As soon as we talk about things like the “connection between” the mind and the body or the heart and the mind, we are perpetuating the idea that there are two separate entities that have to be joined. Much of my work is based on the idea of a whole person; the synergy of thinking, feeling, and acting. As I’ve been reading and thinking about integrative education, the word “smheart” popped into my head. Disappointing, but not surprising, but it’s not an original idea (about 27,800 hits on Google). Encouraging however, no results found for “smheart education.” Maybe we have a starting point.

It’s been almost a year since I wrote about another book by Parker Palmer. This time it’s The Heart of Higher Education that is grabbing me as I’m re-reading it for a class I’m teaching about teaching and learning in higher education. How do you like this: “If higher education cannot deal with the messiness of real life, educated people will not be prepared to use their knowledge amid the complexities and cruelties that constantly threaten to undo civilization. And they clearly will not know how to use their knowledge with wisdom, compassion and love … If higher education does not help people learn how and why to take the risks of love, its moral contributions to the world will fall far short of its potential.”

To me the enterprise of working with students has to be centrally about cultivating the simultaneous capacities that are often attributed to heart and mind. It is about cognition and affect; thinking and feeling; reasoning and intuiting – being smheart.

The Japanese term “shugyo” may be the best capture of the art of self-cultivation that is inclusive of body, spirit, mind and enhancing those qualities and characteristics that are inseparable. To me this is the task of preparing educators.

Palmer takes the famous Socratic axiom a step farther: “If you choose to live an unexamined life, please do not take a job that involves other people!” I also share his fear that giving students knowledge as power over the world while failing to help them gain the kind of self-knowledge that gives them power over themselves is a recipe for danger. With apologies to Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, “Get Smheart!”

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