Discovering the World: Neohumanist Sciences and Mathematics
(the focus here was on curriculum, not methodology)
Eric Jacobsen opened this discussion by pointing out that math and science are integral unto themselves so to talk about them neohumanistically is to link them to other aspects of the school that brings neohumanist meaning to an understanding of math and science – i.e. math and science as service (running a neohumanist business project in school) or using scientific learning to increase the school’s sustainability profile and reduce its environmental footprint. Both math and science should also inspire awe, wonder and curiosity. Looking for patterns in math such as the Fibonacci series or studying Pythagoras’ Theorem and Sacred Geometry, or enjoying the night sky with students, will expand them beyond their current sense of self and introduce the wonder of the cosmos. These are also neohumanist applications of math and science.
He explained that math is a relatively pure science and compared to other curricular areas, will have little variation around the world in what is taught. At present the only change in math curriculum in Neohumanist schools is the addition of sacred math, Fibonacci, or the math of nature into the curriculum. The NHE methodology of math is quite unique however, in that it values application over knowledge, moral intent over fact. Examples were given of math projects that benefit the community. He also told stories of young people who he would not even teach math to until they had corrected their character, explaining that we cannot equip an immoralist with all the power they need to exploit others. First comes character, then you can add the power of knowledge to it.
In the sphere of science curriculum, he explained that science curriculum should be limited to 4 topics per 10 month school year to allow deep exploration of each topic as it relates to everything else around it. Once again the theme of long-term learning taking precedence over short-term memorization came up in the discussion of yearly curriculum plans. Other specific ways Neohumanism is applied to science are through the emphasis on deep ecology, and through teaching about the universe as a set of systems nested within each other, each operating in compliance with certain natural laws.Teachers shared stories of neohumanist adventures in science and math.
Neohumanist Pragmatics: Developing Social and Practical Learning Contexts
Then the rest of the day was devoted to an Open Space meeting, introduced by Dr. Marcus Bussey. Participants formed interest groups and developed curriculum themed lesson plans. This was a lively sharing and brought a shift in the conference as now creativity was turned on and the teachers were seeing possibilities of how to incorporate philosophy as the first step into the process of developing curriculum. Philosophy organizes, identifies and brings cohesion and breadth to our thinking. The practical and creative responds to the philosophy and can always be reinvented, with many different possibilities; frame and re-frame.
The Structure for Open Space DayBuilding from the Philosophy
Philosophical Principle: Choose an aspect of philosophy to explore
Who: Teacher; students; others
What (Topic): Can be general or specific e.g.: “Great Artists” or “Art for Service and Blessedness”
General Statement: Map context; outline how the principle aligns with the topic; acknowledged contextual possibilities and limitations
Goals: What do you want to achieve in the realm of personal and collective development (qualitative); what do you want to achieve in terms of concrete outcomes (quantitative)
Demonstrate awareness of how this unit of work sits within the overall context of school curriculum and community
Resources: What do you need to pull this work together
Outline Time Frame: Develop a time line with key achievements marked out