E.M. "Mac" Swengel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education
School of Education
United States International University
San Diego, California
“Under One Roof”
THE BENIGN SCHOOL
by Edwin M. Swengel, Ph.D
The main problem with
both the traditional education systems and most reform models is
that they do not recognize and make realistic provision to meet the
widely varying needs of individual children. People get a general
view and belief about “human nature” and then they stereotype every
child as being enough like every other kid of a similar age to be
successfully group-processed through an assembly-line system aimed
to turn out a uniform product.
True, nature does endow every child with all the main features of
what we call human nature. However, to successfully nurture
individual human natures requires clear knowledge of the fact that
each child is born uniquely individualized and personalized—an
idiosyncratic, only-one-of-its-kind model of generic human nature.
Every educational institution from family to the society at large
should recognize, acknowledge, and help nurture all its members’
individualities so they blend into and contribute creatively to a
cooperative, vibrant society.
No total educational system has ever been designed and operated to
develop optimally in all children their richly diverse native gifts.
It shouldn’t have required a Harvard psychology professor (Howard
Gardner, in league with neuroscientists, who can now look inside the
human brain and watch it at work) to announce that human nature is a
composite of many different types of intelligence.
People of all cultures the world over developed and learned to speak
a language. They then found different ways to record what they could
say—to read it, long after it was said. They learned to count and
created and used number systems. They sang songs. They danced, not
just to go to war but also to express different emotions and
beliefs. They invented and played games. They drew pictures on cave
walls, made pottery and decorated it, along with decorating their
own skin, clothing, and shelters. (What’s new?!)
They made up stories about unseen forces that made their lives
pleasant—sunshine and gentle rain, brilliant sunrises and sunsets,
starry nights and cool breezes, ever moving and changing clouds. Our
forebears also endured threatening forces—diseases, fearful storms,
burning sun, icy cold, floods, storm-set fires that consumed field
and forest and their homes. These natural forces, benign and malign,
seemed almost personal in both alternatively blessing and cursing
Earth Folk. Nature’s forces are so mighty and mysterious that our
ancestors gave them super-human status and power. They became the
benevolent and malevolent gods of legend and myth.
Obviously, if we human beings were not innately endowed with
abilities to perform such a wide variety of activities, physical and
mental-emotional, we couldn’t do them. No other species is so richly
endowed with such vast potential.
Above all else, our ancestors had to learn how to get along with
others within their native group—how to share their different
talents and skills to assure their own personal survival and
well-being, which they could not do individually and alone.
Yes, our forefathers and foremothers also learned to cheat and lie
and steal and murder and spread false witness and exploit the weak.
But such behaviors threatened both individual and group life. Laws
were and still are passed to prevent and punish anti-social
behavior. Responsibility to one’s support group requires all members
to achieve a fairly even balance between self-interest and concern
The universal basic moral code is the simple quid pro quo: “Don’t
treat others as you don’t want them to treat you,” coupled with its
positive version: “Treat others as you wish them to treat you.” Most
collections of quotations list a dozen or more versions of this
millennially field-tested, down-to-earth, common sense Golden Rule.