The Choices of Education

It is interesting to think about what we emphasize and prioritize in our educational systems. For instance, we insist that every student must know how to multiply, divide, add and subtract. Math is an essential part of our educational systems and a priority for test scores and academic performance.  What about the dynamics of life?

What is dynamic education?

Students calm with a therapy dog (image courtesy of
Dynamic education includes learning emotional and relational skills

In English classes, we work diligently to speak and write properly.  We learn to read, evaluate what has been written as literature both past and present, and write our own thoughts.

We learn about our internal and external components in human biology: how our essential organs work to sustain our overall life and health. We even learn safe practices to guard our bodies from germs, diseases and other threats to public health.

Each of these topics has progressive design and structure, building year upon year of classes and training. Too, we must pass a level of testing proficiency in order to progress in grade levels and for schools to be ranked as competent or above the norm.

There is deliberate and intentional proactivity. We make sure that we have attained sufficient training for teachers, incorporated the latest technology and included public acknowledgements regarding levels of quality and expertise to teach in these areas.

These are essential areas of knowledge that enrich and equip our students. I applaud the excellence that we are attempting to attain in how we learn this subject matter.

Personally, I am supportive of a dynamic system of education, one which also supports the life and relationships of the students.

As we consider the prominent issues of violence, ADD, ADHD, suicide, abuse, neglect, trauma, drugs and alcohol addiction, bullying and other devastating issues that impact our youth, we need to ask some significant questions.

Are we as vigilant about things like relationship training, emotional health, parenting skills, healthy personal core beliefs, family traits and legacies, problem exploration, conflict resolution, how brain states affect our learning capabilities and other essential life skills?

In education, we have the opportunity to shape our next generation. This is a major reason many adults choose to go into teaching. Yet, the most essential and core issues of life are all about relationships. I have often said, “Nothing good happens without a relationship with someone!” But presently, traditional educational systems have little standard curriculum for relationship building.

We do not ask our students to be proficient in how they listen and communicate to others. 

We resist talking about personal problems and how to solve them. We do not emphasize the overwhelming research about how to find our strengths and use them for our growth and future careers. We seem to teach very little about normal child and teenage development and what to expect. There is very little in our schools to support parenting in a healthy way. In fact, many are frustrated and exasperated with the level of drug activity within their school walls and do not know what to do.

If we are going to truly impact our next generation, we need to be as intentional about training in relationships, emotional health and other essential life skills as we are about Math, English and Science. The rigor that we have for these subjects is intense. Yet, there is still not a formal curriculum or testing process to qualify us as healthy humans and qualified parents.

How very tragic our priorities in education lean solely to cognitive knowledge while we continue to create schools, classroom, families and communities in which students are unable to have healthy relational lives.

Even today’s neuroscientific research has helped us understand any student who is in a calm brain state can maximize his potential to learn. Conversely, however, a fear-based brain state lowers the functional IQ of any student significantly. How many students are living in a fear-based state which severely limits their ability to learn and grow?

With all the research and knowledge that we are currently aware of, I believe it is time to reconsider our priorities. We need to facilitate far more life discussions in our classrooms to help students:

  • find out who they are
  • discover how they can listen and communicate
  • determine options for problem solving
  • develop relational skills (e.g., empathy, compassion and mindfulness)

These are vital skills that will permeate their circumstances for the duration of their lives. Having these skills could prevent significant personal destruction and/or dysfunction. It could change the course of our society, put us on a better path.

Our educational systems can make new decisions about these issues. I think we need to move very quickly to make such changes for the sake of our students, their families and all children to come.

We have the power to make these changes,  and I do hope we will pursue them with the same zeal and vigor that we have demonstrated in other areas of academic disciplines.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *