Education of the Spirit



Did we perhaps take a wrong turn in public education when the spiritual nature of children was no longer acknowledged, when their inner lives and feelings were no longer respected and prioritized?

Yes, there needs to be a separation of church and state, but when schools started to employ factory model testing, measurement and grading systems, did this become “soul crushing” for children?

Does ignoring the spiritual nature of children mean that the cultivation of social and emotional intelligence (and creative self-direction) is ignored?

Maria Montessori seemed to think so, she said:

“To stimulate life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the first duty of the educator. For such a delicate mission great art is required to suggest the right moment and to limit intervention, last one should disturb or lead astray rather than help the soul which is coming to life and which will live by virtue of it’s own efforts.”

Prior to 1900 most people believed in the existence of the soul. And looking at forms of education around the world, most were learner-centered apprenticeship models. Youth learned alongside their parents, family members or a local craftsperson.

They learned a trade, it was all hands on. Mathematics and reading skills developed from tutoring initially and lots of practice on one’s own. Human relationships were central.

Children developed specialized craft and social skills in the company of family members and neighbors, from all forms of social interaction and creative activity within their local community.

Then industrialization began, factories were built, and education changed, schools also structured and organized like a factory.

Since the turn of the last century, children have been treated as cogs in the wheels of society, to be tested, measured and prepared for their roles as parts of the global industrial machine. But at what cost?

In the last 100 years we’ve been ignoring some very common sense wisdom that had been passed forward across the ages. As Aristotle put it, “educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

To see a child as a “soul” metaphysical beliefs are not required, one can be agnostic about metaphysics, but if we ignore the human “spirit” and inner life of children, we then ignore their unique wishes, creative potential, individual talents, interests and feelings…

That leads to the situation where children are viewed by some corporations, curriculum designers and lawmakers as objects, machines, robots to be programmed, tested, measured and controlled.

Isn’t that what has happened?

~Christopher Chase~


From “Extending Childhood” by John Taylor Gatto:

“From the beginning, there was purpose behind forced schooling, purpose which had nothing to do with what parents, kids, or communities wanted. Instead, it was forged out of what a highly centralized corporate economy and system of finance bent on internationalizing itself was thought to need; that, and what a strong, centralized political State needed, too. 

At first, the primary target was the tradition of independent livelihoods in America. Unless Yankee entrepreneurialism could be put to death, at least among the common population, the immense capital investments that mass production industry required for equipment weren’t conceivably justifiable.

Students were to learn to think of themselves as employees competing for the favor of management. Not as Franklin or Edison had once regarded themselves, as self-determined, free agents.

Only by a massive psychological campaign could the menace of overproduction in America be contained. That’s what important men and academics called it. The ability of Americans to think as independent producers had to be curtailed.”



Ken Robinson’s TED Talk: How Schools Kill Creativity * Toward a More Creative & Holistic Model of Education *  Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing *  Children Need to Be Free to Learn *  Common Ingredients of Successful School Reform * Real Learning is a Creative Process * Flow- The Psychology of Optimal Experience * Understanding How Our Brains Learn  *  Every Child is an Artist by Nature * Educational Malpractice – The Child Manufacturing Process * Flaws at the Heart of Current Education Reforms * Schools That Learn – Peter Senge * Standardizing Education – Common Core’s Hidden Agenda  *

About Christopher Chase

Co-creator and Admin of the Facebook pages "Tao & Zen" "Art of Learning" & "Creative Systems Thinking." Majored in Studio Art at SUNY, Oneonta. Graduated in 1993 from the Child & Adolescent Development program at Stanford University's School of Education. Since 1994, have been teaching at Seinan Gakuin University, in Fukuoka, Japan.
This entry was posted in Creative Systems Thinking, education reform, Learner-centered education, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Education of the Spirit

  1. maryjanelong1981 says:

    What do you think will happen to arts education is US since trump plans on erasing the National Endowment of the Arts? Would art suffer? Or maybe just our current perverted version of art education, not at all like the original master, apprentice model.

  2. Rebecca deCoca says:

    The soul, or one could also say, the psyche; the essence of a person; the mind and emotions; the motivating life force. Feelings cannot be left out of the equation.

  3. smilecalm says:

    sweet reminder
    if only education
    had such noble purpose
    by those pulling strings 🙂

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  6. lana deym campbell says:

    Today’s emphasis on the spirit is very limited and fast losing ground. Thus we have horrible social problems, a divided country. However, if people believed in no limits due to our universal, brilliant, unified spirit, then they could fully unleash their creativity, and stop the divisive blaming and hatred at the source, instead of being captured and compelled by that hatred.

    To get to that level of awareness, and to be willing to act is not automatic. It’s a learned process. Education of the spirit (in children) requires instilling self discipline, a continual, daily, inward evaluation and refinement by the child of their failing to love in particular situations; the inward reasons for that weakness, and a sustained awe at beauty and the magic of nature & life. This self regulating activity was provided by religious schools of all sorts. It is not about having a theory of unity & wisdom, although that helps :), it is ultimately about graduated common sense, self-knowledge and the full confidence in spirit that is unleashed via that trust.

    Science provides “the how” – but a transcendent vision sees the whole picture together and asks about “the why” and is disciplined enough to make genuine efforts.

    Excellent and needed article as usual, Christopher Chase! :). Thanks!

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