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.”