Book Review: The Heart of Learning: Spirituality in Education Edited by Steven Glazer
As Steven Glazer describes, The Heart of Learning shows us how education can “serve as the core for a lifelong journey towards wholeness, rather than merely an accumulation of facts, figures, or skills” (p. 1) The book is written to challenge current educational trends that ignore the spirituality of students, and offer insight on why and how to incorporate practices that support the inner development of students. The four objectives for the book are to: “1) establish the understanding that true learning requires openness to the unknown, to mystery; 2) establish awareness and wholeness as important, necessary goals of education; 3) help people understand learning as a process of transformational growth that requires…dynamic interpersonal (and interactive) work; and 4) offer tools, information, and resources to make spirituality in education a viable, rewarding approach” (pp. 4-5).
The book is divided into four sections Sacredness, Identity, Relationship and Community, and Tradition and Innovation. Each section is divided into several chapters written by teachers and spiritual leaders.
While the introduction from Glazer is inspiring, the book as a whole didn’t rise to the same level of inspiration. In the midst of articles charged with political or religious rhetoric, there were some gems. The first two chapters were among my favorites. One chapter worth noting is written by Parker Palmer. He provides guidance for reclaiming the sacred in education. He offers the simple definition that “The sacred is that which is worthy of respect” (p. 17). Through examples of his own experience in academia Palmer provides an invitation to journey toward reclaiming the sacred in education. I feel as thought every time I read something new from Parker Palmer, I think it is my favorite. It might be that this chapter was particularly fitting in my life because of my experience the world of academia, but I think if anything, this chapter is worth reading.
Other notable chapters include Rachel Naomi Remen’s “Educating for Mission” where she discusses her quest to bring spirituality into the School of Medicine at the University of California. David Orr writes about bringing the sacred into education through environment and buildings that promote wholeness and shares a story of working with a group of students in developing a sustainable learning environment.
If your particular focus is working with children in a Christian church, I don’t recommend this as a book to run out and buy. If you are an educator interested in diving deeper into topics around spirituality in education and how to foster spirituality apart from religion, this is a book worth picking up. Due to the wide range of opinions and ideas expressed in the book, I imagine you will have a similar reaction to the chapters that I did; some will resonate with you while others may frustrate you. However, in general the authors combined provide a thought-provoking look at spirituality in education.