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Some suggestions about new school subjects.

This text is taken directly from Michael Lerner. Spirit Matters. (ISBN 1-57174-195-x)

1. The World of Work (Ref: f1001)

In this stream, students would learn about the different ways people work. At each grade level, they would spend some months actually engaged in doing a different kind of work as an apprentice or assistant (perhaps as much as half of each day) and then spend the remaining months preparing the skills for their next apprenticeship. In some cases, children would already know about the world of work from exposure in their families, but all too many children, regardless of class background, have little direct experience with what it is their parents and neighbors do with their lives all day in the world of work. I could imagine students spending several months at the end of fifth grade working in an agricultural labor situation, the end of sixth grade working in a service job (for example, with restaurant or hotel workers, janitors, hospital orderlies, sanitation workers); the end of seventh grade working in an office doing secretarial and computer work; the end of eigth grade helping to build a road, a clinic, or a school or in some other hands-on, nits-and-grits kind of physical labor; the end of ninth grade working in a factory, the end of tenth grade working in a court or law firm; the end of eleventh grade working in a hospital, and at the end of twelfth grade spending a year in public service in some community on the planet that needed assistance in developing its own strengths and capacities. Each of these students would meet weekly for a few hours with other students who had similar placements and with a field placement supervisor whose task would be to assist students to develop critical capacities to observe and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each workplace in terms of its ability to produce or help sustain loving and caring behavior and its degree of ethical, spiritual, and ecological productivity and its degree of encouraging and fostering awe and wonder at the universe.

2. The Miracle of Body (Ref: f1002)

In this stream, students would focus on the miracles that go on inside their own bodies, how to care for their bodies and the bodies of others, and how to understand the operations of the human body and the bodies of animals and plants. Students would learn nutrition and diet, sports and exercise, meditation, dance, music, community singing, and techniques of deep relaxation and focusing. Then they would learn biology, chemistry, physiology, and physics and the development of consciousness - all focused on understanding the ongoing miracles of body. They would learn about sexuality, about birth and sickness, about medicine and healing, and about death and dying.

3. The Meaning of Life (Ref: f1003)

In this stream, students would learn about the various ways people have sought to discover a framework of meaning for life. Students would study art and poetry, music and dance, world literature and philosophy, religions and forms of spirituality. They would be encouraged to consider their own paths for finding meaning, and to develop rituals, poetry, music, and dance that fit the lives they were shaping for themselves or as part of ongoing communities of meaning. Students would also be exposed to the range of human suffering, projects and strategies for ameliorating or reducing suffering, and the range of responses and attempts to give meaning to the suffering and the attempts to be with the suffering without giving it any larger meaning. They would also be exposed to the ways people have sought to find meaning through community action, mutual support, and love. Many students will have already had their own exposure to suffering in their families and communities, but the school situation will give them a different take: an opportunity to reflect on suffering and its meaning. So, too, students will explore the experiences of unity and mystical luminosity and joy that are as much dimensions of life as suffering and cruelty. Within this stream, students would be encouraged to prepare for a rite of passage that they, together with parents and teachers as advisors, devised for themselves: a kind of 'hero's quest' in which they were initiated into the realities of some aspect of adult life. Adapting suggestions made by Joan Halifax, I suggest that such a rite of passage would involve going through a process of (a) plunging into some arena of activity, (b) allowing oneself to separate from the familiar paths and ways of coping so that one can 'not know', (c) allowing oneself to experience confusion and fear and disorientation, without jumping into denial or easy resolution of conflict, and (d) healing oneself and incorporating into one's being the knowledge learned as part of this process with (e) a firm determination to liberate oneself and the world from suffering. It could be argued that many students surviving modern urban high school already go through stages 'a' through 'c', but rarely get to 'd' or 'e'.

4. Cooperation and Community (Ref: f1004)

In this stream, students would learn about the history of the human race and all the ways that we have learned to cooperate with each other. Students would learn about the development of languages and cooking and agriculture, about technology and scientific discovery, about the creation mythology and shared stories, and eventually about the emergencee of history and self-reflection. Students would study the emergence of class societies and the various forms of oppression and pain as well as the systems of legitimization for those oppressions. At the same time, they would learn to appreciate the remarkable creativity and innovation that came from those who faced oppression as well as those from whose time had been freed from work so they could use their talents to develop culture and science. Students would learn about the subordination of women and the history of patriarchy, the history of children and childhood, the history of art and culture, and the history of liberating movements as well as myriad ways in which those who were oppressed managed to keep their dignity and expand their possibilities. An important theme would be to teach cooperation and to help students learn how important it is to avoid violence in all its nefarious forms and to actively embrace an attitude of nonviolence and active involvement in reducing the pain and the legacy of past cruelty and oppression. One major focus in this stream would be the evolution of our relationship to nature. Students would work together in a project designed to rectify and repair the damage to the earth done by previous generations that had been environmentally challenged.

5. Birth and Death (Ref: f1005)

In this stream, students would study the various stages in the development of life, from conception to death. Students would be exposed to the various ways that people throughout history have developed systems of meaning to explain and ritualize the stages of life and to sanctify death or to deny it. They would learn to assist in the process of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as in the process of death and dying. Instead of denying death, students would learn how to assist people in developing spiritual readiness as they learned the wide variety of spiritual practices concerning death and dying.

This is in addition to what's left over of the traditional subjects which need to be taught.

See the book for more discussion of the pros and cons of these ideas.

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