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The Great Story/Big History: "To Educate the Human Potential"
Last night Connie and I finished listening to David Christian's masterful 48 lecture (30 minutes each) Teaching Company course: Big History: The Big Bang, Life on Earth, and the Rise of Humanity. As I enthusiastically shared in my last post: BIG HISTORY: THE TEACHING COMPANY, no one paints the big picture of cosmic, Earth, biological, and human history ("the Great Story") in all its scientific splendor more beautifully and powerfully than Professor Christian does in this course. (If you only do one thing for yourself educationally this year, I recommend this course above anything else!) Upon completion, I immediately thought of Maria Montessori's 1948 book, To Educate the Human Potential, which Thomas Berry turned me on to twenty years ago. In my opinion, Montessori's greatest gift to humanity (expressed wonderfully in this book) is this vital understanding:
When the Great Story—the epic of evolution, or universe story—is the foundation of education, students can excitedly learn who they are, where they came from, where things are headed, and how all scientific and educational disciplines fit into a coherent whole. More, their imaginations are sparked and they begin to wonder what role they themselves will play in the ongoing story—that is, what their own 'cosmic task' will be and thus how they too will leave their mark upon the world. What could possibly be more important? In Maria's own words...
Since it has been seen to be necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe....
If the idea of the universe be presented to the child in the right way, it will do more for him than just arouse his interest, for it will create in him admiration and wonder, a feeling loftier than any interest and more satisfying. The child's mind then will no longer wander, but becomes fixed and can work. The knowledge he then acquires is organized and systematic; his intelligence becomes whole and complete because of the vision of the whole that has been presented to him, and his interest spreads to all, for all are linked and have their place in the universe on which his mind is centred. The stars, earth, stones, life of all kinds form a whole in relation with each other, and so close is this relation that we cannot understand a stone without some understanding of the great sun! No matter what we touch, an atom, or a cell, we cannot explain it without knowledge of the wide universe. What better answer can be given to those seekers for knowledge? It becomes doubtful whether even the universe will suffice. How did it come into being, and how will it end? A greater curiosity arises, which can never be satiated; so will last through a lifetime. The laws governing the universe can be made interesting and wonderful to the child, more interesting even than things in themselves, and he begins to ask: What am I? What is the task of man in this wonderful universe? Do we merely live here for ourselves, or is there something more for us to do?