Educate the Whole Child was born when several educators—old enough to remember what public schooling used to be—came to the conclusion that schools in this country had gone off the rails on a kind of wild goose chase pursuing data and accountability. We certainly did not want simply to turn the clock back, but there’s plenty of evidence that education policy makers in their feverish pursuit of test-defined “achievement,” have managed to lose sight of the children themselves. That accountability paradigm is not working.
Instead, let’s have a truly nurturing paradigm, one that draws out individual talents, engages as many of kids’ intelligences as possible, and weaves creativity and initiative into the learning process. If we do this with project-based learning and other approaches, there’s no reason we couldn’t have even better schools than Finland (said by many educators to have the best school system in the world).
We concur with vocal critics of the current system—people like Deborah Meier, Alfie Kohn, Yong Zhao, and Sir Ken Robinson—who want to see a much more creative and less bureaucratic kind of education. Bear in mind that the world these children will inherit is likely to hand them some of the most difficult challenges in human evolution. There are plenty of ways to do whole child education—Waldorf, Montesorri, expeditionary learning, democratic education, Educating for Human Greatness, and others, but you don’t typically find them in American schools. Instead, expect to find standardized curriculum, a compliance culture that saps teachers’ agency and creativity, and a narrow version of success and achievement that turns largely on test scores and admission to college.
Excessive testing is a waste of time, but just cutting back on testing will not solve the problem. It is a symptom of superficial and materialistic thinking. The founders of Educate the Whole Child decided they could make a difference so we started in.
- While we educated ourselves about current practice and alternatives, we set up our website, with useful explanations, examples, and links to resources.
- We networked vigorously with individuals and organizations like the highly respected but now defunct Coalition of Essential Schools, Opt-Out groups, North Dakota Study Group, and others.
- We presented at conferences.
- We wrote articles.
- We began offering college courses for teachers and parents.
- We found and documented publicly funded schools that exemplify whole child practices, and as an extension of that--
- We counter the argument that “In the current climate, this can’t be done,” by certifying public and charter schools that are actually operating on whole child principles.
By these and other means we cultivated a vision of child development that is deeply caring and affirms that the children themselves and their latent potential should be the focus.
Educate the Whole Child is guided by a Leadership Team consisting of:
Elizabeth Lynch—conference presenter with a doctorate in literacy studies, she has taught at the elementary and university levels—New York
Tom McGuire--former teacher, principal, superintendent, professor of education--New Hampshire and Vermont
Chris Nye--former professor and division dean, service learning advocate, foundation officer--Sheffield, MA
Meri Robie-Craven--curriculum specialist, classroom teacher, publisher--Baltimore, Maryland
Organized by topic along the banner:
Lead Photo of two children, Ethan Murrow
Student with flute, Herve Pelletier
[Schools and Resources, see relevant pages.]
Student art in multiple locations: Rushil Murrow, age 11
Schools home page: Tom McGuire
Garcia Elementary, Tom McGuire (upper photo)
(Lower image) Synergy Learning, Inc.
Mission Hill School, Photo provided by the School
City Neighbors, Tom McGuire, Synergy Learning, Inc.
Cover photos and scans, Synergy Learning, Inc.
Student Art, Rushil Murrow