“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Education is the subject of much public debate. Politicians and bureaucrats, educators and parents, students and concerned citizens all have an interest—and a stake—in the way we educate our children. But while much is said about the subject, seldom are the more profound, difficult questions ever asked, questions that require not only changing the way schools are organized and classes are taught, but also require a radical transformation of the very concept of education in the modern world. Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto approaches the problem of education from just such a radically new perspective.
The book includes a forward by education scholar and activist Bill Ayers. “Theodore Richards points us toward a more vibrant and liberated space where education is linked to an iron commitment to free inquiry, investigation, open questioning, and full participation,” he writes, “an approach that encourages independent thought and judgment; and a base-line standard of full access and complete recognition of the humanity of each individual. He demonstrates the power of learning from, not about: from nature, not about nature, from work, not about work, from history not about history. As opposed to obedience and conformity, the work promotes initiative, courage, imagination, and creativity. In other words, the highest priority is the creation of free people geared toward enlightenment and liberation.”
Nearly every discussion about schools assumes that the goals of our educational system are appropriate and worthwhile. The narrative of the modern industrial world that defines our values and shapes the metaphors with which we understand our world also determines how we shape our schools, our curricula, our children. From the White House to the little red schoolhouse, these values are seldom questioned. The debate about schools is about test scores, productivity, and quantifiable outcomes. Creatively Maladjusted argues that these values both undermine our children’s learning and, in the cases where children are “successful”, guide our children toward destructive, rather than creative lives.
Many of the ideas in Creatively Maladjusted come from The Chicago Wisdom Project, a program for marginalized youth that implements this radical vision for education. The Chicago Wisdom Project is part of a growing movement with partners throughout Chicago and the United States. For more on our Wisdom Teacher Training Program, click here.
An advance review from Matthew Fox:
Richards’ book is a very good read—not dull and not overly mental as so many educational studies tend to be. With stories and humor, as well as anger and a passion to make things better, Richards makes a strong case for putting learning ahead of testing and emphasizing values more than competitive scores. He recognizes that young people desire to learn but their alienation is such that “things must change quickly and peacefully or they will certainly change rapidly and violently.” He warns that “if we want the next generation to reimagine our world, we must educate them differently.” He sees real educational improvements occurring more through movements than through institutions. A movement is open to all interested parties from parents to teachers, from counselors to philanthropists. Teachers in public schools are “overworked, under pressure, and generally in a bad mood,” he observes. And many just quit. Education is not a real happy place these days.
Richards wants to shape education by story rather than by information, by resisting consumerism rather than educating for it. The goal of education, he reminds us, “is not to make better schools, but to make a better world.” And “the ultimate relevance of a school is what kind of civilization it inspires our children to create.” Modern industrial culture has pretty much defined education in its terms; we can do much better today and must. The metaphors, narratives and values of our educational system are outmoded. A Wisdom Education Movement can bring alive new values that assure a “nurturing, creative, joyous, inspiring place.” This book is well worth reading; and discussing; and arguing; and enacting.