Saturday, February 20, 2021

Is Education Capable of Adaptation?


“It must be emphasized that an entity is not merely a sum of its relations [to all other entities], but also a valuation of and reaction to them. ... As a human being's actions cannot always be predicted, the same can be said of where a tree's roots will grow, or how an electron will move, or whether it will rain tomorrow. Moreover, our inability to predict an electron's movement (for instance) is not due to faulty understanding or inadequate technology; rather, the fundamental creativity/freedom of all entities means that there will always remain phenomena that are unpredictable.

“The other side of creativity/freedom as the absolute principle is that every entity is constrained by the social structure of existence (i.e., its relations); each actual entity must conform to the settled conditions of the world around it. Freedom always exists within limits. But an entity's uniqueness and individuality arise from its own self-determination as to just how it will take account of the world within the limits that have been set for it. ― Wikipedia on Alfred North Whitehead

“The foundation of reverence is this perception, that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, backwards and forwards, that whole amplitude of time, which is eternity.” ― Alfred North Whitehead


We are glad you have chosen to join us in this challenging and promising moment in American history and American education. We are unashamedly taking all precautions and safeguards to protect the health and well-being of each one here ... but we felt that an "initial gathering" was important to be sure this work is launched both thoughtfully and personally. Time is of the essence ... and every day's delay seems to be limiting our options [which is not all bad]. We hope to use "online" media and meetings to sustain this launch and provide you with convenient venues to continue your participation in the future.


The word "intelligent" arises from the confluence of two simple Greek words ... "in"+"telos" ... and literally means "in the end" ... as it asks us to consider where we are headed ... and how we expect to get there. We are even reminded by John Erskine, American educator, that we each have The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent.

And yet, as everyone sooner or later learns in life, intelligent action is anything but simple !! It usually takes multiple points of view ... coming together in humble and patient dialogue ... and sometimes even a passing pandemic, a sustained depression or systemic poverty ... to fill the spaces and feel the boundaries that both enable and constrain our potential.

Each one of you has experienced the challenges and the promises of education ... with perseverance and determination ... successes and failures. And so the question before us is whether we can pool

  • what we have learned from the PAST
  • in the light of what we face in the PRESENT
  • to discover CREATIVE ways

We will feel nostalgic. ... and yet no matter how badly we long to do so, as Fleetwood Mac has reminded us [for decades now], we are "Never Going Back Again". Sometimes change is not optional.

We have only this present moment ... the living link between where we came from and where we are going ... and we must use it wisely.

We hope the ideas and support that arise from this group can become the nucleus of a network that can assist us ... individually and collectively ... and assist others who are also looking for help with and solutions to how EDUCATION can ADAPT bringing forth forms fit for the future. If there are others who are willing and able to contribute, please make them aware of our group.

"The poor you will always have with you ..."

One important presence we will miss initially is that of James Tooley whose upcoming book, Really Good Schools, can be pre-ordered from The Independent Institute. James' new book extends his ground-breaking reporting on how the poor around the world educate their children in the face of systemic economic oppression ... a work he began with his book The Beautiful Tree. And, lest we forget, Jesus said "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." ... they must be ever in our minds and hearts ... for their presence is with us ... even in America.  More on this later.

best to each of you for now,
Becky Elder,
Head of School, Northfield School of the Liberal Arts