You might be asking:  Why do I care about this?

My own education is a reason for inspiration.  Why?   I am inspired because in the early days of my educational journey it was mediocre and in later years it became inspiring.  I grew up on a farm in Minnesota in the USA, went to a rural high school, was not asked to work very hard and graduated in a class of 33 students.  I went to college, one of the few students from my graduating class who considered the idea and had the opportunity to do so.  I went to three colleges and seven years later got a BA degree in Psychology.  Seven years is a kind of family record and I’m proud of it.  It took so long because early on I was struck with wander-lust and so could not bear to stay at university for very long at a time.  I studied French in university.  The teaching was not very inspiring but learning the language was.  It is potentially my interest in a foreign language and a realization that it could bring me to the possibility of traveling and living in francophone countries and, hopefully, communicating with people there in that other language that was the reason I stayed with it long enough to graduate.  But overall, these were not inspiring years of education.

In retrospect I can see that using my French language skills to travel and stay in France to live overseas in my twenties was probably the best education I had had to date.  At this stage in my education I come two engaging and fully humanizing educational experiences.

The first inspirational education was the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) Program at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA where I was first a graduate student and then a faculty member for the past twenty years.  This was my first encounter with a truly humanistic education; whole person; learning filled, growth filled.  Experiential in its pedagogy, the program made sense to me and I felt whole and embraced within it.  The School for International Training had its early roots in providing training for outgoing Peace Corps volunteers in the beginning years of that service opportunity.  The education provided was and still is experience-based and focused on the development of the individual on all levels of growth based in a group learning environment.

Patrick Moran, a colleague in the MAT Program, careful thinker and scholar, in remarks at a recent conference, was reflecting on his own young adult years in finding himself in an education that went beyond “training” and was truly formative and life changing.  Moran said after sharing some of his early experiences also as a graduate student at SIT, “these memories came easily to me, mainly because they had to do with moments of awareness and insight. . . they mark the beginnings of my path toward teaching in a different way than I had previous understood, toward teaching that centered on learners, on their experiences and on engagement with their experiences.  These were moments of transition for me.”  Moran described an experience of working with elder teachers, mentors and luminaries in the field of language teaching at that time and his own challenge – to their faces – of the ideas they shared.  And these master teachers’ reactions.  Moran went on to say, “I asked myself:  What kind of teacher can listen without judgment to a student criticizing his ideas?  What kind of teacher welcomes and accepts student resistance?  Something shifted in my thinking, something about students’ feelings.  Something about resistance.  Something about suspending judgment.”

Moran’s reflections and my own mark an important learning experience which was rooted in SIT (http://www.sit.edu) and the unusual and still progressive way in which education is held and fostered there.

A second important experience for me was doctoral studies at the California Institute for Integral Studies (http://www.ciis.edu).  This was another “alternative” and completely inspiring education.  I was encouraged to bring my entire self to the study, to explore my thoughts alongside my experiences, my instincts and intuitions and my spirit and soul.  Every part of me was present at that table of learning.  And instead of feeling “spat” out after completing the degree, I felt energized and enthusiastic.

My husband and I were careful in choosing educational opportunities for our children.  Some of their educations occurred in the USA and some in Botswana and Thailand as they accompanied us on tours overseas.  They ended up, therefore, with some wonderful experiences in their educations until now.  But even with our careful planning and attention and a significant investment of time and money, we and their teachers and, therefore, our children, have sometimes totally missed the mark and education has become for each of them at various times, a violent education in the way that I have already defined it.  No, none of them has ever been hit by a teacher; as has already been made clear, this is not what I am referring to when I talk about violence in education.

When I think about their educations, especially during the teenaged/adolescent years, there was a sense for each of them of biding their time.  I felt it strongly as a parent.  My stepson and daughter were “waiting to graduate”.  They have each felt the sense of “jumping through hoops”.  We have discussed with each of them their sense of being given a limited time in life and how does education make these lives more worthwhile?   I cannot deny, but do not like, the key high school and university trick for survival which is “find out what the teacher wants and then give it to them.  Follow the rules”.

As Seniors in High School my two elder children had serious crises as they tried to navigate the bizarre and disconnected terrain of schooling.  The youngest at age 17 is still in that disconnected terrain and we do what we can for him to come out of it safe and unscathed.  I believe this is an unfortunate truth for many learners in all reaches of the earth.  And I believe that it shouldn’t have to be this way.