological needs, their moral or 'spiritual' needs... the 'metaneeds'...  as well as their  'ego needs' for security and self-esteem. Of primary importance is the need for  freedom in the context of unconditional love which is prerequisite for normal growth and development... freedom to engage in learning or 'work' which is meaningful because it involves intrinsic moral or 'spiritual' motivation for  the development of character as responsibility to oneself for the cultivation of wisdom of intuitive understanding or 'creative intelligence'...  'social intelligence'  Social intelligence is a function of moral or spiritual development.

       Peace, community and true democracy are only possible with the complete development of the uniquely human feature which is the moral or 'spiritual' faculty. Human morality or 'spirituality' enables the individual to be concerned... have empathy...  for the welfare of fellow human beings and promotes the cooperation required for survival of the species. The continued evolution of humanity depends on complete development of moral consciousness or 'conscience' as the human spirit and depends on the spiritual development of human individuals and the societies which they create. Humane individuals create humane societies. We need to understand our collective human problems, social and political,  in terms of education.  We must trust ourselves to trust children as learners who have an instinctive  responsibility to themselves and their growth through learning. They must be trusted with independent study, with challenges, with problems to solve and with appropriate social responsibilities. They will respect the understanding teacher and will respond to respect for their humanity, their intelligence and their natural sense of responsibility to themselves, to their community and to their world. The dysfunctional relationship with oneself and the other leads to irrational fears which translate into the fear based emotions and attitudes which prevent authentic relationship and complete cognition necessary for empathic understanding of the social reality. Inauthentic relationship and incomplete cognition are not only non-adaptive but can be destructive enough to lead to unbalanced behaviour  and human wickedness. The so-called 'evil'  of human wickedness is the result of undeveloped irrational conscience originating in the deprivation of unconditional love which communicates security necessary for spiritual growth as development of rational conscience. In this, way loveless environments contradict the interests of humanity and hinder its capacity for adaptation to changing social conditions i.e. its 'adaptability'.

A question often asked by critics of holistic education: Does holistic education prepare students for today’s world? Many of the problems of the world... our human problems... result from the lack of moral intelligence which derives from over emphasis on competition involving collaboration which is immoral, unintelligent, irresponsible and therefore destructive. Such inadaptive competition is characteristic of the egocentric level of human consciousness and its desire to protect its own self interests. Egocentric and immoral or 'unethical' competitiveness cannot be the way to resolve the problems which it created in the first place. The way to solve our collective human problems is through competition involving collaboration which is  intelligent, responsible, creative and therefore adaptive because it is moral or 'ethical'. Ethical competition is characteristic of the moral or ‘spiritual’ level of human consiousness and its concern for the welfare of others. For this reason, our survival and continued evolution depends on the choice of philosophical paradigm which underlies the education which we offer to our children. We need to implement an educational philosophy which is creative and therefore adaptive because it is based on the need to respect the spiritual nature of the human personality or 'human nature'... to cultivate moral intelligence of moral consciousness or ‘conscience’.  Morality of creative intelligence is a function of the complete development of the personality based on cultivation of the person’s human potential. Education for development of human potentiality is education for development of the person as a whole being or ‘holistic education’. So ‘yes’, holistic education does prepare students for today’s world.

      "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead)