by Don Berg, Founder
Joining is a way to demonstrate your commitment to nurturing schools.
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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 because it is a result of their hidden curriculum.
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.
The paradigm for the central task in a field is inherently a central feature of the hidden curriculum which makes changing it a long-term project.
Fortunately, we know it can be done because a similar change occurred in medicine 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 growing mental maps.
Since learning is a process of growing mental maps, 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 though 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 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.
We ask that our member schools enact the “Nurturing School Resolution” which is an edited version of the resolution originally presented in the book Every Parent's Dilemma: Why Do We Ignore Schools That Nurture Children?
The resolution sets a necessary groundwork on which the nurturing capacity of the hidden curriculum can be built.
We are also developing methods for observing the nurturing capacity we help schools to build through a school accreditation process.
Joining Schools of Conscience will enable us to build a strong network to do the work necessary to make child centered education the new normal.
When you join your monthly membership contributions support the building of political power that champions supporting primary human needs at all levels in schools.
Thank you for considering joining, I hope you will join us on our journey.
Joining is a way to demonstrate your commitment to nurturing schools.
To join as an individual paying monthly, please choose how much your dues will be from the drop-down menu below.
To join as an individual paying yearly, please choose how much your dues will be from the drop-down menu below.