November 16, 2014

Blueprint for a Nonviolence School

Can we design a school based on nonviolence?  Can we find inspiration from the lineage of nonviolence activists and change agents?  Can we determine a model that supports what the Metta Center for Nonviolence calls, a New Story?

Let's begin with Myles Horton:

I think if I had to put a finger on what I consider a good education, a good radical education, it wouldn't be anything about methods or techniques.  It would be loving people first."
-from the book, "We Make the Road by Walking"

1.  Respect the inherent worth and dignity of every individual 
Each person, regardless of age, is a complete human being with strengths, abilities, interests, experiences and passions.  They are not a vessel to be filled, nor a voice to to be silenced.  The nonviolence school would be egalitarian and multi-age.  We would create, co-create and recreate knowledge together and as individuals.  We would seek to empower the intrinsic motivations of each person and eliminate externally imposed measures that serve only to support obedience and conformity.  We would ask, "what are you interested in?"  "What are you passionate about?"  Then, we would empower each person to discover and fulfill their swadharma.          

2.  Every Person has Voice and Choice
Voice and Choice are an extension of respect for the individual.  Each person, regardless of age, would have voice to express their interests, passions and experiences.  They would also have the power (choice) to pursue those interests with others or by themselves.  Agency is another term that applies here.

3.  Encouraging the development of mind, body and spirit 
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony." - Gandhi  The compliment to mind, body and spirit are actions of word, thought and deed.  These all are interwoven and would be encouraged.     

4.  Nonviolent communication (NVC) and restorative justice
The practice of NVC and restorative justice would be a framework for communication and conflict resolution.  There would be no principal's office or retributive justice.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "an insistence on community, even when one seeks to break it."  When issues in our community separate us, we work to bring our community back together rather than ostracize or punish people in our community.    

5.  Embodying service
"I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be." - Martin Luther King, Jr.  Service would be a value and a practice.           

6.  Encouraging the lifelong study and practice of nonviolence
This would likely encompass spiritual practice, social action in both constructive and obstructive programs, teaching others about nonviolence, and other explorations of the practice, science, philosophy and methodology of nonviolence.

There is a growing trend of schools similar to this, particularly emphasizing numbers 1 and 2.  Democratic schools, free schools, unschools, Sudbury schools, and other similarly inspired programs follow numbers 1 and 2.  The rest you can modify to fit the needs of your community.  This could be a model for after-school programs, "Sunday schools" or other schools seeking to encourage the spiritual journey of young people. tutoring programs, music schools and more.

I helped start a school similar to this and offer this as a blueprint for others who wish to make a nonviolence school their constructive program.  The results are incredibly empowering, creative and fulfilling.  Reinventing education in this way is also the subject of a book I am writing under the working title, "The Content of their Character."  

Feel free to contact me if you have questions about opening a nonviolence school.  It is possible.  You can do this!  In the words of Peter Block, "the future appears as we gather."         

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