Key Historical Contributions

It is difficult to map the history of holistic education because many feel that the core ideas of holism are not new but “timeless and found in the sense of wholeness in humanity’s religious impetus”. On the other hand, the roots of holistic education can be traced back to several major contributors. Originating theorists include Jean Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, Johann Pestalozzi, Friedrich Froebel, and Francisco Ferrer. More recent theorists are Rudolf Steiner, Maria Montessori, Francis Parker, John Dewey, John Holt, Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and Paulo Freire. With the ideas of these pioneers in mind, many feel that the core ideas of holistic education did not truly take form until the cultural paradigm shift that began in the 1960s. After this, the holism movement in psychology emerged in the 1970s where, during this time, “an emerging body of literature in science, philosophy and cultural history provided an overarching concept to describe this way of understanding education – a perspective known as holism”.