In Aims of Education, Alfred North Whitehead points out that education is a process with the rhythms due to the development of children at both the physical and mental level. “Difference subjects and modes of study,” he says, “should be undertaken by pupils at fitting times when they have reached the proper stage of mental development.” (Aims of Education, 15) Those rhythms make the process of education an endless rising spiral from romance to precision and to generalization.

What is the stage of romance?

The stage of romance is the stage of first apprehension. The subject-matter has the vividness of novelty; it holds within itself unexplored connexions with possibilities half-disclosed by glimpses and half-concealed by the wealth of material. In this stage knowledge is not dominated by systematic procedure. Such system as there must be is created piecemeal ad hoc.
–Alfred North Whitehead, Aims of Education, 17.

The stage of romance includes children who are less than one-year old to those who are about twelve-years old. During this stage, the main task of learning is to focus on curiosity. It guides children in how to appreciate the beauty of life in order to foster and strengthen their curiosity. This will provide them with a strong motivation to learn and feel that learning is full of enjoyment.

Because Whitehead emphasizes that education is about “life in all its manifestations” (Aims of Education, 6-7), we believe that it should be concerned with much more than what takes place in schools. Education should include every aspect of life. This is the reason why we think of education in three dimensions as family, community and school. All three have its unique and inescapable role in nurturing the curiosity of children.

This will require pedagogy to be fundamentally changed in order to adequately address our current situation. Young people today should have more time to spend with their family and community in order to participate in events and projects outside of school. Family and community also need to provide evaluate and provide feedback on children’s behavior to help them make improvements. Of course, school is necessary for children’s education, but it need not take as much as time as current schools do. Remember, the major task for those kids who are in the period of romance is to nurture their curiosity.

The following programs offered by families, communities (including surrounding nature worlds), and schools may help you to rethink education for your kids, and to offer some inspiring guidance.

John B. Cobb, Jr.
Honorary President

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