“ … It is worth noting that our current dismal situation is not the result of work by ignorant people. It is, rather, largely the result of actions and decisions by educated people, people with BAs, BSs, degrees in law and political sciences, MBAs, and PhDs. In other words, the cream of the academic crop.” – Jane Camblin <Leader at French American International School>
As I was doing some research for 2 articles I am writing <one on Refinding our Moral Compass & one on the Hollowing of Education> I discovered a fabulous speech given by Jane Camblin to all faculty and staff of the French American International School on March 16, 2009. It is a social dissertation as well as a spectacular reminder for what education should be. I wish I would have written this. I know I will use some of its words in the future.
About The French American International School: Guided by the principles of academic rigor and diversity, the French American International School offers programs of study in French and English to prepare its graduates for a world in which the ability to think critically and to communicate across cultures is of paramount importance.
As I read her speech it reminded me of Emerson speaking on education in the 1800’s <another fabulous speech>:
“We teach boys to be such men as we are. We do not teach them to aspire to be all they can. We do not give them a training as if we believed in their noble nature. We scarce educate their bodies. We do not train the eye and the hand. We exercise their understandings to the apprehension and: comparison of some facts, to a skill in numbers, in words; we aim to make accountants, attorneys, engineers; but not to make able, earnest, great-hearted men. The great object of Education should be commensurate with the object of life. It should be a moral one; to teach self-trust; to inspire the youthful man with an interest in himself; with a curiosity touching his own nature; to acquaint him with the resources of his mind, and to teach him that there is all his strength …” – Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1800’s
<note: please ignore the masculine view from Emerson as it is in 1800’s and focus on the core message … one still relevant today>
“… acquaint him with the resources of his mind.” What a fabulous vision for Education.
Okay. The speech that caught my interest.
<Ms. Camblin’s Keynote Speech>
As teachers, we are accustomed to thinking of learning as good in and of itself. But I’d like to provide some thoughts first about education in general.
It is worth noting that our current dismal situation in 2009 is not the result of work by ignorant people. It is, rather, largely the result of actions and decisions by educated people, people with BAs, BSs, degrees in law and political sciences, MBAs, and PhDs. In other words, the cream of the academic crop. And before receiving their university diplomas, many of these leaders were graduates of private, independent schools like ours, many with award-winning top tier educational programs, highly regarded teachers, and state of the art facilities. So, what went wrong? Perhaps, the kind of education these people received may have placed undue emphasis on academic theories at the expense of human values, on abstract concepts rather than on human beings, on pure abstraction rather than on mindfulness, and, most importantly, on scripted answers rather than on critical questions. Clearly, their educational backgrounds must not have emphasized the profoundly important notions of societal relevance, ethical reasoning, or authentic human empathy.
Many well-regarded educators consider that true education must come from the Greek concept of “paideia”. The goal of education here is not so much the mastery of subject matter, but the mastery of one’s own person. Subject matter is simply the tool. Much as one would use a hammer and chisel to carve a block of marble, students will use the knowledge and ideas we give them to craft and shape the sort of human being they will become. Sadly, many so-called educational systems (not in OUR school), are cobbled together under a confusion of ends and means, implying that the goal of education is to stuff all kinds of facts, techniques, methods, and information into the student’s mind, regardless of how it is interpreted and with what effect it will be used.
It follows, then, that we should not attempt to teach something without understanding the implications of this knowledge for each of the students in our school, whatever their background. University graduates in positions of leadership, educated in the tools of leveraged buyouts, tax breaks, and capital mobility, have done what no invading army could do: they have destroyed an economy with total impunity on behalf of something called corporate greed and the “bottom line.”
But the bottom line for the rest of society also includes other costs, those of unemployment, crime, families split apart, child abuse, lost savings, and wrecked lives. Whatever our corporate leaders had learned at school did not apparently include the value of communities or the human costs of a narrow destructive economic rationality that valued material acquisition above people. As international educators, we MUST and we WILL continually impart the inherent value of human beings of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, nationalities, socio-economic class, political persuasions and sexual orientations as a fundamental and intrinsic part of everything we teach and everything we model here at school.
Students in traditional national programs might hear a great deal about the notions of global responsibility and so-called “tolerance” (rather than a true celebration of difference) without ever truly experiencing an authentic engagement with “otherness”…not a recipe for educated leadership for the 21st century.
That’s why schools like ours, which are based on these very core values of international-mindedness and diversity, which truly live these values every single day, which continually teach crosscultural communication skills, critical thinking, service learning and an emphasis on a myriad different ways of thinking strategically, are of paramount importance. French American International School and International High School students will always be encouraged not only to be outstanding scholars, but also to be mindful, compassionate, caring and ethical individuals; truly informed, articulate, stewards of tomorrow’s world.
What a fabulous thought provoking speech.
And I would suggest to everyone that while she was speaking to ‘international-minded education’ the true core of what she is stating is relevant to each and every school our children are attending.
At its core it highlights character rather than ‘bottom line at the exception of everything else’.
Well. There is an interesting concept.
Just something for all of us to think about.