Raising Test Scores or Raising Children?

Posted on June 2, 2014 by David Blumenkrantz

Time for a Unifying Story©
By David G. Blumenkrantz


Stories are part of the human experience. “What’s the story?” is the first of 20 elements that serve as guiding principles in an architectural structure for youth and community development through rites of passage. “What’s the story?” is an invitation to a conversation for exploring a situation. Community-oriented rites of passage recognize the historical significance of initiation and rites of passage as a central organizing process of our human species. When designed and organized within a community it strengthens the bonds of belonging and sense of community among citizens that fosters resiliency and adaption essential for our survival.  Rites of passage have been our unifying story in villages across cultures and around the world for millennium.

 A Time for Real Education

What if institutions that mattered in the lives of our children were reframed as places of initiation and rites of passage? What impact would this have on our children, their families and community along with nature and our sacred Earth?

There may be no better place for formulating and sharing a unifying story than in our educational settings.


Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer
into selflessness which links us with all humanity.
Viscountess Nancy Astor
American-born British politician (1879-1964)

When members of a community immerse themselves in the initiatory experience and engage in learning together about rites of passage a new unifying story can emerge. The story hangs together on the linguistic scaffolding for the architectural structure of youth and community development through rites of passage.


In contemporary society initiation is an ongoing process along a continuum of our children’s development and within specific situations related to the culture and context of their place.

Stories of initiation and rites of passage are evident throughout history and across almost all cultures around the world. A new story has emerged over the past thirty years that has informed and guided education and youth development practices. The story revolves around the community-oriented Rite Of Passage Experience© ROPE® process, which has a number of specific cultural, contextual, and competency concentrations.

Learning how to learn well is an essential competency for success in every aspect of life. Whether it’s learning how to walk or talk, read or write, play a sport or learn an art form, increasing one’s proficiency requires we learn how to learn in any endeavor.

Good students are not born. They must be guided to learn and demonstrate the proper attitudes and skills that support becoming a good student. One way to become a good student is to be initiated into the role of “scholar.” The Initiation of Scholars© - IOS is designed within a community-oriented rite of passage process to systematically guide children to discover the skills and attitudes necessary to learn how to learn well and achieve academic success. It reframes the story and reignites children’s desire for learning in an environment where they can practice essential skills and receive the academic support necessary to be successful in school and life.

We teach students, not subjects. All children need to be engaged in a process of transformation in order to become students who are capable of empathy, cooperation, achieving academic success, self-understanding and finding their place in the world. Children are naturally inquisitive and predisposed to learning about the mysteries of the universe. Their natural inquisitiveness directs them to explore and learn about things that excite them. However, academic subjects, within the competitive stories of “race to the top,” or “no child left behind” may not be enough to ignite and sustain a child’s natural curiosity and thirst for learning.

 Public Education is Alternative Education

 june2All contemporary public education is actually alternative education. I say alternative relative to human history in the sense that contemporary public education is a new way for the village to raise their children. If it takes a whole village to raise a child, as the proverb says, then initiation and rites of passage were most probably the way this proverb was put into action.

Sharing a community’s story of initiation and rites of passage as the process and pathway towards adulthood was a central element in traditional education. When a system adopts rites of passage as their framework, their story for education and youth development, a whole new context and culture is stimulated.

At the time of puberty children’s natural curiosity is rekindled as they seek to understand the mysteries of the Universe and their place within it. When the structure of education revolves around stories of initiation a learning community culture evolves that nurtures the transmission of values. This was the central purpose of education. Values within the culture of a rite of passage learning community strengthens climates of civility, respect and civic engagement in a form that includes earth and all our relations. For thousands of years rites of passage were the way we transmitted values to the next generation.

The values and ethics that have guided our behaviors for living now are the consequences of the story of education and how we raised our children in the past. How are those stories working out for us now? The story that guides the way we raise our children today will determine what kind of world we have tomorrow. It’s time we change the story and transform the future.

Now more than ever there is a greater need for the story and practice of community-oriented rites of passage. Our future and the future of our sacred Earth and all our relations depend on it.

For another part of the story go to an earlier blog: What would our actions be if we valued education as the greatest resource?  It discusses the work of E. F. Schumacher and his seminal book Small is Beautiful.

Listen to more of the story at the Annual International conference of the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) - June 26-29th at LIU/Post college in Brookville, New York.

Long time Rite Of Passage Experience© ROPE® facilitator Brian Evarts, MSS joins with David Blumenkrantz in a workshop: “Reframing education as “initiation:” Schools and communities as places for rites of passage.” This will take place on Saturday, June 28, 3:30pm.

The above is excerpted: “And, How Are the Children? Rites of Passage and the Future of All My Relations,” (Spring 2014). Originally published in 1996 it details the relationship between initiation/rites of passage and the psychological sense of community.


© David Blumenkrantz, 2014. No permission is granted to copy, extract language or design principles, without appropriate reference and citation.

Join the conversation by emailing your thoughts, comments or questions to – or join the conversation on the ROPE® Facebook page.

 © David G. Blumenkrantz 

Posted in ROPE

Read more about Youth & Community Development through Rites of Passage in the new and highly acclaimed book by Dr. David Blumenkranz.

David Blumenkrantz, Ph.D., Ed.M., Founder & Executive Director, the Center for Youth & Community

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