Nov 23

Research Essay – Enlightened Education

Larry J. Fontana
– 1740 Words –

By integrating Passion, Pleasure and Purpose into our schooling environment, common educational activities can be transformed into self-actualizing learning adventures. Self-actualization is defined in the Free Dictionary as “To develop or achieve one’s full potential” (“Self-actualize”). Also, the distinction between student-centered learning and a standardized education (Rhonda, and Cindy) is particularly significant when considering an ideal schooling environment.

How might our societal view of personal and career excellence evolve if educational environments facilitated self-actualization and student-centered learning as a fundamental promise to each and every student? An article from MSNBC titled “Americans hate their jobs more than ever” (Science) states, “Americans hate their jobs more than ever before in the past 20 years, with fewer than half saying they are satisfied.” This beckons us to consider the disadvantage a standardized education can have when it is not integrated with the student’s Passion, Pleasure and Purpose. The grand vision for this ideal schooling model is to facilitate a world of self-aware individuals who passionately and purposefully manifest their lives and careers with excitement and greatness, in gratitude for the learning environments that helped them launch their journey.

The poet David Whyte said, “Many of the qualities now asked for in the post modern workplace [schooling] are qualities close to the human heart; qualities which cannot be legislated or coerced. Creativity, adaptability, vision and passion all appear when an individual places their work [education] in the greater perspective of their own destiny” (Whyte).

An ideal schooling environment would insist that education is an individualized journey that embraces the student’s vision, creativity and enthusiasm. Education and career choices blend into the grander scheme of ones life, not the other way around. It would be the schools’ charter to facilitate the individual journey of each and every student, and to be vigilant in the pursuit of all possibilities and opportunities that support personal and collective greatness.

The administrator of this environment would be resolute on anchoring the principles of an individualized and integrated curriculum, as well as being a catalyst for creativity, adaptability and expertly mentored experiences. An article titled “The Teacher’s Job When Using Learning by Doing” by Roger Schank and Chip Cleary states:

Teachers should expose students to knowledge. Learning by doing entails trying things out, formulating hypotheses and testing them (…) Good teachers should expose their students to enough situations that the students will become curious enough to take learning into their own hands (…) The curriculum must be oriented towards, and satisfied with, the idea that students will learn what they need in order to accomplish goals (Schank, and Cleary).

It would be the prime directive for staff and students to provide a fertile and innovative environment enabling each willing student the opportunity to establish their Credibility and Ethos (Lunsford, and Ruszkiewics 69-71) within their chosen field of study; and to achieve mastery, no matter how much the cost, no matter how long it takes, no exceptions!

Fabulous results could be accomplished if students were able to fully embrace their talents and passions without limitations imposed by money, ego and politics. First of all, tuition, books, technology and supplies would be available to everyone, free of charge! The current academic-machine will be dismantled and a new era of a personalized and purpose driven curriculum will be ushered in. The lowest-common-denominator approach (Heilman) will no longer be acceptable, and the student’s needs, ideas, motivations and objectives would be the primary and sole focus of the educational process.

Prior to any declaration of a preferred course of study by a student, a thorough examination and understanding of skills, strengths, aptitude and desires would be explored. This would include a clearing (if necessary) of any inaccurate beliefs, assumptions, understandings and concerns.

During this preparatory period, the school will facilitate lectures and interviews with the most successful advisors and experts in their fields, so students can receive the time, support, mentorship and experiences to know they are on a path that speaks deeply to their heart, soul and mind. This might also include very specific internships, hands-on projects, and travel adventures; whatever it takes for the student to gain the clarity necessary to receive their “AH-HA” moment!

Another basic area of an ideal schooling environment has to do with personalized learning styles and assessments (not tests.) It will incorporate state-of-the-art tools, coaching and conversations within all programs to help students identify and develop their most effective learning styles and natural talents and strengths.

The concept of building our skills, knowledge and expertise around our natural strengths and gifts will replace the outdated concept of developing weaknesses. This does not eliminate the notion that overcoming a weakness can be a worthwhile endeavor, rather understanding that developing our weaknesses might make us good or better, but developing our strengths will make us great (Buckingham, and Clifton).

Curriculums will have carefully defined frameworks and definitions, combined with great flexibility and adaptability. The college textbook “everything’s an argument” (Lunsford, and Ruszkiewics 36-37), says to think carefully about the “context” of an argument, or more specifically a series of concentric contexts, prior to writing. An ideal learning environment would strongly suggest that the student develop their educational “context(s)” as well. This will almost always raise questions of value and purpose which would then need to be explored in greater detail.

Integration between programs will be very common such as a student in a scriptwriting class, working together with a video production student, to produce a collaborative project that is highlighted on a local TV station. Or, a student in an audio-visual class setting up the sound and recording equipment for an open-microphone night in the student lounge, which will be posted on college and community websites.

Every curriculum will include all of the necessary communication, networking and teamwork skills so students can become fully aware and adept within a global workplace and marketplace. The integration of education and real-world experiences will be seamless, effective and comprehensive.

In some regards, the future of student-centered schooling has already arrived. For example, The Community Works Institute gathered Twenty-five students, ages 10 to 17, from seven schools throughout northeast and north central Vermont. The article “Students Define Elements for Passionate Learning” states the six key elements they discovered (Beattie):

(1) Challenge: Learning must challenge the person to go beyond what they currently know, and to take risk in the process. (2) Helping Relationships: Helping relationships, with teachers or other “superheros” in the lives of young people, have the critical element of caring which is essential to learning (…) (3) Enjoyment: Learning must include some element of enjoyment… In fact, students sighted some of their most enjoyable learning moments were the times when they worked the hardest. (4) Unknown Beginnings…Unknown Endings: Often learning is like getting on a track where you see the start but cannot see the destination. What is important is getting in the race. (5) Action: Learning is most enjoyable when it includes some action or “doing” piece (6) Creative: Learning involves acquiring knowledge; but knowledge without creativity is colorless and bland, like the unpainted portion of the world. Learning coupled with creativity is colorful and full of life (Beattie).

The idea of “learning by doing” (Schank, and Cleary) is somewhat common in the modern workplace. Why then is this concept limited and fragmented within educational environments? This is not just about performing the tasks and exercises that are required, rather a doing that is intrinsically linked to the student’s pro-active Purpose, Pleasure and Passion. A doing that leads the student to generate new insights and new questions, beyond simply arriving at suggested or pre-digested answers.

In an article titled “Creativity and Education,” F. David Peat writes:

You can certainly train people to carry out tasks in a better way, acquire new techniques and skills, and to accumulate new knowledge. But the whole essence of creativity lies in its freshness, its freedom, its newness. Creativity is often unexpected and exciting. It involves seeing things in new ways and breaking rules. Creativity may result in something radically different

— e.g. Picasso/Stravinsky or it may involve the unfolding of an old, established form with a total freshness – e.g. Bach and the fugue (Peat).

Albert Einstein said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.” This could not be any more true or appropriate than in education. Educational shortcomings will not be solved with more rules, more political agendas, and more standardization, rather by enhancing personalization, creativity, enjoyment and caring.

When an authentic commitment to excellence and greatness are at the core of educational environments, and students are given the creative license to invent, innovate and pursue personal yearnings, miracles will happen!

By integrating Passion, Pleasure and Purpose into our schooling environment, common educational activities can be transformed into self-actualizing learning adventures. From this place of awareness and expertise students can develop their full potential at anything they wish.

What higher calling can there be than for mentors and teachers to facilitate personalized, student-centered learning, helping students uncover and actualize their full potential. And, what could be more valuable to a society or workplace than an ideal educational environment committed to helping students manifest their true purpose and passion, for the benefit of their personal and professional greatness, and for the collective wellbeing of the whole!


Works Cited

Beattie, Helen. “Students Define Elements for Passionate Learning.” Community Works Institute. Community Works Institute, Web. 22 Nov 2009. <http://

Buckingham, Marcus, and Donald Clifton. Now Discover Your Strengths. 1st. 1. New York: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

Heilman, Robert. “Lowest-Common-Denominator-Education.” JSTOR: The Journal of Higher Education. 01 May 1949. Ithaka-Jstor, Web. 27 Nov 2009. <>.

Lunsford, Andrea, and John Ruszkiewics. Everything’s an argument. MLA 2009 Update. 1 Vol. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 36-71. Print.

Peat, David. “Creativity and Education.” F. David Peat. 23 Feb 1989. F. David Peat, Web. 22 Nov 2009. <http:// >.

Rhonda, and Cindy. “Student Centered vs. Standardized Education.” WikiSpaces. Tangient LLC, Web. 27 Nov 2009. <

Schank, Roger, and Chip Cleary. “The Teacher’s Job When Using Learning by Doing.” Engines For Education. Engines For Education, Web. 22 Nov 2009. < hyperbook/nodes/NODE-221-pg.html>.

Science, Live. “Americans hate their jobs more than ever.” MSNBC. 26 Feb 2007. MSNBC, Web. 22 Nov 2009. <http://>.

“Self-actualize.” Free Dictionary by Farlex. Web. 21 Nov 2009. <>.

Whyte, David. “Spring 2003 CEO Roundtable Retreat.” CEO

Roundtable. 06 Mar 2003. CEO Roundtable, Web. 22 Nov 2009. <>.