Education in Search of the Spirit: Essays on American Education
Real education will always seek to strengthen what is best in the human soul: its longing for the experience of spiritual truth that brings into the self an objective appreciation of the noble aspects of its own nature, together with a subjective sense of real affinity with the rest of humanity, the earth planet as a whole, and the great cosmos above and beyond.
The premise of this book is that a human being is a being of body, soul, and spirit, whose core is “eternal spirit,” from which center one should strive to live. From this perspective, the aim of true education is to help our children activate this deepest center in themselves. For this, living, intuitive thinking must be brought to life in a new way. The organ for such thinking is the heart, where will and feeling join in uniting self and world, morality and truth, love and action.
This book is in three parts. The first poses the problem; the second describes the Waldorf approach as a solution; and the third deals with questions of special interest to parents and educators alike, such as authority, discipline, and freedom; the nature of “genius”; and the question of cultural pluralism.
The first edition of this book was titled “The Experience of Knowledge” in response to a clear call for experience in education. Certainly, if the sole purpose of education is to acquire information, learning becomes dry, abstract, and deadening. To have meaningful consequence in a person’s life, “coming to know” must become an experience. Too often, however, such experience is understood simply as doing — field trips, class projects, and so on. But “doing,” if unconnected to the whole person, is just activity. To become true experience, it must speak out of, and toward, a student’s secret center: the spirit. Hence, the author affirms that authentic education is always in search of the spirit.
About the Author
John Fentress Gardner (1912–1998) was involved with Anthroposophy and Waldorf education for nearly sixty years. During his tenure as headmaster, the school was called “The Demonstration School of Adelphi College” and later the “Waldorf School of Garden City.” He was married to Carol Hemingway Gardner, Ernest Hemingway’s youngest sister. His books include American Heralds of the Spirit: Emerson, Whitman, Melville (1992); Education in Search of the Spirit: Essays on American Education (1996); and The Experience of Knowledge: The Founding of Adelphi’s Waldorf School” (1962).
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