Philosophical Framework

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 Fransisco 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”Any approach to education must ask itself, what is the goal of education? Holistic education aims at helping students be the most that they can be. Abraham Maslow referred to this as “self-actualization”. Education with a holistic perspective is concerned with the development of every person’s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potentials. It seeks to engage students in the teaching/learning process and encourages personal and collective responsibility.

In describing the general philosophy of holistic education, Robin Ann Martin and Scott Forbes (2004) divide their discussion into two categories: the idea of Ultimacy and Basil Berstein’s notion of Sagacious Competence.

1. Religious; as in becoming “enlightened”. Spirituality is an important component in holistic education as it emphasizes the connectedness of all living things and stresses the “harmony between the inner life and outer life”.

2. Psychological; as in Maslow’s “self-actualization”. Holistic education believes that each person should strive to be all that they can be in life. There are no deficits in learners, just differences.

3. Undefined; as in a person developing to the ultimate extent a human could reach and, thus, moving towards the highest aspirations of the human spirit (Holistic Education Network).

Sagacious Competence
1. Freedom (in a psychological sense).
2. Good-judgment (self-governance).
3. Meta learning (each student learns in their “own way”).
4. Social ability (more than just learning social skills).
5. Refining Values (development of character).
6. Self Knowledge (emotional development).