UBUNTU: Love Is Evident

by Dr. Stuart Grauer on February 21, 2013

New Yorker Cartoon, Tombstone Epitaph:
“Here lies Frederick Jones:
verbal 680, math 720″

Since it is mostly parents and school friends and alumni reading this, you probably don’t know what comes across my desk as a school head, so I’ll share.  As of late, about half of all these communications are discussing a new curricular model called “Common Core.” The Federal government wants kids all to learn the same things, something we have never had in the history of America. So, the sons of Texas ranchers would get the same stuff as the daughters of, well, in my case, California surfers. Who cares about regional distinctions and place-based-education? The public system would impose a one size fits all education.

Wanna get these guys on the Common Core?:

What about these characters?:


They are out of compliance! They are not following the Common Core at all!

It’s ironic that so many parents and schools push to educate their students for very set, finite goals when we all really know the point of education is to lift people into their greater selves. With the coming around of Federal standards coupled with record overcrowding in American schools, it’s no wonder we are providing an education only “from the neck up.” The best learning occurs “360 degrees.” 360 learning: any time, any place, any path (no matter what your interests), any pace.

When the accreditation team was here from CAIS, one of them commented, “If I hear the word love used any more, I will have to create a new scale.” Do you think love is a part of the Common Core? What if its not? What if The Grauer School is “uncommon core?”

“We are born creative and educated out of it,” noted Sir Kenneth Robinson, educational advisor to leaders all over the globe. There goes Robinson, out of compliance! Imagine in this great land of diversity the basic goal of our educational system is to make everyone the same.

When we’re joyful about our learning we can learn much faster (typically, about three times faster). Buddhists call something like this “beginner’s mind,” the state of mind which is open to possibility (Hey, I caught you thinking it: “Not on the Common Core!”). Will American schools grade students and evaluate teachers based upon their joy for learning? When we talk with our kids, is joy what we are acknowledging, or do we prefer their compliance and commitment to standardized results?

One-dimensional, hurried approaches to schooling also add harsh limits our kids’ lifetime prospects and aspirations, especially when we think of their childhood as “something to be outgrown.” For many years, I have referred to this as “the race to the cubicle.” What are our students outgrowing? Joy? Passion? Sense of ecology?

Research shows that late bloomers do better than early academic performers in college. Why are late bloomers late? Well, they are late bloomers because they have not complied with rigid set of school standards. Kids need sensory, social and creative experiences so they can eventually generate wisdom, not just “smarts.” Could it be that late bloomers are not late at all? I think they are just 360 learners in 180 school systems.  Education is best if it is a slow process of ripening so the brain can broaden and deepen independently rather than obsess to the narrow dictatorial pathways of the lock step Common Core curricular standards.

Likewise, in many schools, the way teachers relate with students often shuts down learning. Teachers essentially entrap their students when they put a fixed grade on student work. Most students cannot upgrade or re-work their assignments. It is against the rules to continue learning.

Where else but school does this occur?! This very blog post has been read by four or five people before you. The best student assessment by far are formative. Formative assessment, a key feature of The Grauer School, engages the teacher in the work with the student so that there is a back and forth exchange. The teacher asks the student for more clarification and development in any parts of the assignment that might benefit from them. Naturally, once teachers get classes that are too big, this is no longer possible. Is your child getting work back from the teacher with the comments of a mentor or, rather, the marks of a judge? If you are a parent at our school, let me know.

When we set up rows in the classrooms focused on the teacher and their standardized expectations, are we preparing students for a workforce where communication is the highest ranked skill and where joy is a legitimate social and economic value? To learn 360, students need to feel something. How can we orchestrate the experiences of kids in classes, in schools, to foster that connectivity and passion?  Students need to feel these social emotions and involve their own sensory systems: their breathing and heart rate slows, their brain activity calms; or, perhaps their sweat glands activate, eye pupils open, and all the autonomic physiological functioning enables them to enter into a basic human relationship. Joy! Love! Pain! Defeat! Neurobiologists are showing that if this personal integration is not happening then the learning will not be applied or perhaps ever remembered very well.  The cortical and subcortical brain is connecting with the socio-cultural-emotional processing going on.  And this is why a real teacher is such a blessing and inspiration. By replacing human connections with the demands for isolated fact skill output, we shallow the moral, aesthetic and ecological development of our brains

African bantu:  the word Ubuntu means that a person becomes a person only through other people. Neuroscientists agree: Human brains and minds are shaped though interaction with other people, through things like connection and love. That is the only common core our many billions of dollars per year our federal educational bureaucracies should be focused on.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon Marmor February 21, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I could not agree with you more. You wrote the words that have been on my mind for a long time.

Sharon Marmor
Sara’s Mom


Morgan February 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Well said Stuart. I appreciate your articles that tap into this vein of thinking, and they encourage me to keep teaching in a way that benefits the students’ overall growth in mind and person, even if that means letting go of some “content knowledge” that is on a list somewhere. I am able to remind myself that what they WANT to get out of a class will stick with them far longer than what I send their way uninvited. Today I had them burning things with converging mirrors, and one student commented “This is my favorite physics chapter by far!” They may not remember the equation, but I think they’ll take the experience with them and appreciate their physical world.


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