Translucent schools emphasize the development of the whole person more than the acquisition of specific skills. The curriculum often includes activities that activate the connection between the deeper spirit of the child, the brain, and the body. Knitting, crocheting, and specific physical exercises all integrate the left and right sides of the body, which research has demonstrated activates the whole brain.
In the Novato Charter School, north of San Francisco, one year the children in second grade grew their own wheat, threshed it, ground it, and then baked bread with it. In third grade they built a small house together, from the foundation to the shingles on the roof. On the last day of third grade, Molly ran to greet her mother:
“Mom, I can do everything now. I know how to make my clothes, I know how to build my house, I know how to make my food.”
There is an infectious satisfaction in this feeling of “I can do it,” very different from the familiar “Oh, I’m so bad at math, I’m never going to get my times tables, I’m failing in my tests, What’s this all about anyway, It’s so boring and what does it mean to me?”
A school infused with translucent vision sets the stage for a sense of empowerment and lifelong learning. It used to take decades, or even centuries, for new discoveries and inventions to change the way we live. Today, much technology becomes outdated in eighteen months, and our lives are run by innovations that were unimaginable even a few years before. A holistic education trains the child to be a flexible and open learner, in an ongoing relationship to a changing world, while an Iago-based system only emphasizes knowledge.
Children learn greatness through imitation. When a child plays Julius Caesar or Juliet Capulet, the brain is transformed. What begins as a metaphor engages the mind in spectacular ways. We can learn a great deal about holistic education, not only from playing Shakespeare’s characters but also by feeling into what kind of man this must have been:
“Why is Shakespeare Shakespeare? Why is there so much there? Why are there so many levels of understanding? He looms out of Elizabethan England with an astonishing abruptness. This is a man from someplace else, who has been touched by the shining light of consciousness. How on earth, and under heaven, can such a mind of incomparably greater powers than anything that had gone before him have so mysteriously appeared? From someplace else, from some great unbounded cavern of the soul.”
Shakespeare’s education was multidimensional. He performed in plays all the time; his education was not academic, but visceral. He grew up in a small pocket in time. The early seventeenth century was one of the most intellectually and artistically stimulating times the world has ever known, as society woke up from the superstitions of medieval theocracy. The lid was off every belief system. Kings and queens were intimately involved with scientific and literary fashion. It is, perhaps, the best parallel we can find to our present time of emerging translucence. Young Will was right in the middle of this humanistic transformation of education, performing multiple roles in both Latin and English, memorizing poetry, and developing and moving freely between an enormous inner library of characters, feeling, and settings.
Pictures Credits: Clipart