THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE CONTROL OF OUR KIDS ! ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?

Urgent action alerts and other information for the homeschool community. This publication is the foundation of the HSLDA E-lert Service and is a required publication for all subscribers.
Recent HSLDA Alerts & Information (ALL)

3/3/2008 Maryland–Calls Needed to Oppose Compulsory Attendance Bills (Number 1)
3/3/2008 District of Columbia–Attend Hearing to Protect Homeschooling Freedom in D.C.!
3/3/2008 California: Unfortunate Court Decision in California
3/3/2008 Virginia–Two Homeschool Bills Head to Governor
2/29/2008 Kansas–Battle Moves to House to Stop Greater State Control Over 6-Year-Olds

More…

Parents: The Tough Decision To Homeschool Just Got Easier

 

Monsanto U: Agribusiness’s Takeover of Public Schools

 

By Nancy Scola, AlterNet
Posted on February 15, 2008, Printed on February 15, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/76804/

I’ve startled a bug scientist. “Yeah, now I’m nervous,” said Mike Hoffmann, a Cornell University entomologist and crop specialist who spends his days with cucumber beetles and small wasps. But he’s also in charge of keeping the research funding flowing at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. What have I done to alarm him? I’ve drawn his attention to the newly released FY 2009 Presidential Budget.

Like more than a hundred public institutions of higher learning, Cornell is what’s known as a “land grant.” Dotting the United States from Ithaca, N.Y., to Pullman, Wash., such schools were established by a Civil War-era act of Congress to provide universities centered around, “the agriculture and mechanic arts.” Congress handed each U.S. state a chunk of federal land to be sold for start-up monies, and for the last 150 years, it has funded ground-breaking research on all things agriculture, from dirt to crops to cattle.

The land-grant system has been, in short, a high-yield investment. The scientific research that has come out of land-grant labs and fields have aided millions of farmers and fed millions of Americans. And the land-grant reach doesn’t stop at ocean’s edge. Oklahoma State, the Sooner State’s land grant, says that the public funding of land-grant research “has benefited every man, woman and child in the United States and much of the world.”

That was until America’s land-grant system met George W. Bush. Tucked into the appendix of his latest national budget is a nearly one-third cut in the public funding for agriculture research at the land grants. The size of the cut is surprising, but not its existence — it’s part of a multiyear drive by the Bush administration to completely eliminate regular public research funding. In a press briefing last week, a USDA deputy secretary illuminated the Bush administration’s rationale for the transition to competitive grant making: “That’s how you get the most bang for the buck.”

Wallace Huffman, an Iowa State agro-economist, is deeply unimpressed with Bush’s “bang” approach to land-grant research. “There’s a sense in the president’s office that you invest in research like you invest in building cars,” Huffman told me last week. Land-grant school officials are similarly skeptical. In a survey, Kansas State argued that the loss of regular funding would upend education. Minnesota complained that cuts would undermine ongoing research projects. North Dakota simply asked, “What is the future of ag research?”

Good question. A reasonable answer? The future of agricultural research at America’s land-grant institutions belongs to biotech conglomerates like Monsanto. And it seems likely that it’s a future of chemical-dependent, genetically modified, bio-engineered agriculture.

In stark contrast to how the federal government and many states are wallowing in red ink, the St. Louis-based Monsanto boasted more than $7 billion in annual sales in 2007 — simply the latest in four years of record-smashing profits. And so when our president says that the time has come for public land-grant institutions to get cracking at “leveraging nonfederal resources,” you can be sure that Monsanto’s ears perk.

But, it doesn’t take a presidential invitation to get Monsanto to sink its roots in the land-grant system. Those roots are already planted. Iowa State’s campus boasts a Monsanto Auditorium and the school offers students Monsanto-funded graduate fellowships on seed policy with a special focus on “the protection of intellectual property rights.” Kansas State has spun off Wildcat Genetics, a side company whose purpose is the selling of soybean seeds genetically engineered to survive the application of Roundup® — the result of a decades long relationship with Monsanto, the pesticide’s maker.

But don’t get the wrong idea about Monsanto’s land-grant activities. By that, I mean, don’t think the company is the only multinational biotech conglomerate firmly rooted in American land-grant soil.

Head on down to Texas A&M. There you’ll find the a chair for the “Dow Chemical Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.” Similar chairs exist at West Virginia State and Louisiana State. The agricultural college of the University of California at Davis is funded in part by DuPont and Calgene.

The University of California at Berkeley’s Plant and Microbiology Department entered into a $25 million/five-year quasi-exclusive research agreement with the Swiss-based Novartis, which then became Syngenta, which now funds the land-grant research group on soybean fungi. In 2005, Purdue, Indiana’s land-grant school, developed an application of the so-called Terminator gene pioneered by Delta Pine and Land Co.; school officials and researchers later took to the hustings when the public resisted the idea of self-sterilizing plants.

But the agricultural industry’s relationship with the land-grant system is not an entirely new development. In 1973, former Texas agricultural commissioner and activist Jim Hightower lamented the situation in his landmark report, Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times: The Failure of America’s Land Grant College Complex.

But the world of agriculture is today a far, far different place than when Hightower wrote.

For one thing, in the early 1970s Monsanto was still a decade away from genetically modifying its very first plant cell. For another, back then the federal government was still committed to providing steady research funding.

And, importantly, it was neither possible nor profitable for our nation’s bastions of higher learning to be players in the global agribusiness. But intervening tectonic shifts in American public policy help us to understand why a public institution like Purdue would fight so darn hard to defend a biotech advance like the Terminator gene: in a manner of speaking, they own the thing.

Jump ahead to 1980, when the U.S. Supreme Court under Warren Burger decided that, as long as they’d been tweaked from their natural state, living organisms from seeds to microbes or Terminator genes could be patented just as if they were a new cotton gin or tractor blade. And in that same year, Congress gave universities a kick towards the marketplace by encouraging institutions to file patent claims on the discoveries and inventions of their faculty researchers — no matter if their work was funded in whole or in part by taxpayer dollars.

The summed effect was that, suddenly, a public institution like Purdue had a great deal of motivation for working with Delta Pine and Land Co. to see if they might make a buck off their biotech invention in the marketplace. What’s more, the policy shift made it so individual lab geeks themselves stood to profit, eligible for a large slice of whatever windfall their discovery generated.

As the biotech industry has since exploded, the impact on the land-grant system is perhaps not unexpected. “Researchers want to be at both the cutting edge of science and the cutting edge of the marketplace,” says Andrew Neighbour, until recently the director of UCLA’s office on the business applications of faculty research. (The entire University of California system functions as that state’s “land-grant institution.”) And so the advent of patentable and profitable plants (and animals, for that matter) has meant a shift in research focus away new knowledge and towards the creation of marketable products.

The land-grant institutions find themselves in a pickle. “On the one hand,” says Paul Gepts, professor of agronomy and plant genetics at UC Davis, schools pushed into the free market have developed the habit of patenting research and found a taste for private business deals. But on the other hand, “they have a public role where the information they produce should be available to all.”

As things stand, “public universities,” says Dr. Gepts, “are a contradiction.”

This embrace of patents and profits means that land-grant agricultural research centers today are not playgrounds of academic collaboration they once were. “Things have changed enormously,” says William Folk, a plant geneticist at the University of Missouri. “When I started in the ’70s,” he recalls fondly, “meetings were filled with people criticizing each other and sharing ideas.” But today, he says “if you have an idea that has any potential commercial value, you’re reluctant to share.”

Not surprisingly, school administrators argue that a negative reading of the cozy relationship between agricultural researchers and biotech corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta is hogwash. When asked, Neal Van Alfen, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, acknowledges that about 20 percent of the $165 million annual research budget is contributed by industry. But Dean Van Alfen is quick to add, “It forms just one part of who we work with.” Research conducted in conjunction with industry interests, he insists, is simply one chunk of “an awfully large amount of work.”

But numbers and percentages don’t tell the whole story, because of the way that industry engages in the land-grant system. In short, they skim. Here’s how it works: (a) federal and state governments hand over taxpayer money to build and sustain the basic infrastructure, without which research can’t hope to take place, then (b) the biotech industry injects some smaller amount of much-needed cash into the system, and then (c) agribusinesses skim off and patent the most promising (and potentially profitable) discoveries that rise to the top.

Still, administrators argue, scientific professionalism keeps industry in check — a researcher who fudges his or her findings to curry industry favor is in for a short career. But that line of reasoning misses the real concern. What’s alarming isn’t that global agribusiness conglomerates like Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont are getting the answers they want from our land-grant entomologists, agronomists and plant geneticists.

It’s that at public institutions, private interests are the ones asking the questions.

What must be kept in mind is that land-grant researchers are generally expected to bring to the table their own research funding, and the situation can already be fairly dire. When UC Davis’ Paul Gepts comments on how his institution’s support is limited to a base salary, I attempt a lame joke: “They give you a desk too, right?” Yes, he responds, but a phone is another matter.

Faculty researchers are so hungry for funding that, says Missouri’s William Folk, “if companies want to entice researchers to work on their projects, all they have to do is wave a bit of money.” “The availability of funds, he says, “makes an enormous difference in what we can do.”

“We’re opportunists,” Folk says, with compassion, of himself and his fellow researchers, “we go after money where it might be.”

When it comes to how industry-university relations shape academic research, UCLA’s Andrew Neighbour is the person to talk to. While an administrator at Washington University in St. Louis, Neighbour managed the school’s landmark multiyear and multimillion-dollar relationship with Monsanto. (Note: WashU is a private institution.) “There’s no question that industry money comes with strings,” Neighbour admits. “It limits what you can do, when you can do it, who it has to be approved by.”

And so the issue at hand becomes one of the questions that are being asked at public land-grant schools. While Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, et al., are paying the bills, are agricultural researchers going to pursue such lines of scientific inquiry as “How will this new corn variety impact the independent New York farmer?” Or, “Will this new tomato make eaters healthier?”

It seems far more likely that the questions that multinational biotech conglomerates are willing to pay to have answered run along the lines of “How can we keep growing our own bottom lines?”

I put it to Dr. Folk. “The companies are there to make money, no doubt,” he responds.

What suffers for falling outside the scope of industry interest? Organic farming, for one. The Organic Farming Research Foundation was founded in the 1980s after, Executive Director Bob Scowcroft tells me, farmers interested in weaning themselves from chemical dependence approached their local land-grant outreach agents for help for pest management. As Scowcroft tells it, their advice was invariably in the spirit of, “Well, sure, I can tell you what to spray.”

OFRF began arming land-grant researchers with modest grants but found that academics interested in conducting organic-related research faced obstacles beyond funding.

“Coming out of the organic closet could be the beginning of the end of your career,” says Scowcroft. Looking outside biotech agriculture is, he says, “like throwing 30 years of the Green Revolution in your boss’s face.” Today, says John Reganold, an OFRF grantee and apple researcher at Washington State University, academics interested in organic farming “just don’t have the money to do what we need to do.”

Also the subject of minimal industry attention: so-called orphan crops, like sorghum and cassava, which feed millions of people in the developing world but aren’t considered patentable or profitable. UC Davis’ Paul Gepts is working to breed a disease-resistant variety of the East African common bean, an important protein source for AIDS sufferers. He’s turned to an English charitable group for funding, and all involved have agreed to resist patenting the plant — once a useful variety is developed, the science will be left in the public domain.

While it’s clear that funding cash is the carrot used by agribusiness to entice researchers into asking the questions industry is most interested in having answered, there is a stick involved: corporately held patents used to block them from asking others.

That’s certainly been Paul Gepts’s experience, when he thought he might tackle the question of gene transfer in Mexican maize varieties. The question, though, is a sensitive one for Monsanto, as one of the arguments against transgenic crops is the difficulty in containing their spread — raising the specter of a threat to the world’s biodiversity. As the maize he was interested in was patented by Monsanto, Gepts asked the company for some samples. Their response: no way.

When I asked Gepts for his take on Monsanto’s motivation for the refusal, I hadn’t yet finished the question when he answered: “Avoiding scrutiny,” he said. Missouri’s Folk seconds the contention that such private claims on science impede research, saying, “Our ability to do science is constrained by the patents held by agribusiness.”

All this said, it’s not fair to say that there hasn’t been resistance against public land-grant schools mutating into institutions of private science. After Novartis had become involved in UC Berkeley’s Department of Plant and Microbiology, the school ordered an internal review by the academic senate, which ultimately deemed the relationship “a mistake.” Lawrence Busch, a Berkeley faculty member who headed the review said at its conclusion: “I think it is high time for serious discussions of what the devil we want our universities to be.”

When Mike Hoffmann — the Cornell entomologist I startled by sharing Bush’s proposed budget cuts — recovers from his shock, he offers his take on “what the devil” our universities should be. The principle that should guide Cornell, Berkeley, Missouri and our other land-grant institutions is simple, he says: public funding for the public good. The mission of America’s centers of agricultural learning is, he concludes, “to produce new knowledge for the public benefit. That’s why we have the land-grant system, and I think it’s pretty important.”

Nancy Scola is a Brooklyn-based writer who has in the past served as the chief blogger at Air America, an aide to former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, as he explored a run for the presidency, and a congressional staffer on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/76804/

FAMILY LEADERS CALL ROMNEY A DISASTER

Family leaders call Romney ‘disaster’ : Letter criticizes ‘deceptive rhetoric’ around candidate —
© 2008 www.WorldNetDaily.com

Mitt Romney

A coalition of leaders on family issues has released a letter warning about what they describe as the deception being assembled around former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“Most of us are not allied with any presidential candidate,” the letter says. “But we are troubled by the unethical and Orwellian cover-up of Mitt Romney’s role in catastrophic events in Massachusetts, once the cradle of American liberty.

 Read the rest at:  http://www.punditreview.com/2008/01/03/a-stern-warning-to-the-%E2%80%9Cconservative-elites%E2%80%9D-about-mitt-romney/

HOLISTIC SCHOOLING

19ma1.jpg19ma1.jpg

Some Thoughts on Holistic Curriculum

Published in Encounter, Vol. 19, No. 3, Fall, 2006.

It was originally presented at the VIIth International Conference on the New Paradigms, Guadalajara, Mexico, in November, 1999.

The emergence of a postmodern civilization, with its many unsolved economic, technological, moral, and ecological problems, is a global phenomenon. The degradation of the earth affects us all. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of transnational corporations and their elite managers affects us all. Our amazing new powers to manipulate information, communication, consciousness, and the genetic structure of life ultimately touches every one of us, often in deeply troubling ways. As Jeremy Rifkin (1987) warned several years ago, this new global civilization threatens to fundamentally alter the relationship between the human being and the world. Everything that exists, everything our lives depend upon — food, water, land, knowledge, language, time, health, and consciousness itself — everything is being turned into a commodity. Someone — more likely, some vast impersonal corporation — owns everything we need and will sell it to us to make a profit. Everything is measured, packaged, or redesigned to make it more attractive or convenient. This new culture is now spreading around the planet; it is rapidly becoming a vast global monoculture.

Throughout human history, most people have earned their livelihood by engaging in physical labor, doing tangible work that produced whatever food, clothing, shelter, and security they could obtain. People’s lives were regulated by the physical and biological environment: the climate, the terrain, the length of the day and season, the availability of resources. Their lives were given meaning by these tangible and vital connections to the world. By contrast, in this emerging postmodern society, millions of people sit for most of the day — and often during the night — gazing at computer screens and tapping on little buttons. By manipulating artificial electronic images, in complete isolation from the real physical and biological world, vast amounts of wealth are moved from region to region, from one nation to another, affecting the lives of millions and millions of other human beings and the habitats of thousands of plant and animal species. A growing number of people now have tremendous power, amplified by sophisticated technologies, to manipulate, control, alter, and seriously damage the biosphere. But because they are disconnected from the natural world and local communities and the primary sources of their food and wellbeing, they do not seem to have the ethical or spiritual sensitivity to use this power wisely, sparingly, or for the good of the whole.

We have reached a point in history where it is possible to alleviate the grosser forms of suffering. This is wonderful! It is a great achievement of the human mind and spirit. But now we need to ask why these new powers are not being used on behalf of all humanity and to preserve the sanctity of life on earth, but primarily to help those who are already excessively wealthy and powerful become obscenely wealthy and powerful. The arrival of this brave new world, this “new world order,” compels us to make a fundamental moral decision: Shall we continue to celebrate, indeed worship, the utilitarian, manipulative style of thinking that made global industrialization possible? Does it still serve us well? Or has it outlived its usefulness? Is it possible that it might be a tremendously destructive mistake to continue to treat the world entirely as a resource, as fuel for the omnivorous economic machine we have built? Is it possible that we must now tame and humanize the machine before we destroy the earth and ourselves with it?

Holism is a response to this possibility. Holistic thought is an attempt to reclaim the sense of connection to the world that utilitarian manipulation and advanced technology have steadily eroded and now, by the dawn of the twenty-first century, nearly wiped out. Holistic thinkers believe that essentially, by nature, the human being requires a sense of connection to the world. Our experience needs to be meaningful to us or else our lives are unfulfilling, no matter how comfortable we make them through material wealth or political and economic power. To the extent that people simply seek to enjoy whatever comforts and luxuries they can gather, even if they have gained them at the expense of other people and other living beings, then to that degree they are so much less human and act like merely clever animals. Every religious tradition, every mythology, many ethical systems, and much of our great dramatic literature, condemn this way of living as morally inadequate, psychologically deficient, or explicitly subhuman. Human life is fulfilling and meaningful only when we experience ourselves as being connected to the world — connected to the land, to a cultural heritage, to a living, striving community, to archetypal spirits and images, to the Cosmos as a whole.

The danger of our time is that in our cultural worship and personal pursuit of comfort, security, wealth, and power, we have become disconnected from these sources of meaning. By learning how to control virtually every aspect of the world, we no longer know how to dwell in its mystery. We seek to alter, improve, or commodify everything, and therefore we cannot see the world’s intrinsic beauty, discern its inherent patterns, or hear its spiritual secrets. Meaning is no longer found through the soul by dwelling in the world with reverence, but imposed by the calculating mind, which assigns everything a value or a utilitarian purpose.

All of the leading holistic thinkers identify the crisis of our time as an epistemological crisis. We are not arguing against technology as such, or against capitalism in itself. We are saying that underneath our political, social, and economic arrangements, the way modern culture defines and understands reality itself is faulty, and this flawed way of knowing gives rise to distorted, we might even say cancerous, forms of technology and economic organization. Educational philosopher Douglas Sloan (1983, 24) refers to this as a “technicist” way of knowing. David Orr (1994, 33), one of the leading theorists of environmental education, attacks what he calls “technological fundamentalism.” Other holistic writers commonly identify “reductionist” or “mechanistic” ways of thinking and knowing as the primary problem of our civilization. All these terms point to the utilitarian, manipulative, objectivist, and overly rational ways of treating the earth and the life that inhabits it. So long as a culture sees only economic value in the world and pursues material abundance and comfort with no sense of restraint or regulation, that culture will be blind to the more genuine sources of meaning that connect the human soul to the Cosmos. David Orr (1993, 33) identifies just what is missing in our distorted world view. “We need decent communities,” he says, and

good work to do, loving relationships, stable families, the knowledge necessary to restore what we have damaged, and ways to transcend our inherent self-centeredness. Our needs, in short, are those of the spirit; yet, our imagination and creativity are overwhelmingly aimed at things that as often as not degrade spirit and nature.

This is to say that our considerable powers of intellect have served primarily to disconnect us from the world. Modern systems of education have fed these powers well, training young people how to gain knowledge over the world, knowledge at the expense of feeling, information without wisdom, facts without moral discernment. In the United States in recent years, technocrats in state after state have successfully forced educators to focus more and more narrowly on what they call “standards” — arbitrary packages of intellectual content that have little to do with deep understanding of the world but which give the technocrats useful data for evaluating and sorting students objectively. The increasing standardization of learning prepares young people to act aggressively, cleverly, and resourcefully in the job market and the competitive corporate world. It contributes little or nothing to decent communities, loving relationships, or ways to transcend self-centeredness. Holistic education is essentially concerned with these basic sources of meaning, and seeks above all to reconnect each person to the contexts within which meaning arises: the physical world, the biosphere, the family, the local community rooted in a history and a place, the culture with its many layers of meaning — artistic, religious, linguistic, archetypal — and the Cosmos itself.

How does holistic education connect people to the world? What is a holistic “curriculum”? Let me be very clear about this: There is no single method or technique for practicing holistic education. There is no “curriculum,” as modern educators use the term, that best represents a holistic worldview. To understand the meaning of holistic education, we need to recognize two principles: First, an education that connects the person to the world must start with the person — not some abstract image of the human being, but with the unique, living, breathing boy or girl, young man or woman (or mature person, for that matter) who is in the teacher’s presence. Each person is a dynamic constellation of experiences, feelings, ideas, dreams, fears, and hopes; each person reflects what Asian traditions call karma — a meaningful pattern of influences, actions, and thoughts that shape one’s possibilities if not one’s destiny. And as all holistic educators have emphasized, each growing child unfolds this cluster of possibilities through distinct phases of development, and at each stage the child needs the right kind of support, the right kind of environment, in order to move securely to the next. Maria Montessori (1963, 69-70) said it simply, “Follow the child!” Following the child is the true beginning of holistic education. An education that starts with standards, with government mandates, with a selection of great books, with lesson plans — in short, with a predetermined “curriculum” — is not holistic, for it loses the living reality of the growing, learning, seeking human being.

The second principle of holistic education is this: We must respond to the learner with an open, inquisitive mind and a loving heart, and a sensitive understanding of the world he or she is growing into. Now, this is indeed the hard part! A holistic teacher cannot be a technician, administering a series of workbook exercises or performing a script he or she learned in a teacher training program. A holistic teacher is acutely sensitive to the student’s needs and, at the same time, acutely aware of the challenges and possibilities the world offers this person at this moment and in this place. How does the teacher act on this awareness? Again, there is no simple answer. We must constantly recognize the dialectic, the tension, between liberation and accommodation. In holistic education we want to free every individual to find his or her own destiny, to think and feel and do whatever he or she finds most meaningful and fulfilling; yet at the same time, we bring to our students the awareness that the world makes its own demands, and that for many complicated reasons of psychology, ecology, culture, history, politics, and many other factors, no one is totally free to follow one’s impulses and desires. Meaning arises from the reflective engagement between person and world, and the holistic educator’s job is to facilitate this meeting, to help it become more reflective, to help it touch deeper parts of the learner’s soul. The growing individual takes the world into his or her experience, incorporates it, assimilates it, responds to it. This is what I mean by connection. The student comes to feel that he or she belongs in the world, and shapes his or her purposes accordingly, in relationship to it, in dialogue with it.

Holistic education does not simply instruct young people about what is true and what is false, what is correct and what is mistaken; holistic education enables the learner to inquire “What does this mean?” How is this experience, or this fact, or this advertising message related to other things I know? If I act on my understanding, how will that affect other people, or the habitat of other living beings?” Holistic education teaches young people how to care about the world, because we care about the world, and we care about our students. Nel Noddings (1992, 36), one of our wisest educational theorists, has written that “kids learn in communion. They listen to people ho matter to them and to whom they matter. . . .Caring relations can prepare children for an initial receptivity to all sorts of experiences and subject matters.” To learn in communion means to experience connection. Other people matter; their lives mean something to the learner. The natural world matters. Cultural heritage, social responsibility, and ethics matter. A person educated in this way would not take actions that violate the integrity, rights or feelings of those who contribute so essentially to one’s own identity.

Over the years I have studied many forms of alternative education, from Montessori and Waldorf pedagogy to free schools and homeschooling, from progressive education to critical theory. There are significant philosophical differences between them, but the most critical difference, I believe, is in how they define the relationship between freedom and structure. Some radical educators, such as A. S. Neill and John Holt, have told us that learning ought to take place in an entirely free manner. No one should tell another person what or how or when he or she should learn. Every child should be free to play, to explore, to experiment, to ask questions. Education springs organically from a child’s interests and natural curiosity; there is no need for artificial structure. On the other hand, other educational pioneers, such as Montessori and Steiner, insisted that the growing child needs a particular environment, carefully planned and aesthetically designed, in order to activate and support the potentials latent at each stage of development. On the surface, these views seem to cancel each other out: Either we give children maximum freedom or we don’t. Either we let them explore the world freely, or we tell them what they need to learn. In my view, however, holistic education transcends this dilemma, by finding value in both points of view. The two fundamental principles of holistic education work together in dynamic balance:We start with the child, not abstractly but in reality — with the living child. But then we respond to the child, guided by a sensitive awareness of the world. The issue is no longer freedom against structure, but freedom in a dialectic relationship with structure, or the individual person in meaningful dialogue with the school, or with society. The student is not constrained by alien forces, but gladly participates in a structured world to which he or she feels connected.

In this sense, a holistic “curriculum” is not a pre-established plan that the teacher brings to the classroom. Curriculum emerges from the interactions between teacher, student, and world. This idea — emergent curriculum — is one of the revolutionary concepts to come out of the progressive education movement. John Dewey (1964) wrote a century ago about the organic relationship between child and curriculum, and although he is not widely regarded as a founder of “holistic” education, no one has written more wisely about this relationship. As the child grows out into the world, his or her experience grows deeper; connections are made and become more meaningful. Education starts with this process of growth; it respects the quality of this experience, and it facilitates these meaningful connections. A holistic curriculum is a growing-young-person-in-relationship-with-the-world. The curriculum is not outside the student, but the student does not completely determine the content of the educational process either.

You might wonder, isn’t there anything that a holistic educator would want to make sure to include in the child’s learning experience? Even if we confidently assume, based on experience, that in the course of a student’s meaningful discoveries he or she will adequately learn the so-called basic academic skills — writing, reading, and arithmetic — there are surely other skills or values that we believe to be important. David Orr, for example, has written eloquently about the desperate need for ecological literacy — an understanding of our interdependence with all living beings and the earth as a whole. In recent years, many holistic educators have embraced the notion of emotional literacy, as proposed by psychologist Daniel Goleman (1994) and others, meaning a person’s ability to recognize and manage one’s own inner life and behavior in constructive ways, and to solve conflicts peacefully. We also talk a great deal about social responsibility, and want our students to think critically about social, political, and economic problems, as Paulo Freire urged so passionately. But, are all these educational goals best considered as aspects of a “curriculum”? Should they be fashioned into “units” or lesson plans (let alone “standards”) and presented to students as subject matter? I want to say no. I want to see them as reflections of our moral sensitivity as educators, rather than as static bodies of intellectual content. We bring ecological literacy, or emotional literacy, or social responsibility to our students through our own presence to them, our own way of being with them. If we are deeply concerned about the ecological crisis because we care about life on this planet, this concern and this caring will enter the educational dialogue with our students. Asking a school, or the local board of education, or the state government, to add our favorite causes to the curriculum will not result in meaningful, transformative learning for students if the teachers who administer this curriculum do not themselves care about these things.

Similarly, young people learn Shakespeare from teachers who are passionate about Shakespeare, and they learn chemistry from teachers who love science. It is not the curriculum that teaches them, it is the living reality of their teachers. This is just what Nel Noddings meant by saying that “caring relations” prepare students for academic receptivity. In holistic education, academics are secondary to human relationship. Curriculum is secondary to connection, or direct experience rooted in caring.

We should look closely as several words that holistic educators often use to point toward wholeness and connection. These words are soul, spirit, and Cosmos. I have always insisted that holistic education is distinguished from other progressive or alternative pedagogies by its spiritual orientation, but it is never easy to explain what this means. When we say that the human being has a soul, we are suggesting that some vital creative force animates the personality. The sophisticated sciences of biochemistry, neurology, and even genetics cannot explain this force: When they try to contain it within the boundaries of their disciplines they are committing reductionism. Instead, to recognize the wholeness of the human being requires us to acknowledge that our minds, our feelings, our ambitions, our ideals all express some living force that dwells mysteriously within the core of our being. We cannot locate it physically; it is a nonmaterial reality, an invisible reality. Science, at least, conventional science, doesn’t know how to approach it. But poets and mystics do. Like them, holistic educators treat the soul with reverence. In many contexts, the word “spirit” means something supernatural, something so foreign to our understanding that we make up an imaginary world to give it a home. But for holistic thinkers, having a spiritual perspective does not mean voyaging to supernatural realms or maintaining a blind faith in religious imagery. Spirituality can take religious forms, of course, and many people, including many holistic educators, have found inspiration in these forms. But just as the experience of inspiration is not the form, the experience of spirituality is not the same as religion and can exist independently of it. As I understand it, spirituality is a living awareness of the wholeness that pervades the universe. It is the realization that our lives mean more than material wealth or cultural achievements can provide; our lives have a place, a purpose in the great unfolding story of Creation, even if this story is so vast and so mysterious that we can only glimpse it briefly through religious practices or fleeting moments of insight.

Finally, when I use the word “cosmos,” the root of the word cosmology, I am trying to suggest that the universe is not merely a vast collection of stars and galaxies that we can study through telescopes, but an interconnected whole that encompasses everything that exists and everything that can exist. Cosmology is an attempt to understand this wholeness, to provide an intellectual framework for the intuitive knowledge that everything we know is connected to everything else we know. Beyond these few words — soul, spirit, cosmos, and wholeness — I am speechless. The Tao which can be named is not the eternal Tao. It is a mystery. Let’s leave it at that, and hold it in reverence.

So now I hope it is clear why I think it is futile to design a holistic curriculum. If the goal of holistic education is connection, then we are ultimately dealing with the soul, with spiritual experience, and with the unfathomable meaning of the Cosmos. We are trying to help our young people find a place deep within themselves that resonates with the mystery of Creation. And it is only when we, as educators, look deeply within ourselves and strive to embody wholeness in our own lives, that we will inspire our students to do the same. Our lives make up the curriculum. Let us work on ourselves, and our lesson plans will take care of themselves.

Holistic education, then, is a pedagogical revolution. It boldly challenges many of the assumptions we hold about teaching and learning, about the school, about the role of the educator, about the need for tight management and standards. Holistic education seeks to liberate students from the authoritarian system of behavior management that in the modern world we have come to call “education.” But ultimately holistic education is far more than radical pedagogy: It is an epistemological revolution as well. It demands that we take a hard look at the foundations of the emerging global capitalist culture — the “technological fundamentalism,” the worship of money, the assumption that the world is merely made of lifeless matter that is ours to manipulate and consume. This new paradigm, this new epistemology we call holism, challenges our addiction to violence, exploitation, and greed. When we embrace wholeness, when we recognize that the Cosmos is the ultimate source of meaning in our lives, then we will design not only educational institutions, but social, political, and economic institutions, dedicated to the nourishment and fulfillment of all human beings and the preservation of the ecosphere. To establish this profound connection to the world is to experience an incorruptible reverence for life.

References
Dewey, John. 1964. The Child and the Curriculum. In John Dewey on Education: Selected Writings, edited by Reginald D. Archambault. New York: Random House. (Originally published in 1902).

Goleman, Daniel. 1994. Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Orr, David. 1994. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

Montessori, Maria. 1963. The Secret of Childhood. Calcutta: Orient Longmans.

Noddings, Nel. 1992. The Challenge to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Sloan, Douglas. 1983. Insight-imagination: The Emancipation of Thought and the Modern World. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Rifkin, Jeremy. 1987. Time Wars. New York: Holt.

Ron Paul supports HOME SCHOOLING

 Don’t think for one sec the others do….they aren’t even talking about it.

I AM A LIBERAL DEMOCRAT, PROBABLY VOTING FOR RON PAUL.

The Democrats have made me cringe for the last time. I can’t stomach them any longer.

The issue is MY CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS and HOMESCHOOLING.

And no thanks to your evil experimental vaccines for my kids either.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL !

 

Home Schooling

My commitment to ensuring home schooling remains a practical alternative for American families is unmatched by any Presidential candidate.

Returning control of education to parents is the centerpiece of my education agenda. As President I will advance tax credits through the Family Education Freedom Act, which reduces taxes to make it easier for parents to home school by allowing them to devote more of their own funds to their children’s education.

I am committed to guaranteeing parity for home school diplomas and advancing equal scholarship consideration for students entering college from a home school environment.

We must have permanency in the Department of Defense Home School Tier 1 Pilot Program, providing recruitment status parity for home school graduates. I will use my authority to prevent the Department of Education from regulating home school activities.

I will veto any legislation that creates national standards or national testing for home school parents or students. I also believe that, as long as No Child Left Behind remains law, it must include the protections for home schoolers included in sec. 9506 (enshrining home schoolers’ rights) and 9527 (guaranteeing no national curriculum).

Federal monies must never be used to undermine the rights of homeschooling parents. I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to encourage a culture of educational freedom throughout the nation.

NYT: SCHOOLS FAILING (Time for Home School)

October 16, 2007

Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S.

 Standard

LOS ANGELES — As the director of high schools in the gang-infested neighborhoods of the East Side of Los Angeles, Guadalupe Paramo struggles every day with educational dysfunction.

For the past half-dozen years, not even one in five students at her district’s teeming high schools has been able to do grade-level math or English. At Abraham Lincoln High School this year, only 7 in 100 students could. At Woodrow Wilson High, only 4 in 100 could.

For chronically failing schools like these, the No Child Left Behind law, now up for renewal in Congress, prescribes drastic measures: firing teachers and principals, shutting schools and turning them over to a private firm, a charter operator or the state itself, or a major overhaul in governance.

But more than 1,000 of California’s 9,500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing. Barring revisions in the law, state officials predict that all 6,063 public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading.

“What are we supposed to do?” Ms. Paramo asked. “Shut down every school?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/16/education

My advise:  Home School. Now.

JAMA STANDS AGAINST MANDATED HPV VACCINE

Medical journal sides with HPV scientist

 

CHICAGO — An editorial May 2 in what is considered the Bible of the medical profession vindicates a researcher who told this newspaper months ago that mandating the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for young girls is “a great big public health experiment.”

The vaccine, Gardasil, offers protection against four of the more than 100 known HPVs, two of which scientists believe cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

Last week, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) took a public stand against legislation to mandate this vaccine. The article, “Mandatory HPV Vaccination: Public Health vs. Private Wealth,” was co-authored by Chicago-based JAMA editor Dr. Catherine D. DeAngelis and Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown University professor Lawrence O. Gostin. Gostin specializes in public health law.

Declaring it unethical to rush into mandates, the authors accuse Gardasil’s manufacturer, Merck & Co., of putting profits ahead of the safety of the 2 million girls and women in the U.S. who, if it were mandated, would receive the vaccine before the long-term effectiveness and safety of it had been determined.

(This blog author believes there is a deeper evil than just money at work)

Pointing out that the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of the vaccine was conditional upon Merck agreeing to further test the safety and effectiveness of it, the JAMA article says, “Making the HPV vaccine mandatory contributes to long-standing parental concerns about the safety of school-based vaccinations.”

In fact, legislating the vaccine now “could have the unintended consequence of heightening parental and public apprehensions about (all) childhood vaccinations,” the article adds.

The article also questions how vaccine recipients would be compensated in the event of their suffering adverse effects from it, since some courts may determine that the manufacturer would not be liable if the states mandated it.

The article also admonishes Merck, which could rake in billions of dollars from a mandated vaccine, for financing efforts to persuade states and public officials to mandate it. “Private wealth should never trump public health,” the article says.

Vindicated

Until the JAMA article came out, Diane Harper, a physician, scientist and professor at Dartmouth University Medical School in New Hampshire, who spent 20 years studying the virus and helping to develop a vaccine for it, had stood virtually alone among her peers in denouncing efforts to mandate the vaccine.

When she first interviewed with this newspaper, she said she’d tried to convince major print and broadcast media to “tell the whole story” about the vaccine and why she, as a lead researcher on it, believes it is premature to mandate it.

“But no one would listen,” she said. She said she was speaking out with this newspaper because “it was the only one willing to listen to the whole story.”

Answering questions by e-mail, Gostin said he was aware of Harper’s concerns. (DeAngelis sent word through an aide that she was unavailable for an interview.) He and DeAngelis were motivated to write the editorial, Gostin said, because of the states’ rush to mandate the vaccine before all of the safety and effectiveness data were collected and analyzed.

In place of mandates, Gostin’s and DeAngelis’ JAMA article encourages public education about HPV and routine, voluntary vaccination as part of a comprehensive package aimed at preventing the infection. It also suggests that a young girl’s assent to being vaccinated is as essential as her parents’ consent.

“As for work with the states, it is important to stress that the vaccine is an important public health innovation, but it is necessary to move carefully and deliberately, taking a science-based approach,” Gostin said in his e-mail. “I think that mandatory vaccination has its place, but should be a last resort only if it is clear that it would be safe, effective and in the public’s interest. That standard has not yet been met with HPV vaccination.”

Relieved

Tuesday, Harper was at a national conference of gynecologists in San Diego when she learned of the JAMA article. Acknowledging that she’d experienced some backlash because of her views — but declining to go into specifics — Harper said she felt relieved and excited that a publication as prestigious as JAMA was basically vindicating her and validating her views.

“I’m glad we are starting to get clarification in our communications, and in understanding the details of points that need to be considered for this vaccination,” Harper said. “The Associated Press has consistently miswritten, and consistently reported information that was not accurate about HPV. I have gone to them in New Hampshire several times for corrections, and they did correct a couple of things, but the last time they were unresponsive.”

So many people had questioned her because of her non-politically-correct stance on the issue that there were times when it looked like even her research was being doubted, she said, which made her position even more troubling. However, she stood behind her convictions.

“There is a lot of colleagial pressure to conform to the message, and be united in the message,” she said. “But I think we are too early in our knowledge of information to have just one message.”

She reiterated that this is “a wonderful vaccine,” and that this is an exciting time for medicine in this area. Today, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is publishing some HPV articles that she co-authored, and that should help explain what this vaccine can and cannot do, she said.

“But there are things we still don’t know about this vaccine,” she said. “For one thing, it takes 129 women to be vaccinated to prevent one case of CIN 2/3 (a type of cervical cell dysplasia), and that is important for people to know. It will be interesting now that the JAMA article is out, and the NEJM articles about Gardasil are published, what the public understanding will be.”

For more on this story and to read past stories in the HPV vaccine series, go to http://kpcnews.com/online_features/hpv_vaccine/ on the KPC Media Group Web site.

Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2007 12:55 PM EDT