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Schools Of Conscience, Issue #007 -- Nurturing Schools Resolution v1.0 + new Hidden Curriculum Video
May 02, 2015

A Word From Don

  1. I made a new video series about the hidden curriculum of schools.

  2. T-shirts!

    There is now a Cafe Press site for Schools of Conscience schwag.

    Wear the subtitle question from the new book: Why Do We Ignore Schools That Nurture Children?.

    A portion of the proceeds of your order will go to Schools of Conscience.

Schools of Conscience Newsletter Contents

A Word From Don

The New Hidden Curriculum Video Series

Nurturing Schools Resolution v1.0

Why Schools of Conscience?

The New Hidden Curriculum Video Series

This is the most important work that I have done recently.

This 4-part video series includes a demonstration of the hidden curriculum and explains how we can shift schools towards having nurturing hidden curriculums instead of harmful ones. Check it out:

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Nurturing Schools Resolution v1.0

I adapted the resolution that I presented in my book Every Parent's Dilemma: Why Do We Ignore Schools That Nurture Children?.

This is meant for a school rather than a government.

I would appreciate your feedback about it.

Whereas, …

… all adults responsible for children must nurture them.

… nurturing, in this resolution, means supporting a person (of any age) to satisfy their primary human needs.

… people whose primary human needs are being thwarted are less able to support others to satisfy their primary human needs. (For this reason, in a airplane emergency at high altitude, a parent is required to put on their oxygen mask before putting one on their child.)

… primary human needs are not derived from any other needs, are universal to all humans, and have non-neutral effects on well-being.

… air, water, food, shelter, sleep, relatedness, autonomy, and competence have been shown to be primary human needs (as established by peer-reviewed scientific studies published in widely respected journals). ("Maslow's Hierarchy," despite being intuitively compelling and gaining widespread fame, has failed to be scientifically supported.)

… thwarting the needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence leads to anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychological distress.

… anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychological distress are forms of mental ill-being.

… ill-being, whether physical or mental, leads to diminished capacity for learning.

… supporting people to meet their needs for relatedness, autonomy, and competence leads to intrinsic motivation and engagement.

… intrinsic motivation and engagement lead to optimal learning and the best possible learning outcomes.

… peer-reviewed scientific studies of student populations published in widely respected journals have observed the maintenance of intrinsic motivation and engagement only in schools that make instruction optional, not mandatory.

Therefore, we RESOLVE to …

… recognize that nurturing is fundamental to well-being and is the foundation upon which education is built.

… recognize that nurturing is a pervasive responsibility of all adults in schools that serve children of any age.

… recognize that both adults and children must be nurtured in order for our schools to be effective and efficient educational organizations.

… support nurturing as a necessary precondition for optimal learning and as a logical precedent to all the various purposes of education that optimal learning will serve, the pedagogical choices that follow from those purposes, and the implementation of those pedagogical choices.

… safeguard nurturing by giving it precedence over the pursuit of other valuable educational goals such as possessing basic knowledge and skills, job readiness, and college preparation.

… assess school climate at least twice per year using an instrument that includes measures of psychological well-being and that has been validated through peer-reviewed scientific research, (e.g. the Hope Survey).

… establish a pattern of school climate data demonstrating that our student population maintains intrinsic motivation or engagement for typical classroom activities.

… protect the features of our school that have been shown to be causally related to nurturing and/or the maintenance of intrinsic motivation or engagement.

Resolutions are not legally binding, but by coming to agreement as an organization on this resolution, your school community will be acknowledging a moral obligation to nurture children and teachers in this scientifically minimal way.

Taking on that moral obligation and sharing your commitment publicly through the website will enable us to build the political power we need to enable this moral imperative to eventually become a normal expectation of all schools.

Your school community is encouraged to follow up on this resolution with legally binding policies that build on the strengths your school community already brings to the tasks of nurturing.

Schools of Conscience has a long term plan to develop an accreditation program that is focused on a combination of nurturing and holistic sustainability.

Member schools will be contributing support to this project in the form of dues and also have the opportunity to participate in the development of the accreditation program.

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Why Schools of Conscience?


All adults responsible for children must nurture them, where nurturing means supporting them to meet their primary human needs for air, water, food, sleep, shelter, relatedness, competence, and autonomy.


Most schools in the world have a nurturing problem, but they don't realize it.

Academic results are central to their identity while nurturing is considered, at best, a secondary issue.

Schools do everything they can think of to influence academic results but they inadvertently operate in ways that thwart some needs.

Their actions are misguided because they are ignorant of the psychological equivalent of an order of operations.

In mathematical calculations there is an established order in which the various operations within the calculation proceed.

For instance, you complete the multiplication and division operations before completing the addition and subtraction.

This ensures consistent results are produced by all mathematicians.

Psychologists have discovered that learning must be supported in certain ways before instruction can produce consistent results.

Students and teachers must be supported to meet their primary human needs before they will produce consistently effective academic results in the classroom.

This problem of a lack of nurturing in schools is compounded by the fact that the identification of schools with academic results is reinforced by an unconscious cultural paradigm, a suite of interlocking ideas, that learning is the result of the delivery of academic content.

Changing the dominant paradigm is a long-term project. Fortunately, we know it can be done because a similar change occurred in the past.

Education today is in about the same place medicine was in the mid-19th century.

Everything that doctors did to prevent death and cure disease at that time was misguided because they were ignorant of the medical equivalent of an order of operations.

They did everything they could think of to fight disease and death, but all of their efforts were misguided by their belief that disease was caused by miasma, by bad smells.

Hospitals had 40-80% infection rates.

They lacked the ability to think in terms of germs; germ theory would have enabled them to develop the antiseptic and aseptic procedures that are necessary prerequisites to effective medical interventions.

Antiseptic and aseptic protocols are not concerned with the central defining features of hospital medical practice; they are a foundation upon which effective hospital practice builds.

It is primarily because of the development of antiseptic and aseptic protocols that national hospital infection rates are less than 7% and the medical "miracle" of organ transplantation has become an everyday occurrence.


Today schools lack the nurturing protocols that would enable their instructional practices to produce educational "miracles" on an everyday basis.

Nurturing protocols will not be concerned with what is taught or how; they will be the foundation upon which effective instruction (pedagogy) builds.

Nurturing protocols will only be fully developed when school managers and policy makers can think about learning as a form of cognitive cartography or mental mapmaking.

Since learning is a process of mental mapmaking, learners are active agents, not passive recipients.

Active agents have goals that may not be congruent with the goals that the system has traditionally imposed.

The learners' goal-directed activities may be better starting points for effective and efficient instructional guidance than arbitrary starting points chosen by distant curriculum specialists or legislatures.

Nurturing protocols will lead to students and teachers having more consistent experiences of playful fun as an integral part of learning and experiences of love as a school community.

Obstacle to the Solution

There is an additional large-scale cultural factor that will make this change challenging.

We live in a global culture that values controlling children for their own good, even though controlling children's behavior can be psychologically harmful.

We have deep cultural assumptions that mistakenly view nurturing behaviors as less effective than harmful controlling behaviors for positively influencing children's life choices.

Our culture assumes that if adults ensure that children experience good behavior (as dictated by adults) their character will be shaped in a manner that makes them more likely to be good in the future.

It is assumed that children's dispositions are malleable but difficult-to-change properties of their character.

Control is assumed to be an effective method of altering a child's character towards goodness.

This is called dispositionism.

One of the most consistent and remarkable findings in the field of psychology is that the dispositionist view of human nature is wrong.

We humans have stable needs.

We also have dispositions, personalities, and character traits that appear stable, but are all changeable in the right situations.

This is called situationism.

What we observe as stability is actually a reflection of the stability of our needs and the relative stability of the various biological, psychological, relational, organizational, social, and ecological systems that generate the situations in which we seek to satisfy those needs.

Taking situationism seriously means that the adult responsibility for nurturing children is shifted from ensuring that the children behave in good ways to ensuring that the children are embedded in situations in which they have appropriate access to a variety of resources so that they can discover effective strategies for satisfying their needs.

And the more those situations in childhood accurately reflect situations that those children will encounter in the future, then the better prepared they will be for meeting their needs in the future as well.

Schools, teachers, and students cannot be understood except within a framework that takes some account of the multiple levels of influence on their situation.

Our approach to nurturing is holistic because it accounts for multiple levels.

In nurturing schools we have the humility to acknowledge that our inherited cultural narratives about the necessities of delivering academic content and controlling children for their own good are are misleading in the same way that narratives about miasma and bleeding sick people misled doctors for thousands of years.

We recognize that we must moderate our power to control children so that they can discover how to satisfy their own needs within the complex situations in which they are embedded.

We reject the assumption that if children can be forced to enact good behaviors then they will become good people.

Instead we take responsibility for creating good situations in which to place children.

If they become skillful participants in the situations they experience in our well-structured schools then they will also develop the skills to transform future situations into good ones.

Enforcing boundaries for safety and respect is necessary but enforcement must be done in nurturing ways, not controlling ones.

Rather than relying on a few specially empowered adults (a.k.a. teachers & administrators) to enforce necessary boundaries, we strive to create school situations that enable anyone (of any age) to take responsibility for the well-being of the whole by using appropriate socially supported mechanisms for enforcing boundaries in nurturing ways.

Schools of Conscience is on a mission to build the nurturing capacity of K-12 schools.

In the first stage of this mission we are asking member schools to enact the "Nurturing Schools Resolution."

The resolution sets a necessary groundwork on which nurturing capacity can be built.

In the next stage of the mission we will develop methods for observing the nurturing capacity we help schools to build through a school accreditation process based on a holistic approach to sustainability.

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