“Applying Neohumanism to the Layers of a School” by Eric Jacobson, Director of the Progressive School of Long Island, NY, USA
Workshop presentation at the Neohumanist Education Seminar, April 15, 2014 in Caracas, Venezuela
In making a better world, it is easier to build correctly from the outset, rather than tear down and rebuild—hence proper education of our young is the surest path towards realizing a brighter future.
We begin with a cosmic ideal, and then we apply it to the local situation. In the application of Neohumanism there will be some variations. Variety is the law of nature. Variations arise due to changes of time, place and person. If I were to go to Peru for this conference, it would be a different place, with different people, and upon my arrival it would also be a different day. Our Neohumanist schools reflect, and should continue reflecting these natural variations. The variations are good and should be encouraged. For example, if I were to open a school in Caracas, it would not look like my school in New York. It would have a different appearance and a new name. There would be different curriculum elements, revised methods, and a new staff, but the spirit behind it would be the same.
A school consists of five main aspects: Why, Who, What, How and Where. Each one of these could be the theme of a week-long seminar. I listed them in order of their flexibility. Why—no flexibility, Who—a little flexibility, What—more flexibility, How—a lot of flexibility, Where—maximum flexibility.
First—Why. Why open a school in the first place? Our philosophy is the Why. The philosophy is the same in all our Neohumanist schools in the world. That is why we began this conference with an exercise to help us understand the philosophy. Why open a school? Because we want to include everyone in our circle of love, we want everyone to realize that they are not a drop, rather they are the ocean. We want the new generation to grow beyond their current limitations for the well-being of the entire creation of which we are all a part. There will be no variation in the philosophy from place to place, person to person, country to country. It is immutable.
Second—Who. Who are the teachers and educators who will implement the philosophy? There should be a minimum of variation in the type of people who work in our schools. They should be as close as possible to the experience and practice of Neohumanism.
Third—What. What will we teach? What will be the curriculum? There will be some variations in this area, such as the inclusion of the local language, local stories, and local history. A global curriculum is not desirable.
Fourth—How. How will we impart information to our students? This is the methodology of teaching. Preferred methodologies exist in Neohumanism: learning through play, art, stories, service, self-discipline, collective and individual projects, and real-world applications. But we must remain flexible in this arena to allow new and better methods of teaching to arise. Human brains are always changing, as is our understanding of how the brain works. Other than the physical facility, there will be the most variation in the methods we employ.
Fifth—Where. Where will all this exciting learning take place? In general, the answer is a building. Buildings differ greatly from the city to the country, in relation to finances, according to the ages and numbers of students, and other factors. The school building continues to be important, and it still reflects our philosophy, but it is not the essence of our mission.
Although at each level there is increased flexibility in the application of Neohumanism to the staff, curriculum, methodology, and building, all these aspects of a school center around the objectives and ideals of Neohumanism. They revolve around the immutable realization of Universal Oneness, just as the planets revolve around the sun. And like the sun, the light of Neohumanism illuminates all our decisions and practices.