Integral Learning at the Progressive School of Long Island

Theme for the 2016/2017 Year at the Progressive School of Long Island

By Eric Jacobson, Director

Academic subjects are often taught as if they were totally separate from one another. Math is separate from Science; English is separate from Social Studies. In an even deeper sense, such an academic fragmentation often reflects an even deeper fragmentation: the learning we receive in school from the reality of our everyday lives in the world.

It takes only a brief recollection of the story of the blind men and the elephant to show how problematic such a brand of “learning” really is. Teaching subjects as if they were radically separate from each other, and teaching curricula as if they were radically separate from the world in general will eventually lead us to lose sight of the deeply interconnected whole. Like the blind men, we will end up with a fair knowledge of one part of the elephant, and completely lack the knowledge of what it is we’re looking at in the first place.

Integral learning involves teaching subjects in the larger context of their relevance in the world. An idea emerges onto the field of history during the ongoing human drama. In response, human society creatively responds with art and music, with poetry and prose. The urge to know more spurs our scientific curiosity, and the way we relate to each other and the cosmos deepens and evolves. Far more than disparate disciplines, Math, Science, English and Social Studies mutually arise in a concurrent and co-creative fashion.

Human society is an intimate web of interwoven relationships. By emphasizing the connectedness of the disciplines and the connectedness of those disciplines to the real world, our students will naturally be more engaged and thoughtful as they understand subjects as they relate to and influence each other. The learning they gain from such an endeavor will be more deeply retained, and aid them as they develop their passions going forward. Ultimately, the aim of Neohumanist Education is to cultivate a sense of meaningfulness in our interconnections. Only by integrating the education we receive in school into the way we conduct ourselves in our everyday lives can such an education really be called Neohumanist.