The philosophical basis of my work in education has its roots in Plato.
It is an essentialist philosophy, it starts from the position that human beings are perfect and unlimited with an inner light that just needs revealing. When I look at children, it is this inner light that I see, it is beautiful, good and true.
This Platonic philosophy is the basis of the Western education tradition. It is the fundamental basis upon which our great universities were founded, taking their lead from the great Platonic school of Athens. However, since the Enlightenment, a more Aristotelian model of education has dominated western thought seeing a human being as an empty vessel that must be filled. The question is, what are we attempting to fill this empty vessel with?
My philosophical approach is also dependent upon the development of attention. This I believe is the biggest threat to our children's development, the inability to attend and to listen with attention. This is why at St James we pause at the start and end of lessons, a pause that calms the mind and lets the energy settle. Another key practice is to get children to really concentrate their attention when they write or colour so that their attention rests on where the nib of the pen meets the paper. Indeed, if the attention is really refined, the words flow from the pen as if by magic.
The ability to 'attend' is a power of the mind and the mind has to be trained so that it becomes steady and still. When it is steady and still it can make judgments based on sound principles. Knowledge meets us all moment by moment - we just have to make sure that we are present to receive it! Once a young person learns to attend, learning becomes easy and the universe starts to reveal and disclose its wonder.
The eventual academic success of each child is directly related to the ability to direct their attention. So, as parents, see how well your son attends to his homework and how long he can read on his own.