We shape the world. In the early 20th century, there was a movement of educators who believed deeply in the power of education to contribute to the shaping of the world.

These passionate educators and researchers had a vision of the world in which hope, humanity, and education were inexorably linked. In 1932, for example, in the midst of the Great Depression and at a time when the winds of world change were ever present, Carleton Washburne wrote that “education for the first time in the history of mankind…has the potentialities of reshaping human destiny,” and that “the leaders of educational thought in different countries are among those whose efforts, if well-coordinated, may do much toward helping mankind to use its power for its own growth and development rather than for its destruction.”

What we do matters. We are today faced with many of the same tensions and possibilities that Washburne saw some 80 years ago. War, poverty, and violence appear on every continent. Internal political divisions have fragmented our country. Yet, I am still hopeful.

I agree with Washburne that education can be a primary factor in determining the nature of the society in which we live. Our efforts, our classrooms, give students the skills of critical thinking, the ability to analyze, the courage to act, and the wisdom to make and learn from mistakes. In a world in which many seek to quantify and measure intelligence and success, we can lose sight that it is through these competencies that we truly empower our students and build a better world.

“Education in a democracy,” said the 19th century historian Alexis de Tocqueville, “is an apprenticeship in liberty.” It promotes the attitude…

As author and educator Pat Carini writes, it is our responsibility “To recognize in the child, in myself, in each person and all, the presence of those immeasurables that are the measure of our humanness: the immeasurable self – a self in the making, active in the pursuit of meaning and value; the immeasurable spirit, itself a wellspring of dreams foretelling a future in which what I or you or this child may become is never altogether predictable -- but is of highest human value.”

In my 32 years as an educator and administrator, it has been an honor to work with colleagues for whom possibility is the focus, humanness and spirit of learning the goal, hope the aspiration, and wisdom the achievement. In our relationships with students, we honor the “self in the making, active in the pursuit of meaning.”

It is hard to hold to these values in today’s social and political environment, which is all the more of a tribute to our ability and skill in doing so. Our actions do make a difference.

Daniel Schwartz

Head of School

Blue Oak School

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