In education today, there’s a quiet but powerful groundswell, a grassroots rebellion against the government-mandated “No Child Left Behind” and Core Curriculum initiatives that have hamstrung teachers, alienated students, and distorted the true purpose of education by preventing children from receiving the best possible experience of school.
The Education for Life philosophy can be stated simply: At school, the single factor that most assuredly promotes deep, engaged, lasting learning is happiness.
Parents are often dumbfounded when they hear the Living Wisdom
School teachers proclaim that a happy, arts-enriched, highly individualized curriculum promotes more efficient learning than the “academically rigorous” curricula offered by other schools.
They are nonplussed by the suggestion that the LWS curriculum gives children a deeper education because the teachers are encouraged to teach principles and review content with each student until they can grasp the concepts before moving on, instead of skimming the surface of the subject matter in an ill-considered rush to demonstrate good test scores.
Young people who are subjected to a one-sided, academically overloaded curriculum are at risk not only of receiving a relatively superficial education; they end up less well-prepared mentally and emotionally to succeed in college. Perhaps most troubling, they are less likely to acquire important personal qualities that are defining among successful people.
One prospective parent, during a visit to LWS, protested, “But these kids can’t be learning — they’re too happy!”
Yet groundbreaking research has confirmed beyond any possibility of doubt that happiness and school success are intimately connected.
What are some qualities that we, as parents and teachers, should encourage in our children to prepare them for success in high school, college, and life beyond?
Aside from the knowledge and skills required to succeed in a profession, surely it’s fair to suggest that there also needs to be a deep wanting to do worthwhile and wonderful things.
There has to be a deep desire, confident self-knowledge, a positive expectation, and an ability to work well with others — and these qualities must be deliberately nurtured. They cannot be imposed from without, nor will they magically appear as a side-effect of good grades and test scores.
These personal qualities, which are highly predictive of career success, cannot be nurtured only by trying to motivate our kids to get good grades.
Any motivation that grades and test scores provide will be superficial and will not touch their hearts. Worse, it may encourage a dependence on external recognition that can never be fully satisfied. After one test, there will always be another.
As will become clear in the chapters that follow, success and happiness come most reliably to those who are focused enthusiastically on the process — who are not postponing their happiness until some vaguely imagined future, but are able to rejoice in the expansion of their powers today.