Monday, November 9, 2015

Prioritizing Holism in Schools: A Philosophy of Learning and Cognition

What you are about to read (btw, thank you so much for taking the time to do so if you are), is an essay I wrote on my personal philosophy of learning and cognition for my Educational Psychology class. Only a small portion of my passion for education is because I like spending time with kids (which is really saying something, because I LOVE kids); my drive almost entirely comes from my anger and sadness. I am angry that the APS system chooses to ignore expert advice and has for the past several decades. I am sad that so many millions of American children are being raised by a system that no longer seems to value them as PEOPLE and not a machine. I could go on for hours. But because I am asking you to read this probably "TL;DR" kind of essay, I'll stop here. The rest says it all. Hopefully this will give some insight in to why I post everything I do. Like in Dance Marathon, please just remember: #FTK always.

The current American Public School system places an inordinate focus on standardized curriculums and testing. In the past fifty or so years since preschools began receiving federalfunds, the drive to teach young children academics over allowing them constructive and imaginative play has seen a dramatically increased rise, much to the detriment of students across the country (Glazer, 2008)Alternative schools that follow the philosophies of Maria Montessori, Rudolf Steiner, and Loris Malaguzzi, paired with the research behind developmental and educational psychology, have shown time and time again that constructive learning techniques used in partnership with play, music, and exploration (especially natural) are the most powerful learning and cognition tools out there. These alternatively holistic education settings, along with the theories of most specifically Albert Bandura, Lev Vygotsky, Howard Gardner, and Robert Sternberg have inspired a complex educational philosophy that emphasizes individualized exploration and expression in order to more holistically develop critical thinking and intrinsic motivation towards individuals’ own passionate interests.
Research consistently shows that children, especially those of preschool age, learn far more thoroughly through play than through any form of direct instruction. However, the push for strong academic success beginning with kindergarten has pressured teachers into formatting classroom curriculum’s in contrast to what they believe is best for their students, and as such have seen a rise in sensory issues such as abnormal frustration with medial tasks and interactions. Children may be doing better on tests, but their social and emotional lives are in disastrous turmoil, and research points to a lack of relaxed, imaginative, and child-led play (Strauss, 2015).
Similar to play and the lack thereof in early childhood environments, non-performative musical play has decidedly disappeared from our pre-formal, primary, and secondary education settings. Research has shown that a child’s window for effective musical education and the efficient learning of rhythms, pitches, and other musical affects begins to close at the age of nine. After this time, learning may become exceptionally difficult for students, similar to trying to learn a second language into the preteen years. Additionally, western culture has placed a detrimental emphasis on performance when it comes to the arts, focusing on talent over enjoyment and participation. Programs like Music Together have shown that encouraging musical play, especially between child and parent, can be enormously beneficial to the child’s development not only artistically, creatively, emotionally, and socially, but intellectually as a whole (Levinowitz, 1998). Students exposed to frequent casual musical play throughout their youngest years additionally show to consistently score higher in the realms of literacy and mathematics once school begins, as musical intelligence is not only as important as logical intelligence, but can also help students form powerful connections that tie well into the other academic disciplinesThus, it has been shown that allowing for play both musical and otherwise has an enormous effect on how students both learn and perceive schooling (if said play is introduced in an educational setting) (Viney, 2015). The dichotomy between home and school is then less pronounced, and fewer students view school as boring and inconsequential.
Likewise, when students enjoy learning, more learning occurs. These ideas of increased play promoting healthier and brighter children coincide well with numerous theorists. When theories like the triarchic theory of intelligence, social cognitivism, multiple intelligences, and others are viewed as interconnected and integral to each other, a more holistic approach to education can be reached. Theories like Sternberg’s triarchic theory that promote analytical, creative, and practical learning as equally important can be thought of as holistic styles that prioritize the students’ whole life and where their learning will lead into the greater community. When schools are structured to fit the needs of every child, rather than standardizing, children can not only empathize better, but feel more motivated to following their own passions. When students are given the freedom to discover their own greatest intelligences, then problem solving becomes remarkably easier. School settings that promote social cooperation help students utilize their individual strengths in harmony with their peers, which not only allows for healthier development throughout childhood, but follows them into adulthood and real world application (Santrock, 2011).
          American elementary school students spend an average of 943 hours in the classroom, and secondary students spend upwards of 1,000 hours at school any given year (Chalabi, 2014). This is a truly significant portion of students’ lives. To create such a stark dichotomy between home life and school life robs students of the most important learning: how to live with both themselves and those around them. Schools that focus strictly on academics and how to score well on tests allow a powerful majority of student life to be ignored. Holistic schooling not only emphasizes literacy and logical problem solving, but socialization, empathy, altruism, and full living. This is exceptionally critical, especially during the earliest years of life (but should be continued throughout). American children are among the most privileged in the world, yet the school system has been built to say otherwise. The needs of students are not being met at a variety of levels. Looking at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it seems as though the goal of education should be to provide an environment in which all students, regardless of background, have equal opportunity in attaining some form of self-actualization (and perhaps self-transcendence). Schools currently are set for equality, yet all students come in with uniquely diverse sets of needs which then requires a redefinition of equality. No one needs the same exact things as another, and thus school must be approached as such, beginning with the allowance of uniquely imaginative play early on. Let's raise people, not test scores.

Works Cited

Glazer, N. (2008). Preschool Politics. EducationNext. Retrieved from EducationNext.
Levinowitz, L. M. (1998, Fall). The Importance of Music in Early Childhood. General Music Today.
Lewis Brown, L. (2013). Comparing Preschool Philosophies: Montessori, Waldorf and More. Retrieved from PBS Parents.
Santrock, J. W. (2011). Educational Psychology (5th ed.). New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Strauss, V. (2015, September 1). The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues. The Washington Post.
Viney, L. (2015, October 26). Jamming with your toddler: how music trumps reading for childhood development.Retrieved from The Conversation.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"

*A poem analysis done for my Senior Utopian/Dystopian Literature course.
“When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

            Very vaguely, yet obviously still, does Whitman connect to the dystopian genre of literature, and dystopian life in general. “When I heard the learn’d astronomer, when the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me…”, I couldn’t understand what I was supposed to be learning. I couldn’t understand when the learn’d astronomer, when this genius of the endless night skies, wasted his breath trying to explain the stars through images, and equations, and MATH. The stars are not about math; this “learn’d” and scholarly astronomer has got it all wrong. He is overthinking one of the most basic interests of the human species. I don’t necessarily want to know exactly and technically why, I just want to be absorbed in the absolute majesty of it all. And you think you can convey this beauty to me through silly drawings on a chalkboard?
Everything about a dystopian universe screams, LISTEN TO THESE FACTS, FIGURES, LOGIC, LOGIC, LOGIC, LOGIC. No one is permitted to think and feel for their human selves. “Truths” are bombarded in their faces, never allowing for any abstract thoughts and ideas, no faith or dreaming of what else there could be. “This is that, and that will always be this.” In the case of Brave New World, higher caste children are taught that babies are made through test tube incubation, and that is that. Wholly ignoring one of the most expressive and beautiful actions of the human’s sexual nature, making love, these sons and daughters of science will never learn to believe in stars, in love. John is the only hope for Huxley’s “brave new world” in terms of opening his peers up to possibility of submission into the night sky.
I don’t want to learn about the stars by way of lecture; that’s not what the stars and the sky are about. Such as life, where the most dystopian idea out there is never being able to dream and think freely. Closing off my perception of the sky is like closing off my belief in God, or another’s belief in soul mates, etc. By creating a reason for everything there is no development, no progress. Yes, some ideas and theories do have answers, answers we can all agree upon (see: 2+2=4). But I don’t want to learn about the stars by way of lecture; I want to learn about the stars by crawling out my window, onto my roof, and gazing. Simply drifting into a comatose, closed off in my mind for a little while. My mind, not yours, and certainly not the learn’d astronomer’s. To drift into my mind, in perfect silence, “in the mystical, moist air”.

My only fear in life is to have this dream state ripped away from me by the government, by skewed public education, by whomever it may be. There is a time for logic, a time for noise, a time for listening, but there is always a time for silence. I believe, while biology and neurosciences help prove much of why we act how we do, introspection succeeds the most in humility and perspective, something any dystopian society’s citizens will never understand as long as they are holed up in a lecture-room, listening to even the most learn’d of astronomers.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Au Naturale?

I'm going through a phase.
I hope it lasts.
I really am sick of all of these toxic and unnatural words I read on my food, my drinks, my "natural" face wash/shampoo/conditioner/etc. You get the picture.
I really am sick of being so lethargic all the time. Of not being strong like I was when I was doing gymnastics.
I am weak physically, and I am done with it. Starting right now, at 1:05 am, August 26th, 2013 I am going completely natural. No more toxic sugars and artificial junk.
My brother has been doing kundalini yoga recently. I did some studying, and I'm decided.
No more artificiality. Yoga and meditation every day.

I really am becoming a hippie.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Songs for Christmas, for baby Jesus..

After and during a rough patch in my life, I really like to listen to music. I mean, I like to listen to music all the time, but when life is kicking you down, melodious tunes are especially healthy. I like to think it's an even better medicine than laughter (though that's pretty helpful too). Sufjan Steven's Songs for Christmas albums are by far my favorite daily "pill". His banjo playing, sweet singing, groovy moving songs put a smile on my face in seconds. They also get me really thinking; I've been trying to get into the Christmas mood, you see. And it's been very difficult. So last night when I couldn't sleep, I turned on Sufjan's beautiful voice and got to contemplating. I feel like people only picture the commercial, materialistic Christmas. That Christmas makes me want to throw up. So, like any self respecting Lutheran, I tried to grasp the real meaning of Christmas. I started by reminding myself that in the Christian theology, Jesus is not really the genetic offspring of God, as that would be physically impossible (seeing as God the Father is an invisible, higher power entity with no reproductive organs). Many people fail to realize this, and forget that Jesus is God. He is the human manifestation of Him. So why do we celebrate Christmas? People say it's for family, for compassion, for giving, for forgiveness, for loving... Well it's for all of those. Jesus came to Earth during a crazy time. The rulers of his day killed toddlers just to try and destroy the most powerful human being ever, for pete's sake (well, King Herod at least)! God saw the destruction, and gave himself to the human population. We just kept on sinning. He forgave us for all of the messed up shit we did daily. He loved us because He made us, just like a mother or father loves any of his/her children. We are a family. Christmas is a time to celebrate the whole family. God's family.

I sound like a preacher.

I guess that's ok.

Merry Christmas.

P.S. If Jesus is supposed to return to judge the living and the dead, especially when we have gone "awry", then I guess we can expect him soon. Ha.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nostalgia in Cologne

Spring is without a doubt my favorite time of year. It's warm, but not hot. I can go biking for several hours before its dark without having to wear multiple layers of clothing. Spring is the time to jump on the trampoline then run across the yard, barefoot, into the pergola. My favorite part of spring is the sunset. Sitting next to my father and brother silently brings a sense of tranquility I crave all year round; I feel accepted into the world of my older brother, and appreciated by my dad. I also really like the aroma of my father's pipe. And Old Spice. The problem with spring, however, is that it is too nostalgic. I feel like I should be five years old, nuzzling into my father or mother's chest as the sunsets, while a cool breeze blows my hair. I mean, I still do that, but there is a difference. I am older, two years shy of adulthood. Well, the literal meaning of adulthood. Really I am simply Peter Pan. I will never grow old, I will forever be a child, at least during springtime.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Body is a Temple

My freshman year of high school I met an amazing friend. While we are not incredibly close, I can say she is one of the sweetest, most caring people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. This friend, Ashley, founded the non-profit organization My Body is a Temple. MBIAT is targeted to boys, girls, and people of all religions. Ashley, and many people like her (including myself), wish to rid the world of self-hatred and eating disorders, along with overall improved lives. We all deserve to live comfortably, and often times the distortion media instills in young (and old) people minds gets in the way of our goals. Please do whatever you can to be involved in this incredible movement against self-loathing.

Go to to learn more!

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I am not going to help you choose your pajamas, you are a big boy, do it yourself.

I am not going to scoop you ice cream or get you another glass of soda, it is past 9 o'clock.

I am not going to get a movie ready for you, you were supposed to be in bed a half hour ago.

I am not going to read you another story. Two Spongebob picture books are enough (with the voices of course)

I am not going to say it again: "Remember to go to the bathroom." "Brush your teeth for gosh sake!"
"I won't drag you up the stairs, your legs are there for a reason."

I am not going to leave you.

I am not going to let the monsters get you.

I am not going to let you have night-terrors.

I promise.