The Baby and The Bathwater: Educating the Heart

‎”My hope and wish is that one day, formal education will pay attention to what I call “education of the heart.”” – Dalai Lama

A few weeks ago, I facilitated a workshop of educational leaders. After viewing Sir Ken Robinson’s Animated RSA “Changing Educational Paradigms”, one participant remarked that we should be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” in our quest to improve schools.  His comment was very thought provoking to me. I began to wonder about this “baby”. What parts of our educational system are worth preserving? I have to be honest. I’ve had a hard time coming up with anything.

It’s not that I am completely against the existing system. I just think that maybe we have never gotten the “baby” part right. The fundamental premise behind formal schooling as we know it today, is flawed. We are attempting to pass on knowledge from one generation to the next. We have organized this knowledge into disciplines and we have figured out what pieces of each discipline are most important. We have even decided when each piece should be learned and have developed highly complex systems to measure system effectiveness.

Although highly efficient in some respects, this standards based approach leaves out what the Dalai Lama and others refer to as “education of the heart”.  Instead we have a “baby” who has evolved into a mature system manifesting competition, compliance, standardization and inevitable failure for large groups of people. Those who succeed perpetuate the system creating discord rooted in low self-worth and a have/have-not mentality.  The results of this system are obvious. Just turn on the news and read about bullying, murder-suicides, war, and various other pathologies.

In order to create positive, large-scale, social change, we might consider viewing the baby as a pure, precious light, full of potential. We need the “baby” of education to become more focused on educating hearts. What would that look like in practice? In my world, schools would place continual and deep-rooted emphasis on fostering inner peace in students. Kindness, collaboration, authenticity, appreciation, dignity, openness, true inquiry and love would prevail.

A friend posted the following on Facebook today. It perfectly captures the essence of the missing piece or “baby” in education.  Thanks to Lisa Seed and especially to Koko for visually expressing this essence!

Symptoms of Inner Peace

Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to inner peace and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world

• A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
• An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
• A loss of interest in judging other people.
• A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
• A loss of interest in conflict.
• A loss of the ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom).
• Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
• Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
• Frequent attacks of smiling.
• An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
• An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.

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