Teacher Development Program

This program is currently being developed in Portland, Oregon, in coordination with the planning of our elementary school. In the meantime, you may read An Overview for Teachers, to learn more about the entire field of Holistic Education.


Holistic Education: A Summary

Holistic has a long and distinguished provenance. In the most widely quoted history of Holistic Education1 its origins are traced back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau through the great educators of the last two centuries. Many, however, would trace its origins back to the first impetus in man to develop into the finest and best version of a human being that was considered possible.

At the heart of Holistic Education is the goal of what has been described as Ultimacy, i.e., the finest, greatest, most ultimately developed person possible. For some cultural perspectives this has been a religious objective (e.g., Salvation, Satori, Enlightenment, etc.) while for other perspectives this has been a psychological objective (e.g., Unus Mundus of Jung, Self-Actualization of Maslow, the 'fully functioning human' of Rogers, etc.). In many recent perspectives the religious and the psychological have no clear separation with consciousness being the seat of both religious realization and the psyche. Regardless of the particular notion of Ultimacy, Holistic Education initiatives have held that the objective of education is necessarily Ultimacy and not preparation for earning a living or social enculturation (even though these lesser concerns must be appropriately addressed).2

The learning seen as necessary for Ultimacy is understood to be different in nature to the learning involved in the simple acquisition of knowledge (e.g., acquiring information about love is seen as different from learning to love). As such, Holistic Education has frequently emphasized the importance of different kinds of knowledge, such as 'experiential' knowledge or 'competence.' These different kinds of knowledge are usually seen as involving more of the student than just their brain, and many Holistic Educators from Rousseau onwards have promoted the importance of educating the whole child (all parts), educating the child as a whole (rather than as an assemblage of parts), and educating the child within a whole (rather than thinking the child's education can be understood in isolation from the child's context - family, neighborhood, society, etc.).

The 'experiential' or 'competence' nature of the knowledge that needs to be acquired necessitates different pedagogic processes and different teacher/student relationships than are common in mainstream education. While there have been substantial differences through the history of Holistic Education in the details of these, there is broad consensus. The pedagogic process is generally meant to reveal (through the developing individual interests and understandings of the child) the nature of each child, rather than attempt to shape or mold the child. Consequently, it stands in sharp contrast to the tabula rasa perspective of education. The pedagogic relationship is generally seen as requiring authenticity, empathy and the absence of role playing; engendering mutual respect, understanding and affection. Consequently, Holistic Education claims that coercion and fear destroy the relationship required and are therefore anti-educational. This results in different approaches to questions of authority, assessment, curriculum, the nature of the pedagogic-space, teacher development, and most other aspects of schooling.

While many holistic education school founders will be mentioned such as Montessori, Steiner, and Krishnamurti, it is Holistic Education as a generic form of pedagogy which will be explored.

1 Miller, R. (1992). What Are Schools For?: Holistic Education In American Culture. Brandon, Vermont, Holistic Education Press.
2 Forbes, S. (2000) Holistic Education: A philosophical and sociological analysis. In publication.

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The highest function
of education
is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life
as a whole.

-J. Krishnamurti

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