Vol. 28 No.1  Spring 2001

A Vision of Schools with Spirit

Linda Lantieri

Education should be a source of nurturance for the spirit as well as a
means of reaching understanding.
Linda Darling-Hammond

This essay is dedicated to all children who would benefit from having their inner lives more present in our classrooms, and to the adults who have the courage to help evoke that change. A bold new vision for our schools is needed—one that reclaims them as soulful places of learning where the spiritual dimension is welcomed. My intention here is to explore some of the possibilities and practicalities of creating such a movement and the role you and I can play in it.

I would like to make it clear at the outset that I am not talking about the teaching of religion or religious doctrine, but about ways to attend to what I would call the spiritual life of young people while respecting both the wide range of religious convictions held by many in our diverse and pluralistic society and the more secular worldviews shared by others. The kind of spiritual development I am advocating is not about allowing schools to display the Ten Commandments their classrooms. I am concerned with fostering and inventing educational approaches that encourage a commitment to those matters of the heart and spirit that are among the positive building blocks of healthy development.

Because this is a complex topic, perhaps the best place to begin is with a bit of personal history. I’ve always considered it a great blessing that my occupation and my vocation have coincided—that my professional life has also been my calling. For more than three decades now, I have worked in the field of public education. I have worn many hats: classroom teacher, school administrator, education activist, college faculty member. For the past sixteen years I’ve served as the director of one of our country’s largest and most successful efforts to teach social and emotional skills in the classroom—the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP) of Educators for Social Responsibility. Throughout my career, I have always felt that the education of young people involved not only their intellectual, emotional, and social development but also their spiritual growth. However, the challenge of connecting the inner life of mind and spirit and the outer world of secular education is not an easy one to meet, because for several reasons our society seems to have built an almost impenetrable wall between the two.

[Spring 2001 Issue Contents]