Holistic education is a relatively new movement, which began taking form as an identifiable area of study and practice in the mid-1980s in North America. It is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning, gives attention to experiential learning, and places significance on “relationships and primary human values within the learning environment.” The term holistic education is often used to refer to the more democratic and humanistic types of alternative education.
- Key historical contributors
- Philosophical framework
- Tools/teaching strategies of holistic education
- Teacher’s role
- See also
- Note on semantics
Key historical contributors
It is difficult to map the history of holistic education, as in some respects its core ideas are not new but “timeless and found in the sense of wholeness in humanity’s religious impetus”.
The explicit application of holistic ideas to education has a clear tradition, however, whose originating theorists include: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Johann Pestalozzi, and Friedrich Fröbel.
More recent theorists are Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, Francis Parker, John Dewey, Francisco Ferrer John Caldwell Holt, George Dennison Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and Paulo Freire.
Many scholars feel the modern ‘look and feel’ of holistic education coalesced through two factors: the rise of humanist philosophies after World War II and the cultural paradigm shift beginning in the mid-1960s. In the 1970s, after the holism movement in psychology became much more mainstream, “an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education – a perspective known as holism.”
In July 1979, the first National Holistic Education Conference took place at the University of California at San Diego. The conference was presented by The Mandala Society and The National Center for the Exploration of Human Potential and was titled, Mind: Evolution or Revolution? The Emergence of Holistic Education. For six years after, the Holistic Education Conference was combined with the Mandala Holistic Health Conferences at the University of California, San Diego. About three thousand professionals participated each year. Out of this came the Journal of Holistic Education.
Any approach to education must ask itself, what is the goal of education? Holistic education aims at helping students be the most that they can be. Abraham Maslow referred to this as “self-actualization”. Education with a holistic perspective is concerned with the development of every person’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potentials. It seeks to engage students in the teaching/learning process and encourages personal and collective responsibility.
In describing the general philosophy of holistic education, Robin Ann Martin and Scott Forbes (2004) divided their discussion into two categories: the idea of ultimacy and Basil Bernstein‘s notion of sagacious competence.
- Religious; as in becoming “enlightened”. You see the light out of difficulties and challenges. This can be done through increased spirituality. Spirituality is an important component in holistic education as it emphasizes the connectedness of all living things and stresses the “harmony between the inner life and outer life”.
- Psychological; as in Maslow’s “self-actualization”. Holistic education believes that each person should strive to be all that they can be in life. There are no deficits in learners, just differences.
- Undefined; as in a person developing to the ultimate extent a human could reach and, thus, moving towards the highest aspirations of the human spirit.
- Freedom (in a psychological sense).
- Good-judgment (self-governance).
- Meta learning (each student learns in their “own way”).
- Social ability (more than just learning social skills).
- Refining Values (development of character).
- Self Knowledge (emotional development).
Various attempts to articulate the central themes of a holistic education, seeking to educate the whole person, have been made:
- In holistic education the basic three R’s have been said to be education for: Relationships, Responsibility and Reverence for all life.
- First, children need to learn about themselves. This involves learning self-respect and self-esteem. Second, children need to learn about relationships. In learning about their relationships with others, there is a focus on social “literacy” (learning to see social influence) and emotional “literacy” (one’s own self in relation to others). Third, children need to learn about resilience. This entails overcoming difficulties, facing challenges and learning how to ensure long-term success. Fourth, children need to learn about aesthetics – This encourages the student to see the beauty of what is around them and learn to have awe in life.
- Curriculum is derived from the teacher listening to each child and helping the child bring out what lies within oneself.
Tools/teaching strategies of holistic education
With the goal of educating the whole child, holistic education promotes several strategies to address the question of how to teach and how people learn. First, the idea of holism advocates a transformative approach to learning. Rather than seeing education as a process of transmission and transaction, transformative learning involves a change in the frames of reference that a person might have. This change may include points of view, habits of mind, and worldviews. Holism understands knowledge as something that is constructed by the context in which a person lives. Therefore, teaching students to reflect critically on how we come to know or understand information is essential. As a result, if “we ask students to develop critical and reflective thinking skills and encourage them to care about the world around them they may decide that some degree of personal or social transformation is required.”
Second, the idea of connections is emphasized as opposed to the fragmentation that is often seen in mainstream education. This fragmentation may include the dividing of individual subjects, dividing students into grades, etc. Holism sees the various aspects of life and living as integrated and connected, therefore, education should not isolate learning into several different components. Martin (2002) illustrates this point further by stating that, “Many alternative educators argue instead that who the learners are, what they know, how they know it, and how they act in the world are not separate elements, but reflect the interdependencies between our world and ourselves”.Included in this idea of connections is the way that the classroom is structured. Holistic school classrooms are often small and consist of mixed-ability and mixed-age students. They are flexible in terms of how they are structured so that if it becomes appropriate for a student to change classes, (s)he is moved regardless of what time of year it is on the school calendar. Flexible pacing is key in allowing students to feel that they are not rushed in learning concepts studied, nor are they held back if they learn concepts quickly.
Third, along the same thread as the idea of connections in holistic education, is the concept of transdisciplinary inquiry. Transdisciplinary inquiry is based on the premise that division between disciplines is eliminated. One must understand the world in wholes as much as possible and not in fragmented parts. “Transdisciplinary approaches involve multiple disciplines and the space between the disciplines with the possibility of new perspectives ‘beyond’ those disciplines. Where multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry may focus on the contribution of disciplines to an inquiry transdisciplinary inquiry tends to focus on the inquiry issue itself.”
Fourth, holistic education proposes that meaningfulness is also an important factor in the learning process. People learn better when what is being learned is important to them. Holistic schools seek to respect and work with the meaning structures of each person. Therefore, the start of a topic would begin with what a student may know or understand from their worldview, what has meaning to them rather than what others feel should be meaningful to them. Meta-learning is another concept that connects to meaningfulness. In finding inherent meaning in the process of learning and coming to understand how they learn, students are expected to self-regulate their own learning. However, they are not completely expected to do this on their own. Because of the nature of community in holistic education, students learn to monitor their own learning through interdependence on others inside and outside of the classroom.
Finally, as mentioned above, community is an integral aspect in holistic education. As relationships and learning about relationships are keys to understanding ourselves, so the aspect of community is vital in this learning process. Scott Forbes stated, “In holistic education the classroom is often seen as a community, which is within the larger community of the school, which is within the larger community of the village, town, or city, and which is, by extension, within the larger community of humanity.”
In holistic education, the teacher is seen less as person of authority who leads and controls but rather is seen as “a friend, a mentor, a facilitator, or an experienced traveling companion”. Schools should be seen as places where students and adults work toward a mutual goal. Open and honest communication is expected and differences between people are respected and appreciated. Cooperation is the norm, rather than competition. Thus, many schools incorporating holistic beliefs do not give grades or rewards. The reward of helping one another and growing together is emphasized rather than being placed above one another.
School movements that incorporate elements of holistic education
- Camphill Schools
- Democratic school and anarchistic free school
- Forest School
- Friends/Quaker Schools
- Krishnamurti Schools
- Montessori School
- Reggio Emilia Inspired Schools
- Waldorf Education (or Steiner Education)
Note on semantics
There is a debate on whether holistic education is connected to the idea of holistic education which is used to refer to education in holistic health or spiritual practices such as massage and yoga. Some educators feel that holistic education is a part of holistic practices, while others feel that they are totally separate concepts.
- ^ Miller, R. (2004)”Educational Alternatives: A Map of the Territory.” Paths of Learning, 20, 20-27. [Online] Available: http://pathsoflearning.org
- ^ Ron Miller, Holistic Education: An Introduction
- ^ a b Robin Ann Martin, Alternatives in Education: An Exploration of Learner-Centered, Progressive, and Holistic Education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April 1–5, 2002).
- ^ a b c d Forbes, Scott H. Values in Holistic Education. Paper presented at the Third Annual Conference on Education, Spirituality and the Whole Child (Roehampton Institute, London, June 28, 1996). 9 pages.
- ^ Ron Miller, 1999, A Brief Introduction to Holistic Education
- ^ Forbes, Scott H. and Robin Ann Martin. What Holistic Education Claims About Itself: An Analysis of Holistic Schools’ Literature. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association Annual Conference (San Diego, California, April 2004). 26 pages.
- ^ a b c d Holistic Education Network[full citation needed]
- ^ Holistic Education, Inc, Home Page[full citation needed]
Equity in Education and Its Impact
Why Equity Is Better Than Equality for the Economy
BY KIMBERLY AMADEO Updated June 12, 2019
Equity in education says that society should provide everyone the basic work skills of reading, writing, and simple arithmetic. It should prohibit discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, or socioeconomic status.
Equity in education has two dimensions. The first is fairness. It means making sure that personal and social circumstances are not obstacles to achieving educational potential. Examples include gender, socio-economic status, or ethnic origin. The second is inclusion. It ensures a basic minimum standard of education for all. For example, everyone should be able to read, write, and do simple arithmetic. The two dimensions are closely intertwined: tackling school failure.
Equity should not be confused with equality. Equity gives each student what he or she needs to perform at an acceptable level. Equality gives each person the same. For example, every school district gets the same level of funding. It’s better than discrimination, but it’s not enough to provide equity.
Education and Wealth
Education is necessary for economic mobility. Americans with college degrees are paid 74% more than those with only high school degrees. This gives them enough to save and acquire wealth.
A 2018 Federal Reserve study found there are three ways education creates wealth. First, families headed by educated parents earn more than those without college degrees. That gives the children a head start in life. They can attend private schools and receive better education themselves.
Second, is the upward-mobility effect. It occurs when a child is born into a family without a college degree. Once the child earns a diploma, the entire family becomes wealthier. The study found it boosted family wealth by 20 percentiles. In families where both the parents and child graduated from college, wealth improved but only by 11 percentiles.
The third is the downward-mobility effect. Children whose parents didn’t graduate from college fell 10 percentiles in wealth. Children with college-educated parents who didn’t graduate college did worse. They fell 18 percentiles in wealth.
The United States Is Slipping
In 2012, 43% of Americans had a university level education. Only Canada, Israel, Japan, and Russia ranked higher.
But the United States is slipping. Other countries are doing a better job of investing in human capital. Among Americans aged 25-34, only 44% have a college-level education. That percentage is better in 11 other countries. Korea tops the list with 66% of its young people having a college education. As a result, fewer than 30% of American adults have more education than their parents.
One reason is that higher education costs more in the United States. According to the College Board, one year of a state school is $20,090 for state residents and $34,220 for out of state students. As a result, 44 million Americans owe a total of $1.4 trillion in student debt. As a result, children from rich families were more likely to attend college. By the early 2000s, the college attendance rate for the richest fourth was 30% higher than for the poorest fourth.
The highly-ranked University of Tokyo costs $4,735 a year. As a result, 50% of Japan’s citizens have a college degree. Many other countries, such as Germany and Denmark, cover the costs of higher education for their citizens. Denmark even pays its students $900 a month to stay in school.
Another reason is that students from high-poverty schools don’t even receive equal
funding. A Department of Education study found that 45% of high-poverty
schools received less state and local funding than was typical for other
schools in their district. Similarly, the states that are wealthier have better education scores. This cycle creates structural inequality.
This inequity in education has increased income inequality in America. Between 1979 and 2007, household income increased 275% for the wealthiest 1% of households. It rose 65% for the top fifth. The bottom fifth only increased by 18%. That takes into account all taxes. It also included all income from Social Security, welfare, and other payments. Since 2007, the rich have gotten even richer. They’ve benefited the most from an increase in stock gains and corporate profits.
Since income inequality has increased, Americans aren’t able to save as much. The U.S. personal saving rate has dropped substantially over the past 50 years. In September 2016, it was only 5.7%. Since 1959, it’s historically averaged 8.4%. It’s become more difficult to save enough to become wealthy.
It’s also created an achievement gap between races. A 2009 McKinsey study found that the average score of black and Hispanic students on standardized tests was two to three years behind that of white students of the same age. It’s cost the U.S. economy more than all recessions since 1970. If there had been no achievement gap in the years between 1998 and 2008, U.S. gross domestic product would have been $525 billion higher in 2008. Similarly, if low income students had the same educational achievement as their wealthier peers over that same period, they would have added $670 billion in GDP.
Eleven Steps to Improve Equity in Education
This Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recommends 10 steps to improve equity in education.
The first four steps improve the design of educational systems. Most schools assign children from an early age to either college-bound or vocational tracks. This often discriminates by gender, race, and income. Instead, the OECD says tracking should be delayed. Second, poor-performers should be given extra training so they can “catch up.” Third, this includes GED programs. Fourth, provide a college education for vocational workers so they can manage in higher-tech manufacturing.
Steps five through seven concern the classroom. The OECD’s fifth recommendation is to stop failing students. Instead, give them intense intervention in specific skill areas. Finland does this, so only 1% of its teenagers can’t read. Sixth, work with parents more to get their support of their child’s school work. If this is impossible, then provide after-school programs for those children. Seventh, help immigrants and minority children attend mainstream schools. For example, give them intense language training.
Steps eight through 10 suggest targeting scarce school funding to those most in need. Step eight is to focus on early childhood education. The ninth recommendation says to give grants to children in low-income families to keep them in school. Step 10 is to set school targets for student skill levels and school dropout rates. Focus resources on those schools with the worst scores.
A University of Michigan study found an 11th solution that was both inexpensive and effective. Researchers sent packets to hundreds of high-performing, low-income high school students in Michigan. It invited them to apply to the University and promised scholarships to pay for all costs. More than two-thirds applied to the university compared to 28% in a control group that didn’t receive the packets.
- How the Educational Achievement Gap Affects Everyone
- How to Get Ahead in the U.S.A.
- Human Capital and How It Shapes America’s Future
- How Structural Inequality Stifles the America Dream
EDUCATIONAL EQUITY 7:7