Education should draw large circles, not small (pt. 1 – philosophical underpinnings)

Posted on 08.11.2012


There are several truths about education and about how society should work that seem to be essential.  In our communities.  In Philadelphia. In America. In the world. It doesn’t really matter.  At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, fellow humans should contribute their love and passions to a larger group.  To communities. To philadelphia. To America.

I think it’s that simple: make a life for yourself that contributes something positive to others.  It actually can be said even more eloquent in a limerick:

He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

– Edwin Markham

Take what you may from this little rhyme and I think there is lots to take.  It’s important to think about what we each can do in our different communities to make the world a better place.  In a democracy, in our American democracy, things work best when all of the citizens ingage in it – when the circles are as large as possible.  It works even better when each citizen brings their own love and passion into the circle.

Everyone brings unique things into a very large circle so that each person has their unique skill set, their unique individuality and values while at the same time contributing to something greater – to drawing an even larger circle that includes more amazing people and things.

It’s a win/win for everyone.  The more people contribute, the more everyone gets back.

It feels like we have lost some of that in school – right now, as a teacher I see co-workers working to draw small circles around themselves and teaching students to do so as well.  It seems this happens because we are so focused on being right, on finding “the answer”.

I see co-workers trying to compete against each other so that they won’t be fired, so that their students will “pass”.   Students learn that they need to know certain things to pass a test so that they can go onto the next level so they can pass another test.  There are no value(s) in this way of teaching and learning.  No one is working on drawing circles to bring others in.  The passion and love is hidden, is second to this weird dynamic between competition, fear and lack of individual values.  Everyone in education is silenced – they aren’t encouraged to share.

Communities aren’t developed on facts, they can’t be.  Communities aren’t made based upon what people know or have, they aren’t made with fear or with competition or lack of values. So why do we teach these things in school?

I want to work in a place, and teach about passion and love.  I want my fellow Americans, a united country (notice U.S. has the word united in it) to love themselves, what they do and what others do.  I want us to come together and learn about each other’s values so that we can unite over what we share in common and honor the unique things that are what makes each one an individual.  It’s the best gift we can give each other: love, passion and inclusion.

I am so excited for the coming school year because it’s another chance to share parts of myself and learn from my fellow co-workers and students.  It’s a time and place where I can work on drawing a larger circle round myself and be part of something greater.

It’s ultimately a chance for me to contribute to make US all better.

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