Holistic Education:
An Introduction, Page 3

What do children need to learn?

Children need to develop academic capacities as these are required to live in the modern world. But much more than this is needed, and adults looking at what was required in order to meet the many challenges of their lives and the successes they have had can attest to this. The essential learning that we all need should begin in childhood.

Children need to begin to learn about themselves. The value of "knowing thyself" is so undisputed as to be a cliché, but conveying to children that they are worth knowing about seems fundamental to healthy self-respect and self-esteem.

Children also need to learn about relationships. Relationships are the greatest source of human happiness and misery, yet most children only have the relationships they see in their immediate surroundings (e.g., family, friends, etc.) and on the media (which are usually caricatures and unreal) to learn from. Sociology and child development psychology repeatedly affirms that learning about relationships is acquired and not inherent, and yet the institutions created for children's learning have little to no time nor resources given to helping children learn how to have healthy, productive relationships.

Learning about relationships is sometimes seen as part of social development, which includes pro-social behavior and social "literacy" (i.e., learning to see social influence). As our societies become increasingly pluralist, complex, and fraught, social development becomes more difficult as well as more necessary.

Over the last decade research has demonstrated that emotional development, or what has become known as "emotional literacy," is of fundamental importance. Learning emotional literacy has been shown to be crucial for intellectual development, social development, aesthetic development, and health.

Studies have shown that resilience is not an inherent quality, but one that is learned. Resilience is fundamental to overcoming difficulties, facing challenges, and long-term success in any field. Children must learn resilience.

Finally, children must learn that seeing beauty, having awe, experiencing transcendence, and appreciating those timeless "truths" which have inspired and sustained individuals and cultures are a natural part of life. The mundane and material (while important) have assumed too great a place in modern life, leaving a hunger for meaning that is often difficult to satisfy.

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Contact Information: tel. 503-794-2880, Portland, Oregon, USA.

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

-J. Krishnamurti