The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School

I’m wary of books with “soul” in the title; it’s so faddish -and of those with “character”; they’re often too doctrinaire for my taste. But this book is a gem. Moving, wise, and practical, Kessler’s book reminds us that while our educational system largely avoids conversations of deep meaning, for fear of treading too close to the spiritual, our students are actively grappling, on their own, with the deepest questions about life.

Kessler outlines a path for honoring students’ inner lives at school, for examining the yearnings that we all share -including yearnings for connection, meaning and purpose, joy and delight, and creativity. Drawing on real incidents from her own classrooms, Kessler shows how honoring these aspects of the inner life can lead to the flourishing of students’ powers for compassion, creativity, and understanding. I hope that this book will be very widely read, for it’s a profound contribution to a vision of an education that’s worthy of the name.

reviewed by Katherine Simon

Katherine Simon is Director of Research at CES National and author of Moral Questions in the Classroom: How to Get Kids to Think Deeply about Real Life and Their Schoolwork, Yale University Press, 2001.