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Few will argue with Thomas Jefferson’s assertion.

“If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Rather, for almost two centuries, the argument has been what purpose should public education serve and how best to provide free education to the masses.

Sir Anthony Seldon, a bold leader in education reform efforts, is a major proponent of positive education. As president of the International Positive Education Network (IPEN), Seldon seeks to unify educators, policy makers, and researchers around the need to educate the whole person, providing not just head knowledge but heart knowledge, as well.

“We need government ministers to understand that education is about educating the body, emotions, and heart, and helping our young people to develop the moral nature, artistic nature and character virtue.”

Many clamoring for educational reform argue the existing educational model is based on the needs of nineteenth-century business and industry. The provision for basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills set in a structured environment created a sufficiently educated and disciplined workforce that fueled the industrial revolution.

Twenty-first-century business and industry leaders are looking for more from new recruits—qualities of leadership, teamwork, and empathy—not typically part of the standard curriculum.

Positive education, combining academic skills and well-being, builds upon research from the 1990’s linking academic achievement to a student’s sense of well-being. IPEN’s director, Emily Larson points out that in addition to the modern needs of business and industry and the links to improved academic achievement, positive education is spreading to combat a global rise in depression among students.

Combating youth depression, improving academic skills, and providing emotionally mature and civic-minded citizens, positive education could be the twenty-first-century link to Jefferson’s desire “to ameliorate the condition of man” worldwide. Taxpayers would do well to join Seldon’s efforts to unify thought leaders and policymakers. Unification around bold ideas could result in new school rules to create twenty-first-century schools.