To Humanize Education (1972)

“In far too many places throughout the nation, students and others see the school as a cold, aloof, negative, punitive, joyless, boring, irrelevant, bureaucratic, petrified institution ….” So begins “To Humanize Education,” a call to action from the October 1972 issue of Educational Leadership. Humanistic education—defined by Wikipedia as the concept of educating “the whole person”—may have had its heyday in the 1970s, in terms of the use of the phrase, but it’s clear that much of its message lives on today, and that aspects of it are reflected in the whole child approach to education.

The article, by Raymond H. Muessig and John J. Cogan, presents a series of bullet-pointed suggestions for schools looking to “humanize” their education. They encourage, for example, a curriculum less subject-centered and more focused on the problems, interests, and needs of students; opening the school after hours and on weekends for activities and adult education, similar to today’s community schools; and a shift from letter grades to written evaluations.

The article has a great range of tips, from the practical (“family-style” lunches between students and teachers) to the lofty (“education for happiness”), but from a historical perspective, it serves as a reminder that efforts to improve education persist longer than the labels given to them.

In “My Back Pages,” we look at important issues through the historical lens of the Educational Leadership archives. ASCD members can access EL issues from 1943 to the present by logging in.


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