So hungry in Tahoe: A plea for the return of soul to education |

So hungry in Tahoe: A plea for the return of soul to education

This may well be my final column for the Sierra Sun as the economic forecast compels me to find work elsewhere. And so, it is important to make this essay worthy of clipping and tucking into a special box. But more importantly, I want this piece to impel you to action, to talk about it with your family and friends.

Two of my former instructors, now my colleagues from Pacifica Graduate Institute, put together a brilliant collection of essays into a book entitled, and#8220;Re-Imagining Education and#8211; Essays on Reviving the Soul of Learning,and#8221; edited by Dennis Slattery, PhD and Jennifer Selig, PhD. The book contains essays written by those (including the editors) who have spent many years in teaching and academia. The essays are authored by the worn and tattered souls of teaching; voices looking for a place to take root and change the system that holds learning hostage for reasons that make no sense to anyone except perhaps the few who are so distant from the effects of its torture they cannot see.

In my practice, I have been witness to adolescent boys and girls who are suicidal because they cannot bear the weight of their lives as students in the public schools. One young man whose first love was music came into my office with tears in his eyes and cried, No Child left Behind? This child has been left behind! His beloved trumpet had not emerged from its box in weeks because he was so inundated with homework. The culprit? School. Homework. No time to play. Very few experiences of success. His mother was frantic.

The conversations at the dinner table between parents and children center around failure to meet the omnipresent demands of completing homework. The strain shows in teachers who march into classrooms, exiling their imaginations and their desire to teach creatively so the rigid and relentless standards for No Child Left Behind are satisfied. My daughter is one such casualty in the profession. She has a strong will and a brilliant mind, but like so many others in her profession, she feels drowned by a system so cumbersome and so deeply embedded in its pedagogy she cannot find the right root to sever so it stops feeding on itself.

If you are a parent or a student or a teacher, I implore you to go and buy this book. Find a beautiful place to read it, perhaps outside by a waterfall or a lake or your living room as the morning sun warms you. And then take immediate action. In order for the great lumbering wheels of this worn out and soul-stealing system to stop, each person must refuse to stop enabling it. If it means refusing to send your child to school because they are miserable, do it. Childhood is meant for playfulness, joy and creativity, not drudgery, misery and the slaying of lively imaginations.

If you are a teacher, unite and refuse to engage with what you know does not work. You are the soul of education; you deserve to bring that into your work each day. Students, young and old, dare to speak out and to refuse to allow your imaginations and your voices to be silenced. Together, you are a formidable power and there is no time to waste in re-imagining education and bringing the soul and life back to learning; not tomorrow, not next week. Right now.

and#8212; Kimball Pier is a practicing therapist and substance abuse counselor. She has an M.S. in marriage and family therapy. Reach her at

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