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Schools CAN and SHOULD Encourage Secular Spirituality… But Stay Away from Dogma

January 21, 2020

WBUR reporter Robin Young recently broadcast a story describing how schools across the world are introducing secular spirituality into their classrooms and detailing the benefits that students get as a result. The report was triggered by her coverage of a conference at Columbia University convened by professor Lisa Miller, the founder of the Collaborative for Spirituality in Education. Ms. Miller defines spirituality as a “deep way of being, through which we feel connected to all life, with awe and reverence for the mystery of being”, and she sees this as part of a natural progression of intellectual and emotional maturity… one that leads students to inevitably ask questions like “why am I here?”

Ms. Miller suggests that schools should not sidestep these questions, which are important for future citizens to grapple with, especially in a democracy:

All schools are tasked with preparing students for democracy, she says. Educator John Dewey said before we can have a political democracy, we must have a “spiritual or social democracy” where we learn how to speak to people with whom we disagree.

Robin Young’s report included the voices of teachers and professors who shared experiences of how spirituality-infused schools impacted children AND teachers. The report concluded with this observation from Ms. Miller:

We found most teachers go into education out of a deep sense of calling and yet there is a silencing of the deep core of the teacher. My job each day when I show up as a teacher is to draw out the possibility of the child that they don’t even know is there for themselves. … That is a different sense than subject teaching.

I would assert that children connect with those teachers who do NOT silent their deep core, who tap into the spirituality that drew them to the profession and relate to the student on a spiritual level as well as an intellectual one. When we suppress the sense of spirituality (as opposed to religion– which IS “subject teaching”), we diminish the joy of teaching AND the joy of learning.

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