Dr. Ronne Marantz, author of The Dharma of Education: Where Western Knowledge Meets Eastern Wisdom. “Welcome to my website.”

Welcome to The Dharma of Education: Where Western Knowledge Meets Eastern Wisdom.  Writing The Dharma of Education has been the culmination of 35 years as an educator and extensive travel on an unexpected spiritual journey that ultimately led me to answer the questions, “Who am I,” “What is real?” “What is lasting and important to learn, to know, to feel, to be, and to teach?”  Although I’ve been a principal of two elementary schools, first in Woodstock, New York and then in Scarsdale, New York, I still consider myself  a teacher, which is something I did for 15 years prior to that, in the fields of Special Education and English as a Second Language.  A teacher is what I am, if I’m anything at all.  I say that somewhat tongue in cheek as it refers to a concept that I was first exposed to during my travels to India.  Gradually I came to know that the notion of reality as we perceive it is far more than our senses, mind, and reasoning tell us it is and that this notion is also the basis of many educators and spiritual teachers in the Western hemisphere of our world.

 I am delighted to invite you to a conversation about education and the moral and spiritual journeys that have informed our practice as teachers, administrators, parents, and all kinds of caregivers aspiring to nurture the intrinsic goodness in the child and youth; in short, to nurture human excellence in ourselves and others.  To that end I offer one of my favorite poems—one of mine.  It’s my way of saying that we are all one in the task we face as parents, caregivers, and educators, as moral and spiritual beings—humans.  I look forward to what you have to say in whatever way is best for you. 

i bump into you everywhere

is that not where you are?

soul to soul, only One

no need to say, “Thank you,”

though I shall say anyway,

how thoughtful of you to be me.

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Is Morality Alive and Well?

Is Morality Alive and Well?

This election has raised a lot of questions for many people, but few have raised the issue of morality itself, not this individual’s sense of morality, or the other’s. That, I think, is just finger pointing and we know that whenever we point a finger at someone else we need to point the same finger at ourselves because that’s where change and transformation take place. The only place. For me the litmus test of morality, or virtue, is the human values I’m manifesting in the face of whatever I may judge as someone else’s faults.  Am I practicing W.A.T.C.H, watching my words, actions, thoughts, character, heart?

Although “thoughts” sits solidly in the middle of that acronym, that’s where it all begins. Am I watching my thoughts and the emotions they create? Are they leading to fear, or argumentation, aversion, denial, passivity, or aggression?

I was fortunate that one of my professors at Teachers College assigned me to read “After Virtue,” by Alisdair Mcintyre (Scottish philosopher primarily known for his work in moral and political philosophy). His major premise is that the meaning of the word “virtue” has gotten lost over the ages, having been subject to the cultural, historical, religious, social, and political winds of the ages.

While the use of words like virtue or morality may change over time, “dharma” does not. Dharma implies a set of universal human values that are intrinsic and the source of human excellence: Truth, Right Action, Peace, Love, and Nonviolence. A perfect equation, E=T, RA, P, L, N over Pi (something infinite, indivisible, and always so.).

The Urgent Need to Reach a Higher Moral Ground

The births of John Dewey (1859–1952), the father of modern education in the United States, and Narendranath Datta (1863–1902), later known as Swami Vivekenanda, one of the great teachers and patriotic saints in India, heralded a modern yet ancient way to perceive the purpose of education.  Vivekenanda would come to teach us that, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already existing in man.” Human potential lies within us.  John Dewey suggests, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

John Dewey and Vivekenanda would no doubt agree with contemporary luminaries, from the East and the West, like the Dalai Lama, Erik Erikson, and Wangari Maathai (respectively), that there is an urgent need to: nurture our natural human potential and our sense of fundamental human values, to find a way to educate to ensure “… the protection of another’s essence as a developing person,” and “to shift to a new level of consciousness” and “reach a higher moral ground.”

That’s why I chose the title, “The Dharma of Education.” Dharma means many things to many people in many lands, from India, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, and Japan to the U.S.A., where it reached prominence as the name of an alternate life-style personality in the television show, Dharma and Greg (1997–2002). The most basic of dictionary definitions of dharma include something like “virtue and duty in accord with the natural, cosmic, or divine order.” Dharma is more complex than that, of course. The Sanskrit root of dharma is drh, meaning wear, that which is worn, that which protects, that which lends charm and dignity to life. What does that? Something of great value, intrinsic, and lasting; a way of being that guides us to a higher moral ground. Dharma!

While not a household word, dharma is fairly well known in every western country where yoga is taught. Yoga means to join, yuj in Sanskrit, to harness oneself to, enter into union with. The yoga that engages the body, breath, and mind in order to experience union of body, mind, and spirit through yoga postures is a path in the pursuit of human excellence. One of the overarching characteristics of dharma is the moral imperative to pursue human excellence by living in harmony with the universal and fundamental human values that are intrinsic to human beings. We call that character.

Character is not exactly a household word either, nor was it held up as something of importance during the many years I worked my way through a bachelor, master, and finally doctorate degree in education. If we are going to nurture the human potential needed to reach a higher moral ground, we need to identify the fundamental universal human values that are the foundation of the moral and spiritual dimensions of our human development.

What human qualities and strengths do we need to draw out and nurture in order to be able to think, to feel, to know, and to be in the 21st century? Are we providing students with the self-knowledge they need in order to meet the increasing number of moral choices they face in this expanded and seemingly limitless world in which all of us now live together? How can we organize pedagogy and curriculum to meet this need? These are the questions, and their answers, that we’ll continue to explore in “The Dharma of Education.”  What do you think?  Looking forward to your views!

 

 

 

 

The Dharma of Education: Where Western Knowledge Meets Eastern Wisdom

 

Writing the The Dharma of Education: Where Western Knowledge is the culmination of four life experiences: 1) an outstanding education at Teachers College, Columbia University with the good fortune of having taken classes with educational luminaries like Lawrence Cremin, Maxine Greene, and Heidi Hayes Jacobs, 2) 35 years as a teacher, principal, consultant (United Nations), and curriculum writer, 3) extensive travel as an educator meeting educators in India, Japan, South Africa, Senegal, Gabon, Venezuela, and Mexico, and 4) a spiritual quest that was informed by the first three.

Kalyan Ray, Director, United Nations (Retired) shares advance praise for The Dharma of Education:

“This book is being published at an extraordinary time.  The growing intolerance that we see in human relationships today is seeping into every sphere of human existence … The Dharma of Education makes a bold effort to underscore the ‘missing link’ in our current education system … a balanced educational approach that gives due emphasis as much on the transference of knowledge and skills … as on eliciting human values and spirituality …”

Throughout my career my passion was directed to finding diverse ways to nurture human excellence in the classroom and the school. As the principal of Heathcote Elementary School in Scarsdale, New York School (1996 – 2005) I successfully worked with teachers and parents to implement those ideas—educational innovation not dependent upon material resources.

Dr. Joan Weber, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Administrative Services, Scarsdale Union Free School District (Retired), Dean of Long Island University College of Education, shares advance praise:

“Dr. Marantz’s book provides a unique and necessary perspective on what is essential for the education of young people. Drawing upon both eastern and western thought, she defines the values that give meaning and purpose to a successful life.  Her blending of eastern wisdom with western knowledge provides a synergistic paradigm for 21st-century teaching and learning to make education relevant for every child. With her emphasis on “educare,” Dr. Marantz’s book offers a much-needed antidote for the ailments currently afflicting our classrooms and our boardrooms.”

The births of John Dewey (1859–1952), the father of modern education, in the United States and Narendranath Datta (1863–1902), later known as Swami Vivekenanda, one of the great teachers and patriotic saints in India, heralded a modern, yet ancient way to perceive the purpose of education. John Dewey taught us, “Education is not preparation for life. Education is itself.” Vivekenanda reminded us that, “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already existing in man.”

The Dharma of Education integrates western knowledge of pedagogy, informed by the rich body of educational research about teaching, learning, and curriculum, with the wisdom of the East. It is replete with personal and professional experiences, as well as wisdom stories from the East and the West. In The Dharma of Education I suggest that what is needed to prepare children and youth to manifest the respect, responsibility, compassion, grit, and resilience—the fundamental human values—they’ll need to thrive in the 21st century, is a shift from education to ‘educare’ (L. draw out, elicit), education for “life itself.”

The Challenge

There have been thirty-three years of concerted effort to improve K-12 education since “A Nation at Risk: The 1983 report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education.” Nevertheless, 7,000 students drop out of high school every day (www.dosomething.org) and the United States ranks seventeenth out of forty countries in overall educational performance (www.rankingamerica.wordpress.com). While there is an abundance of research on teaching and learning that has garnered excellent educational innovation, it is apparent that something went missing in the American dream of public education. What is it that we keep overlooking? The Dharma of Education does not suggest that it is something new; it simply sheds light on the primary duty, the dharma, of education to nurture the human potential without which children cannot develop fully. The challenges of living in an increasingly interdependent world in the 21st century demand much of our youth. Are we nurturing the fundamental human values, the qualities of resilience, insight, passion, perseverance, and wisdom they will need? The Dharma of Education examines what went missing and offers a comprehensive approach that combines the scientific research-based strategies of the West with the perennial wisdom of the East.

 Why Dharma of Education?

While dharma is a word that is more commonly associated with the East, the notions of nurturing human potential and human excellence, which are equally valued in the West, are implicit in it. The Sanskrit root of dharma is drh, meaning wear, that which is worn, that protects and lends charm and dignity to life. This is not something outside of ourselves, something we can buy. It is an intrinsic way of being that guides us to fulfill our human potential. As such, dharma is a fundamental and universal human value that embodies the aspirations of educators in the East and the West. By the early twentieth century John Dewey, the father of modern education, wondered whether an educational system conducted by a national state could fulfill the natural ends to which education must strive, positing that “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” At the same time Vivekananda, one of the great teachers and patriotic saints of India, was reminding us,Education is the manifestation of the perfection already existing in man.John Dewey and Vivekenanda would no doubt agree with contemporary voices from the East and the West, like the Dalai Lama, Ken Robinson, Erik Erikson, and Wangari Maathai, that there is a need to transform education to nurture our sense of fundamental human values, to educate to ensure the protection of another’s essence as a developing person, and to reach a higher moral ground. In the midst of the polemics about educational outcomes we need to bring attention back to the true purpose of education and means to accomplish that. The statistics tell us that our failure and dropout rates are at a “tipping point” (Malcolm Gladwell). The Dharma of Education provides solutions that tip the scale in the direction of drawing out the human excellence needed for life itself.”

The End of Education is not a Wall

HUFFINGTON POST CONTRIBUTOR

The End of Education is Not a Wall

07/26/2016 07:45 am ET

Dr. Ronne Marantz, principal (retired) Scarsdale, NY, author of the Dharma of Education.

This post is hosted on the Huffington Post’s Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and post freely to our site. 

I’m not the only educator to wonder if education as we know it has gotten lost in the furious race to the top in which the world finds itself without asking, “What’s at the top?” And when we get there, would I be able to look around and say, “What a beautiful view?”

As early as the twentieth century John Dewey (1859-1952), the father of modern education, wondered whether an educational system conducted by a national state could fulfill the natural ends to which education must strive, positing that “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” What is meant by “life itself”? That’s the really big question when thinking about the end of education. What is really important in life? How do I attain that? What does it mean ‘to be human’?

Dewey suggested that: “Education is a science, the science of the formation of character,” which he defined as, “a measure of mental power, mastery of truths and laws, love of beauty … strong human sympathy and … moral rectitude.” Many educators and philosophers have provided definitions of character. All point to the understanding that character is dynamic and transformative, not merely a goal one reaches or a fixed state one is born to or acquires.

Robert Coles (1929–), Harvard professor of psychiatry and medical humanities, recipient of the Medal of Freedom and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, defines character as “… a process, not a possession, but something one searches for: a quality of mind and heart one struggles for …”

It is interesting that a philosopher like John Dewey would define education as a science. Today science has proliferated all kinds of methods and tools for everything, including learning. That’s good, if as a species, we have also paid attention to our development as human beings, to the development of the moral consciousness and discipline needed to use the tools we create to right ends.

We have far more information and knowledge now than a hundred years ago. Since we know more about how to teach and how children learn then ever before education ought to be evolving to higher ground. If there’s a wall blocking the panoramic view that is both outside and within me, then something is wrong. If we’re going to help our children get to the top we need to think about what we want them to see, feel, know and be by the time they get there.

If we are going “to shift to a new level of consciousness” and reach the “higher moral ground” of which Wangari Maathai spoke in her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech — and we must if we are going to thrive in the 21st century — it is essential that we shift our thinking from ‘education’ as something that leads to earning a living to education as transformation – for life itself.

 Having spent 35 years as an educator in diverse capacities: as a principal, Special Education and English Second Language teacher, staff developer, and consultant to the United Nations Human Values in Water, Sanitation, and Health Education, I have witnessed the daunting challenges faced by educators in the United States and abroad who aspire to ‘nurture the goodness’ in children and youth; who want to see them thrive.

 In spite of 50 years of educational research and some excellent innovations, something went missing.   We are learning that what is needed is not only structural and curricular change, but also a shift to the conscious awareness of the interdependence and unity of life.

wall is defined as a continuous brick, stone, wood, or metal structure that encloses or divides. That cannot be what is at the top. Human beings have unlimited abilities and capacities waiting to be tapped and inspired.   Spiders are programmed to spin a web and beavers to build a dam. That’s what they do. Human beings can also spin webs and build walls; it seems we’ve been doing a lot of that.

What we have to do now is find our way to steward the balance of environmental and economic interests, place a ceiling on our desires, ensure that human needs are met and their rights protected, and find ways to move forward together on this now irrevocably interdependent planet.

A shift in perspective from education to education as ‘educare’ (Latin, to draw out) could do that.

What is it that we would need to draw out? Dewey’s answer was – and is,character.’ Human beings, not any other known life form, have the capacity to manifest the fundamental human values, the character, needed for life itself.Education has to strive to that end: human excellence of the extraordinary kind, given the extraordinary speed with which our world is increasingly faced with moral dilemmas never before imagined. It is, in fact, imperative that we focus on human excellence, which in a word is character, if we want to fulfill our human potential and be able to say, “What a beautiful view.”

 

 

Presentation at SAND16 Conference, San Jose, Ca. (Oct. 19 – 24), “Education and Transformation.”

When walking through the aisles of Barnes and Noble we find books rethinking almost every aspect of life today from health, wealth, and the environment, to spiritual awakening. Yet there are still very few that are devoted to rethinking education. The ramifications of globalization on the field of education may be less visible than others, but new ways of thinking about what is important to learn, to know, and to be also requires a groundbreaking paradigm shift if our children and youth are going to “thrive” (Arianna Huffington 2014) in the 21st century.

The pedagogy of transformation is neither from the East nor the West. It was essential to the perennial wisdom of the Greeks, as well as the purveyors of the Sanathana Dharma, the ancient wisdom of India. John Dewey, the father of modern education, suggested “education is life itself.” What is “life itself?” That’s a spiritual question with important implications for education. What is important to learn, to know, and ‘to be’? How do we nurture that? Dewey posited answers, one of which is, “Education is a science, the science of the formation of character.” Robert Coles, Harvard professor of psychiatry and medical humanities and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, defines character as: “… a process, not a possession, but something one searches for: a quality of mind and heart one struggles for…” Vivekananda believed that “Education is the manifestation of the perfection already existing in man.” In the context of education as transformation, an interest in ‘science and non-duality’ leads one to the pursuit of that, of nurturing the inner awareness, capacity, and manifestation of the human values that constitute virtue or character – a prerequisite of spiritual aspiration, without which twenty years in an isolated hut may not bear fruit. “If the meditator is able to use whatever occurs in his life as the path, his body becomes a retreat hut.” Jigme Lingpa, 18th century Tibetan terton. Ronne uses a 5+5+5+5 Pedagogy:

5 Domains of Human Development: physical, vital, mental/emotional, discriminatory knowledge/intellect, and spiritual;

5 Universal Human Values: Truth, Right Action, Peace, Love, and Nonviolence;

5 Traditional Wisdom Teaching Techniques (integrated with contemporary research based teaching innovation): storytelling, music and song, inspirational quotations as cognitive organizers, mindfulness meditation, and experiential activities;

5 Global Curriculum Themes:Human Needs and Rights, Environmental and Economic Responsibility, Ceiling on Desires and Diversions, The Unity of Faiths, and The Interdependence of Life.

Her presentation will demonstrate how all 5+5+5+5 can be easily integrated into any curriculum.