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Lions Roar : January 2007
IT’S A HAPPY TIME—playful, carefree, innocent. Such is the commonplace about childhood. And while there is some truth to it, it’s an incomplete picture. It’s doubtful childhood was ever so rosy as all that—we’ve always known about its darker side—but the picture you get today, from talking to the people who spend their lives working with children, may ask you to pay more attention to the inner lives of children. Many teachers will tell you that the average child in America leads a life that can be as stressful and fearful as it is materially luxurious. And those without luxury, they say, face even greater pressures. As children enter adolescence and teenagehood, the social, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual challenges escalate, often to a painful and even suicidal (and homicidal) degree. Growing up is very hard to do, and most of it happens in school, a place many of us would like to forget. When you consider the number of people involved in educating and being educated in kindergarten through twelfth grade in Amer- ica it’s hard to take the state of our schools for granted. After health care, education is the most significant domestic policy concern. Each day in the U.S. and Canada, the equivalent of the entire population of Italy (approximately 60 million) attends school in K-12, and they are taught by a cadre of teachers equal to the population of Ireland (4 million). What should they teach, and how should they teach it? Each generation of teachers—and the administra- tors, university education departments, gov- ernments, and gurus that support and bedevil them—asks that question all over again. One hears all kinds of answers—educational theory is an ever-burgeoning indus- try—but some of the freshest voices today are talking about, and trying out, methods that go beyond transmitting information and training in cognitive skills. In having children pay attention to their breath, to their walking, to the world around them, and to their own emotions and those of others, they are trying to include all parts of the BARRY BOYCE talks to teachers about how contemplative practice can transform the meaning of education SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 67