That is the call by scientists and researchers who have studied child development, the science of learning, the history of education, and labor market projections. It is the plea of counselors and school psychologists who attend daily to students suffering from the ill-effects of bullying, academic pressure, racial violence, and school yard shootings. It is the advice of educational leaders who are concerned that an overemphasis on standardized tests and admissions to elite colleges has narrowed the curriculum.
Parents and teachers see and experience the whole child on a daily basis and inherently know that one cannot separate intellectual advancement from social, emotional, and physical development.
In fact, few argue with the benefits of, and need for, educating the whole child. While we may have reached a tipping point of thought, our collective action lags far behind. The rapid spread of Coronavirus and its sudden, dramatic impact on schools gives us a much greater sense of urgency.
Young people face new demands
At this moment, our children are being called upon to be resilient, adaptable, and empathetic. We need them to step up and be compassionate, civically minded and ethically responsible. Teachers expect them to demonstrate their digital literacy and communicate effectively across platforms. Parents expect them to be independent learners, self-directed, intellectually curious, and resourceful. We all hope that they will exercise curiosity, creativity and critical thinking to identify and approach real world problems that just weeks ago were unanticipated and unpredictable. And, now more than ever, we pray that they maintain a healthy mind and body. All of these competencies (and more) result from educating the whole child.
This moment of disruption is also an opportunity to stop and ask how best to educate the whole child. While we continue to explore possibilities, many school districts have already taken a first step by engaging community stakeholders to create a Graduate Profile – a succinct, one-pager defining the skills, competencies, and mindsets necessary for future success in college, career, and civic engagement. Leaders of these districts recognize that the measures contained in our state accountability system may be necessary, but are far from sufficient to catapult our young people into an unknown future or prepare them for the unexpected.