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Each moment we live never was  before and will never be again.  And yet what we teach children in school is 2 + 2 = 4 and Paris is the capital of France.   What we should be teaching them is what they are. We should be saying: "Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique.   In all the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have  passed, there has never been another child exactly like you. You may become a Shakespeare,  a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel." —Pablo Casals

The quote above is an epigraph from a new report of "the Commission on The Whole Child" published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development entitled The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action  (this is a PDF).  I urge you to keep reading.

For those who do not know about  ASCD it describes itself as "a community of educators, advocating sound policies and sharing best practices to achieve the success of each learner" and consists of "175,000 educators from more than 135 countries and 58 affiliates. Our members span the entire profession of educators — superintendents, supervisors, principals, teachers, professors of education, and school board members."   I am a member of ASCD.

As a teacher I know that what occurs in my classroom is a small part of educating my students, even in my own domain of social studies.  As a music major who teaches government and also coaches soccer, it has always been clear to me that school is about far more that mere intellectual development.  History is replete with examples of the damage done when we develop the intellect and fail to develop behavior, morality, concern for others, physical awareness, and so on.  And in a liberal democracy (for those two words are an accurate description in political science terms of our form of government) we should not be attempting to force all students to be the same - our society is enriched and enlivened by our variety and our differences, and our educational practices should be informed by an awareness of the importance of and respect for those differences.  

I remind people that a few days ago I wrote a diary entitled Imagine in which I argued that given the exact uniqueness of each of us our educational system should reflect that, including in its assessment practices (one reason I have trouble, btw, with our overreliance upon high stakes standardized testing).   At the time I wrote that diary I had not read this report.

Since it is a 36 page PDF that is available for free, I will not make extensive quotations.  But I do want to give a few selections to whet your appetite for its contents.  

The following two selections are from a letter from the Commission cochairs, Stephanie Pace Marshall and Hugh B. Price, and appear on page 6 of the PDF:

  1.  This report frames education within the most fundamental context - the personalized engagement and nurturing of the whole child.
  1.  It describes how the focus on one size fits all education has marginalized the uniqueness of our children and eroded their capacity to learn in whole, healthy, creative, and connected ways.
  1. It offers a new learning compact with our children that rightly puts the children and learning needs within the center of every educational program and resource decision.

    When we commit to educating whole children within the context of whole communities and whole schools, we commit to designing learning environments that weave together the threads that connect not only math, science, the arts, and humanities, but also mind, heart, body and spirit - connections that tend to be fragments in our current approach.
    If the whole child were truly at the center of each educational decision, as ASCD Executive Direct Gene Carter posits (see p. 4), we would create learning conditions that enable all children to develop all of their gifts and realize their fullest potential.  We would enable children to reconnect to their communities and their own diverse learning resources, and we would deeply engage each child in learning.  Finally, if the child were at the center, we would integrate all the ways children come to know the natural world, themselves, and one another, so that they can authentically take their place in creating a better future for all.
    It is time that the United States begin a new conversation about K-12 education by asking, "What is possible now?"  It is our conviction that given what we now know about learning and development, we can do better and we can do more.  And when we can do more, then we should do more."

ASCD has taken a position that academic achievement "is but one element of student learning and development and only a part of any system of educational accountability."    It argues for a combination of elements that "support the development of a child who is healthy, knowledgeable, motivated, and engaged."  (this is from ASCD’s position on the Whole Child which can be found on p. 7 of the PDF).  It sees this as a cooperative effort by communities, schools, and teachers, each responsible for providing part of the necessary context.  A few of the points for each sector (and in each case there are several more):


  • family support and involvement
  • Government, civic, and business support and resources


  • challenging and engaging curriculum
  • a safe, healthy, orderly, and trusting environment
  • a climate that supports strong relationships between adults and students


  • evidence-based assessment and instructional practices
  • rich content and an engaging learning climate
  • student and family connectedness

While I am going to urge people to download and read the entire report (don’t I always encourage you to go to the source and not depend upon my interpretation?  I do try to be a good teacher) I want to give two more summaries of what to expect.

The report will tell you on p. 10 (p. 14 in the PDF) that a whole child is

  • intellectually active
  • physically, verbally, socially, and academically competent
  • empathetic, kind, caring, and fair
  • creative and curious
  • disciplined, self-direct, and goal oriented
  • free
  • a critical thinker
  • confident
  • cared for and valued

Elements of the compact are presented in a graphically rich display on p. 9 (p. 13 of the PDF)for which I give just the text:

  • Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle
  • Each student learns in an intellectually challenging environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults
  • Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community
  • Each student has accessed to personalized learning and to qualified, caring adults
  • Each graduate is prepared for success in college or further study and for employment in a global environment

I have not had time to parse the document in as much detail as I might like.  As with many things, there are points with which I might quibble.  For example, on the last of the points of the compact, for far too many of our young people the economic future we are currently presenting to them has little connection with a global environment:  flipping burgers or greeting people in a Walmart will seem very disconnected from anything global, and as a result may well not provide a motivation to be serious about present and future educational opportunities.  But then, school cannot fix many of the problems of the larger society, and even this statement represents an aspiration, a goal to which we should be dedicated in the belief that we can model our schooling to match our hopes for all of our children and for the society which we will bequeath to them.  We can hope, even against hope.

This diary is not part of the official Education Uprising /Educating for Democracy effort, that is, our efforts for the educational panel(s) at the forthcoming Yearlykos.  But the content is intimately interconnected with the issues with which we have been wrestling in our presentations to you.

I hope that at least a few of you will find this useful, and that this diary will not simply scroll into oblivion with no notice.   But that I leave to the larger community.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 07:45 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  yes this is a tip jar but not because I need mojo (29+ / 0-)

    it exists so that I can urge you once again to look at the report.

    I welcome any comments or discussion.   As usual I had not planned on doing a diary today - after my trip to Atlanta for Educator Roundtable about which I wrote yesterday and will eventually write again, I am buried under with tasks for school.  But when I looked at the report I realized its importance and wanted to make it as widely available as possible.

    If you think so, you might consider passing on a link for this diary to others.

    Oh, and you might even consider posting a comment to encourage others to read.

    And if you think it worthy, recommendations will not be scorned.

    Have a nice day.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 07:47:36 AM PDT

    •  The whole child (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, elfling

      Your comment

      But then, schools cannot fix many problems of the larger society

      is true. The issue is that as more and more of the societal safety nets are abolished, our social problems funnel straight into the schools with no other resources to address them. By default, any reform of the school system must address these problems.

      Children who are hungry or homeless, experience abuse,  are neglected, have behavioral or mental health problems, children whose parents are unemployed, and uninsured children, to name but a few, all come to school. These are issues which impact the whole child. If only just their brains could come to school we could worry about only addressing the learning problems.

      Joy Dryfoos' book, Full Service Schools, has some ideas about how to provide services, either in the schools or through an effective referral system, so that the multiple barriers to learning for children can be removed.

      I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth whenever I please.--Mother Jones

      by bluebrain on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 10:43:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm no fan (7+ / 0-)

    of Ralph Nader, but he had a great story from his past that he's been repeating on the latest book tour.  In speaking of the kind of man his father was, and how important his education was, he tells of a simple question his father asked him one day when dad got home from work:

    "What did you learn in school today, Ralph; what to believe or how to think"?

    This seems to fit with what you're saying here.

    •  oh how I wish all parents would (7+ / 0-)

      aks questions like that.  And how I try to connect with parents, calling at the start of the year, trying to coordinate what I am doing with what is happening in the total lives of their children.

      It is one reason I make a real effort to get to know my kids - what interests them, what their activities are.  It is also why I try to let them get to know me.  

      School should be so much more than how well our children score on external tests.  They can be one indicator, but if that is the sole indicator, one on which we place too much emphasis (as we do), we will lose the generation of children whom we subject to such an approach, and our society will be impoverished as a result.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 07:59:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I will monitor and dialog (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mbair, annetteboardman

    but as noted, I am buried after my trip to Atlanta.  I will not be online as much as normal on a Sunday, as I have planning to do, papers to correct, a guest speaker's visit to arrange, and a number of tasks to do for Yearlykos (for which I see a direct connection with the contents of this diary).

    Do not worry - if you post a comment I promise that I will read, and if appropriate, respond.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 07:56:54 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, Teacherken (4+ / 0-)

    I've downloaded the pdf for reading. I work for a community social services agency facilitating school-based emotional literacy programs for students in grades 2-8. Much of what we do is what I wish was part of every school's regular cirriculum. Unfortunately, I'm only with students for eight weeks at at time. We focus on helping each child understand self-awareness, their own emotions, empathy, respect, anger management, care and concern, media message awareness, differences, teamwork, etc. So any teachers have told me that they, too, wish that the focus on education - especially early education - would be centered around the wholeness of each child rather than teaching to test after test.  I'll be sure to read the report. Thanks.  

  •  Thanks for highlighting ASCD... (3+ / 0-)

    they truly do provide great resources for educators.

    For years, I have appreciated the value of their professional development videos and articles. And, now with the accessibility of the internet, it's even easier for teachers to gain insight from the work they do.

  •  glad at least a few of you saw this (3+ / 0-)

    not a great time to post a diary on education.  I thank those of you who have participated.  

    I am now going to get on with my other tasks for the morning.  I will check back from time to time, but I expect this will now slowly drift down the list.  So be it.

    Peace.  enjoy your sunday - and for those of you so addicted, your basketball games.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 08:17:04 AM PDT

  •  Thanks, TK! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, mommyof3

    I will read the entire document and look at the organization.  I'm getting certified to teach social studies at the high school level and I've found so much information here that has been (or will be) helpful to me.  It's become a huge part of my preparation for my first year of teaching that will start in August.

  •  I am frustrated at the moment (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, bluebrain, mommyof3

    by university faculty who think that learning is limited by the discipline in which they get their PhD.  I wonder where their lack of curiosity and ability (willingness?) to challenge themselves came from.  I have always figured it was at the dissertation-writing stage, but this is starting me thinking about whether it was earlier.  The curious, confident, creative aspects are for some university profs incredibly limited.  Did they get this from earlier education?  From parents?

  •  perhaps after we redesign K-12 schools (5+ / 0-)

    we should redesign the university?

    The model, structure, etc - is also something that may now be anachronistic.  Still, we get things like pressures for majors in particular subjects as a basis for certification to teach that tend to reinforce some of the narrowness of which we both complain.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sun Mar 18, 2007 at 09:06:38 AM PDT

    •  I do think this is appropriate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, FOS

      But if we were to really fling it all open, I am afraid we would end up with testing for degrees (wherever you get the knowledge, there would be national certification, perhaps) and a focus on pre-professional training rather than the learning to think that I hope a university (with its lower level of mandatory hoops) can provide students.  Of course, the best schools at whatever level should teach students to think and it cannot be limited to university as not everyone goes to university and everyone needs to know how to think.

      But on the other hand, the university faculty at many colleges can be incredibly conservative (not politically, but personally -- recreating little me-people is their goal in life).  So a bit of shaking things up is good.  

      The problem is, I think, that real thinking is hard -- it takes energy and time, and to me I can feel it sometimes physically hurting.  I have to push myself when sometimes I don't want to.  That is the dilemna of a teacher, and I hope I am a good one.  I guess this is ending up rambling.  But I am really willing to look at the structure, the anachronistic structure, of eduation, which is based on an agrarian schedule and society.  

  •  the new one room school house. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The problem is and always has been that learning can't be prescribed. It happens when it happens. Schools have always been places that have tried to isolate learning; make it scientific; make it something that you can weigh and measure. Learning never is submissive to these attempts and always has variables that occur that aren't even imagined by the administrators of the prescribed knowledge.
    Schools can't succeed at being all things to all people. Schools could succeed at providing an environment where learning could take place if schools weren't overburdened with everything else now required by law. So, school the physical, has become a large sterile building, characteristic of the community funding it. It usually represents the community of its location but seldom opens its doors to the whole community; its main function has become care of children aged from 3 to 19. Most learning happens elsewhere - probably most learning for the 3 to 19 year olds happens in the electronic world.
    My solution:
    Build a small electronically outfitted building for every 1000 men, women and children throughout our nation. Make learning for learning's sake the goal -  rather than learning for increasing your material wealth. Keep these buildings clean, safe, and up to date with the most current computers and tech. staff. Provide staff that will give these 1000 people an individual and personal education program that the people can see and change as they grow through their lifetime.  Within this building, all of those people will be able to connect to educational facilities throughout the world; they'll be able to identify with people of all ages that share their community; they'll be able to learn when they personally are ready to learn.
    Learning is simple; I love learning; it excites me; it is something that can't be taken away from me; most of my learning has taken place at a time when I needed to know something that I didn't know. Sometimes that happened at school; most times it happened in real world experiences when I had to find the resources available to solve my problem or satisfy my curiosity. The old school has become a baby sitter that has too many babies and not enough personnel for the personal touch that is needed to comfort them. We must have something that gets back to our basic need of personal identity - the new one room school house.

  •  I am a member of ASCD, too... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sorry so late to the discussion!

    The highlights of the report make me feel better about my profession.  I have never bought into the "one size fits all" thing-- and it sometimes causes me issues with upper level administration.  I stick to my guns, though... I cannot teach a class of students reading 2 or more grade levels below "average" at the same pace I teach a class of kids who are identified as "advanced learners."  I would do both classes a disservice if I treated them exactly the same.

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Mon Mar 19, 2007 at 08:15:12 AM PDT

  •  mp3 (0+ / 0-)

    if you don't have time to sit and read the report, there's an
    MP3 of the report available, too (right click the link and save).

    It's a large file, but the recording is in stereo. It's pretty inspiring to listen to.

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