Celebrating Diversity Through Holistic Education

Every human being is a unique creation endowed with special gifts and faculties. To appreciate these gifts and to bring them to fruition, one needs to explore beyond the surface – sometimes very deep. To look at an acorn and to imagine the oak tree potentially in that tiny seed requires the experience of a gardener and the trust of a tree planter. Within each paradigm certain gifts are valued and others may go without due attention. For a materialistic society, intellectual gifts might be considered of supreme value and spiritual capacity and other capabilities might go unnoticed.

As an educator, I do not believe in labels and classifications. Human beings are organic entities, changing as a result of their environment and education. Tests, therefore, are nothing more than a vertical section, providing very limited information. For example if you have seen an apple for the first time and to understand it better you cut it vertically, you might rightly say that there are no seeds in this fruit. Though there are no seeds in that particular section of the fruit, nevertheless the apple has a core and seeds.

As an executive member of the committee for the educators of gifted children, I have come to appreciate that even standardized testing and labelling are not very standardized.  Like the example of the long section of the apple, they could vary from one region’s Board of Education to that of another. Giftedness and learning challenges are measured by comparing a child to others of the same age. The first percentile means that ninety-nine percent of children of that age are doing better and the ninety-eight percentile means that only two percent of the children of that age would do better.  A child in the ninety-sixth percentile may be labelled gifted in a region where the cut-off is ninety-six percent but would not benefit from the gifted program in a region where the cut-off is ninety-eight percent.  These tests do not measure how well the child is doing according to his or her own capacity. They are only comparisons to the very specific cultural and educational “norms” of an age group in a particular place.

In our classroom we are growing a spruce tree seedling and a celery root. One of our students observed how quickly the celery grew compared to the spruce. I pointed out that they also have different life expectancies. To compare a spruce tree with celery is of little value except for scientific experiments. Human beings are different plants in the garden of love, each bearing his or her unique fruit. To celebrate the diversity of individuals, we need to have a paradigm shift in which each and every talent is appreciated, using something less transient than the ability to recall information as a standard of measurement.

At Roger White Academy spiritual intelligence is celebrated above all other forms of intelligence and good conduct, fair treatment of others and respect for the environment is celebrated before other achievements. It is not that we do not appreciate academic, artistic or athletic achievements, yet we teach that without true love for and appropriate interaction with humanity these achievements would serve little purpose, rather they need to be combined with spiritual mastery of self.

To give an example, let us look at one of our students who has been with us for five years, since he was seven years old. At Roger White Academy, we do not have any competitions at all. Our system is based on cooperation and children learn that they are unique creations with unique talents and therefore should compare themselves only with themselves. We also have Karate and Yoga as part of our curriculum and we take our students to Brad Jones Karate-Do. This child has a green belt and also takes Karate lessons outside of the school curriculum. He is well coordinated and performs well in all subjects including Karate.  One evening when there was a quiz competition at the Do-Jo, he received a silver medal and was quite pleased. Another child, who had received bronze, came to him stating his wish to have received the silver medal. Our student removed his silver medal and offered it in exchange for the bronze. On his way home our student ‘s mother asked him if he knew what he had exchanged. He answered, “ Yes, I know. I had done my best and had achieved silver. He could have the medal.” I do not know of any test that could measure this conduct and the value of such citizens for our society.

In a paradigm where spirituality is valued, where love and altruism is the norm, percentiles do not come into picture. We are flowers of one garden as pointed out in the Baha’i Writings (See www.bahai.org) How wonderful it is that each has a different shape and size and fragrance! How great it would be if each one of us could see the good in others and praise them for their achievements.

Diversity of language, culture, race, religion and spiritual belief all contribute to the beauty of the garden of humanity. Diversity of talents and faculties are also main contributors to the preservation of all aspects of our life. If we all wanted to be gardeners or teachers and no one wished to drive buses or study medicine, we would have a hard time. To encourage each child to be grateful for what they are and to try to bring to fruition their latent potential is the duty of all parents and teachers as educators.

At Roger White Academy parents and teachers celebrate the diversity of students. Students realize that their abilities either complement other students’ abilities or they need to cooperate with one another to augment their abilities. Children are empowered to recognize their own gifts and to persevere in strengthening their weaknesses. They are encouraged to find at least one area of success in their learning experience and to observe their own process of success to learn from it and apply it to other areas of their learning. They are expected to develop independence in their learning process and acquire networking skills to fulfil what is outside of their particular abilities. For more information visit our website atwww.rogerwhiteacademy.org or call us at 905-967-1156 for an appointment.

We invite you to visit Roger White Academy to observe our classes and see a demonstration of a truly healthy human family.

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