The Whole Child – In Parts

It must be a reaction to the Enlightenment habit of analyzing everything by breaking it into its components and then arguing that you know it when you have identified its elements, but one of the common themes of the conventional educator is that we want to teach “the whole child.”

Like every marketed phrase, this one receives very little reflection. Usually, I hear it from young teachers, freshly minted, who don’t want the child’s mind to be overtaxed. They typically mean that his emotions should also be attended to.

This approach breaks down for many reasons, two of which leap to my mind: one, you cannot separate the mind from the emotions; two, the emotions are too complex; and three, any meaningful direct engagement with the emotions is off-limits and beyond the competence to the teacher.

The soul loves to know. When a child learns with his mind, he is happy. That is enough for the teacher to know about the student’s emotions.

But even with all that, a wider problem remains. We have spoken of teaching the whole child without ever clarifying what the whole child consists of. If, as I believe, the child consists of body, soul, and spirit, and if the spirit is conscious of the divine, then it is illegal to teach the whole child in our public schools. If the law of God is written on the child’s heart, then we are required by our courts to contort the child by blocking his inner perceptions.

You can’t teach the whole child if you try to remove his chest.

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