Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Satisfying Aesthetic, Emotional, and Spiritual Demands": A Whole New Mind Applications for Schools, Part 3

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the FutureIn the previous two parts of this series, I examined Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Willl Rule the Future and suggested how some of the concepts in the book apply to schools.  Those three concepts are:
  1. Work that cannot be done cheaper overseas
  2. Work that cannot be done faster by computers
  3. Work that satisfies the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of a prosperous time (p. 61)
In part three, I explore how schools satisfy the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands of their communities.

What do we mean by the "aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual demands" of a school community?

To paraphrase Mr. Pink, schools can no longer only provide a reasonably priced (or free for public schools) education that adequately addresses their missions.  Schools need to also be 'beautiful, unique, and meaningful" (p. 33).  In other words, there must be value beyond the teaching and learning - and that value must be obvious.  I suggest that schools can work to address these new demands through:
  • Physical plant, classroom design, and sensory awareness
  • Maintaining a global perspective and network
  • Symbolic leadership
Physical Plant, Classroom Design, and Sensory Awareness

One of the more enchanting parts of my college years was the feeling I got just being on campus.  The design of the physical plant, condition of the grounds, landscaping, etc. all combined to make the experience very special.  More than a place to learn, I found Rhodes College to be a place to reflect, relax, and enjoy the company of other learners.

The condition of your campus and your classroom should tell both students and visitors that they are in a place where learning matters, but so does attention to detail and an appreciation for the awareness of the area around you.  Next time you are on a campus or in a classroom, take a moment to look at its design.  What does it tell you?  How do all your senses participate in the environment?  Is it a place you are eager to leave?  How easy is it for you to reflect and think?  Are there distractions built into the environment that you would try to eliminate?

Maintaining a Global Perspective and Network

The question of meaning is often explored within the context of our place in the world.  Making a difference, knowing that our talents are used to help others, and believing that our time was spent on causes greater than ourselves are all issues involved in investigating meaning.

Schools have a wonderful opportunity to support a global perspective and begin to help students understand their place in a world and with a generation of people that is arguably the most connected and networked in history.

Symbolic Leadership

I have written about symbolic leadership before as an aspect of framing situations.  Essentially, symbolic leadership is thinking in terms of adding meaning to events that, on the surface, are not very important.  For example, finishing Kindergarten is not necessarily the pinnacle of scholastic achievement but many schools have a Kindergarten "graduation" or "closing ceremony" to mark the moment in the student's life.  Focusing on ceremony and meaning is the foundation of framing situations symbolically.  For more information about multi-frame leadership orientations, I encourage you to check out the work of Dr. Lee Bolman.

Conclusion

This post is the last in a three part series suggesting some connections between what schools do and Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Willl Rule the Future.  More than places to learn, the functions of great schools go beyond the lessons outlined in the course catalogue to provide meaning, beauty, and empathy.  In a world that is increasingly in need of people who can see the big picture and create new opportunities, great schools provide a foundation for students to do work that:
  • cannot be done cheaper overseas
  • cannot be done faster by a computer
  • satisfies the aesthetic, emotional, and spiritual needs of a prosperous society
If you missed the other two parts of this series, please click here for part one and here for part two.
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