In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster asserts, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” Whether you completely agree with Foster, it resonates with me. It (along with a reference from a friend yesterday) prompted me to think about what it would mean to provide a deep education. Then I remembered something written in Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. Merton was describing his college years, particularly a day at the beginning of a semester when he accidentally showed up for the wrong class. He was supposed to be going to a history class, but instead ended upon in a course on Shakespeare. Despite the fact that it was a mistake, after the first class, he went to the registrar and signed upon for it. Here is how Merton described his experience in this accidental course:
“It was the best course I ever had at college. And it did me the most good, in many different ways. It was the only place where I ever heard anything really sensible about any of the things that were really fundamental-life, death, time, love, sorrow, fear, wisdom, suffering, eternity.”
What a wonderfully rich list of 9 themes! Those concerned with K-12 education continue to debate or implement the Common Core. In higher education, there is growing demand for career readiness and vocational tracks. And yet, this list of nine themes represents a different type of fundamental to a well-rounded education. It directs us to recognize that life is about much more than preparing for work, ensuring a competitive edge in a global economy, or raising academic standards. There remain those of us who value schools and learning organizations that invite us into the depths of questions about life and death, wisdom, fear, suffering, love, sorrow, time and eternity. These are fundamental themes of the human experience, ones that invite us to consider what it means to provide educations that lead toward a life of depth.
What would school look like if we re-imagined a curriculum that was informed by these sorts of themes as much or more than the CCSS?