When my son was just a toddler, and my husband and I, tired of city living, were trying to decide where we were going to move, we spent our long weekends and vacations visiting communities, from the mountains of North Carolina to the coast of Maine. With strong opinions about education and schooling (generated over my years as a humane educator presenting in many schools), finding a place to live also meant finding a school for our son.
We ended up on the Blue Hill peninsula in Maine and sent our son, Forest, to the Bay School, a small, Waldorf-inspired elementary school.
Last week my 14-year-old graduated from the Bay School in the most spectacular ceremony that epitomized what humane education – not just Waldorf education – can achieve. Each child introduced a classmate, sharing words that brought forth the very best qualities of their friends, and then each child spoke about their experience, voiced their gratitude, and were offered wise words from their teachers.
By the time they graduated they knew more about our political system than I knew when I graduated with a master’s degree from college, because their teacher had taken the time during this exciting primary season to engage them in the political process. They’d visited the candidates’ websites, written about policies and debated them, listened to Barack Obama’s speech on race, and followed each primary or caucus avidly. They’d studied the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements and analyzed sexist and racist jokes. They’d learned about the efforts to protect children during the industrial revolution, and they’d had 1st grade partners all year with whom they played every day at recess, cultivating care, kindness, and love in full measure.
In other words, they’d received a humane education. And it shows. These graduates are so ready and eager to embark upon the next stage of their lives, so capable and prepared to be not just students, but citizens, so motivated to make a positive difference, with excellent critical and creative thinking skills to help solve their challenges, large and small.
We need all schools to offer our children no less than this.