To better understand and evaluate the basis of my beliefs and the points I make in this book, some background is in order. I have always been interested in the big questions: What is the meaning of life? What is good? What is truth? How do we realize our potential? I searched high and low for answers. I had limited resources, but a deep desire to know. Though I grew up on a tenant farm in Iowa, my local school gave me a good foundation for learning, and the library in the nearby town of Spencer, now well known because of Dewey, The Small-Town Library Cat Who Changed the World, gave me access to other worlds. In search of answers, I would question anyone, anywhere I could.
At 17 years old, I left for the University of Southern Mississippi to seek racial understanding and justice, and at 18, I was living in an ashram in the French Quarter of New Orleans exploring Eastern religion and meditation. I left there to live on a farm, seeking answers in raising my own food and living off the land. All of these experiences helped, but did not answer my deeper questions, nor satisfy my longings for meaning in life. I went back to college, ending up attending six and obtaining five degrees. My interest in human nature and the mind led me to consider becoming a psychologist, but after an internship in a state mental hospital, I decided that working with the mentally ill was not the vocation for me. A later counseling internship in northern Minnesota and other circumstances led me to become an elementary teacher through the Wisconsin Indian Teacher Corps. I had found my calling. Teaching, helping others become the best they can be, was a profession to which I could dedicate my talents and life. My desire to serve humanity and make the world a better place found practical fulfillment in teaching.
Since then I have taught almost every grade level from first grade to the doctoral level, and I have taught in rural, urban, public, private and international schools and colleges. In higher education, I have taught and worked in a Jesuit university in Detroit, a historically black land grant university in the Virgin Islands, teacher colleges in Botswana and China and an international university in Switzerland. Since 1989, I have served as director of field experiences and as director of the Northern Michigan University School of Education, a state university on the shores of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Along the way, I have tried to identify those principles that lead to increased learning, well-being and welfare for all. Through many challenges and opportunities for growth, I have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation of the complexities of life. I have striven to find my inner truths and voice and to inspire others to find theirs. In that process, I have had to transcend my role identities, personas, ego attachments, vain imaginings, idle fancies and self-centered desires to please and be accepted by others.
Numerous others have helped me find my voice and reconcile it with the dominating views and values of our culture. Gradually I learned to find and then apply my vision and principles to my role as an educator. In this process, I have found three guiding ideals that I believe are central and essential to progress and prosperity: truth, love and justice. I believe these three standards and powers are instrumental for effectiveness when working with and transforming individuals, communities and institutions. They are especially powerful when employed by those in leadership positions to promote the well-being of individuals and society. In this book, I am proposing that they serve as the framework by which we create a new paradigm for education. Through appreciating, encouraging and practicing these three principles, their power to transform education and society will become apparent.
These three virtues can support the development of our authentic inner moral authority and sense of self. They enable us to replace our limited conceptions and practices of truth, love and justice with evolving and higher expressions of them as we consult, reflect and act upon them. They help us develop and trust our inner core and be less dependent on and influenced by the thinking or approval of others. They call us all to become our best selves, transforming behavior and character. They elicit support, dedication and loyalty and give us a renewing fount of energy. They can serve as a universal standard through which we can begin to resolve our problems and move toward greater unity of thought, commitment and action in improving and reforming education.
(NOTE: Please post suggestions for improving this section in the comments section or to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you)