A Reflection on Education

July 27, 2018
Hilary Leighton

I admit I resist much of what passes for education today with its performativity agendas and overt objectivism. Instead, I subscribe to what I consider vital, the kind of curricular practices that linger in an interdisciplinary bog in between human habitat and the wildness of the world, between feeling and thinking, where the domesticated and the wild intermingle and exchange themselves freely and radically. This type of informal, ‘lived’ learning doesn’t come from textbooks and it does not live on the Internet (although instructions on how to experience this more, may). Rather, an ecological (world-knowing) approach to learning includes the whole human and the whole world (in which we are embedded) in relationship. It recognizes that in keeping with our earthy roots, we require fertile and rich ‘soils’ and sweet time enough to grow in order to flourish and blossom in our own wildly, original ways.

I take up the claim that in Western culture in the last four hundred years or so (since the Industrial Revolution), the adoption of a more statistically inclined mentality has allowed us to forget that feelings can be a starting place for learning, rather than an afterthought. I challenge the notion that emotionality and rationality ought to (or even can possibly) be kept separate from each other (or that one is more valuable than the other), and suggest that they need each other as equals to make a more whole-human epistemology.

I reject much of the prevailing tried (tired?) and true teacher-education system with its judicious mechanisms of: reduce, measure and repeat. I reject the current rhetoric of simply ‘getting a degree to get a job’.  Instead, I believe we need to reimagine a less codified, more embodied, nature-based, creative and contemplative discourse that allows human students to be openly understood as unique and as “irregular phenomenon” (Jung, 1957, p. 8), unique and not recurrent, and therefore “can neither be known nor compared with anything else” (p. 8).  I imagine school as a (re)placement or (re)orientation toward where we truly belong if we are being true to ourselves, as a reimagining place for students to realize (and express) themselves in relationship to the living world, in pursuit of a more authentic vocation.

Mathematician and deep ecologist Brian Swimme and cosmo-theologian Father Thomas Berry once wondered if the world had fashioned Walt Whitman in order to feel more of its own poetic grandeur. I cannot help but wonder what the world wants to feel more of through the fashioning of each one of us?  I am hoping this summer residency, with its slant toward being tender with the earth, will guide students to feel more of their own true natures.