what was wrong with all these U.S. schools? How is it possible that
generations of students could come away from classes in history,
science, geography, literature, foreign languages, and mathematics
feeling bored out of their skulls—believing that these were terminally
dull subjects with no relevance whatsoever to anything they considered
important in life? How could such fascinating studies as natural
history, evolution, astronomy, cosmology, geology, archaeology,
paleontology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, biology, and all
those other wonderful “logies” fail to engage the interest of young
minds—even in the passionate era of the ‘60s?
can students and their families sit idly by, unprotesting, as
“controversial” books and essential topics of study are systematically
removed from their school libraries and classrooms by illiterate
fundamentalists and politicians?
lamenting the sorry state of our public schools, and the many failures
in our American educational system, analysts have blamed just about
everything; television, video games, teachers, parents, the home,
society, politics, lack of funding, and “the younger generation.” And
all of these may indeed be factors. But few seem to have considered that
perhaps the entire concept of education as it is presented today may be
fundamentally at fault.
And I think this is the core of the problem. School and
education is no longer viewed by students, or the public, as something
special, something to aspire to. Learning is seen more as a distasteful
and onerous drudgery, akin to working in a factory (as in that Pink
Floyd song). Something one must do, perhaps, but hardly as something one
would want to do. This is clearly, an untenable situation for public
Harry Potter and the X-Men
then (drum roll) along came Harry Potter! After numerous rejections by
short-sighted publishers who couldn’t imagine any reader interested in
stories taking place in a school, Scholastic Inc. had the good sense to
publish J.K. Rowling’s delightful Harry Potter series, and the rest is
history. The Harry Potter books have become the biggest-selling books of
all time. With seven novels and movies, and more toys, games, clothes,
ancillary books, and other tie-ins and spin-offs than you can wave a
wand at, Harry Potter is the greatest literary phenomenon ever known.
here’s the truly important thing: These books are being most eagerly
read by kids! Clearly something is happening here, and understanding it
may be the key to an entirely new concept in education.
kid (and many adults as well!) who reads Harry Potter wishes more than
anything that they could attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and
Wizardry. The very fact of its exclusivity makes it irresistible, to say
nothing of the lure and wonder of forbidden and arcane knowledge it
promises. Magic and Mysteries, spellcraft and sorcery, hidden history,
secret societies, wands and wortcunning, bedknobs and broomsticks, bell,
book, and candle, things that go bump in the night…everything that the
mundane (“muggle,” in Rowling’s parlance) world doesn’t know about, or
believe in. Hogwarts epitomizes all the reasons why Halloween and Dia de
los Muertos are the most popular holidays of the year for kids (and
many grown-ups!). Embracing the dark, rather than fearing it, is
exhilarating and liberating!
also the enduring popularity of the “X-Men” comics, Marvel’s
best-selling series—which began publishing in 1962, and have spawned an
ongoing animated TV series and three feature-length movies. As with the
Harry Potter stories, the X-Men saga centers around a very special
school for mutant misfits with various uncanny abilities and powers:
“Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Children.”
people find the lure of secret societies and esoteric associations
irresistible. They yearn to be on the “inside” of an exclusive group, to
access forbidden knowledge and arcane secrets unknown to their parents
and their contemporaries. “Knowledge is power,” they know, and “with
great power comes great responsibility.” The enormous appeal of the
classical “Hero’s Quest” in literature and films bespeaks its intense
relevance to every adolescent. They identify with Harry Potter; Frodo
Baggins; Luke Skywalker; Dorothy Gale of Kansas and Oz; Peter, Susan,
Edmund and Lucy of Narnia—and every other young hero and heroine of
every story, as they discover who they truly are, and what they are
truly here for. For the Quest is always and ultimately to discover one’s
own life mission and destiny.
every Hero’s Quest story begins with a wise mentor figure—the
“Wizard”—imparting crucial knowledge to the young hero that he or she
must know in order to fulfill their destiny. And this is where the idea
of a very special and exclusive school of mystical knowledge and arcane
wisdom enters the picture.
of the most learned men of all time, Confucius (551-479 bce), became
the first private teacher in history. Such was his reputation, that
people sought him out to teach their sons. Confucius took any student
eager to learn, and along with the regular subjects, taught his personal
wisdoms on developing responsibility and moral character through
ancient Greece, (long acknowledged as the seat of philosophy and
wisdom), the value of educating their children was recognized very early
on, with some households engaging their own teacher. Through the first
centuries ce, Roman families often had educated slaves to teach their
children. (Teaching Through the Ages:
first known school of philosophy (meaning “love of wisdom”) was Plato’s
Academy in Athens, founded in 385 bce. Plato was Socrates’ greatest
student. Later, in 335 bce, Aristotle opened his “Peripatetic”
philosophical school at the Athens Lyceum. Other “Mystery Schools” were
founded by Pythagoras and others.
In fact, all early schools and academies were really exclusive “Mystery Schools,” and in that very mystique lay their appeal.
In the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church took charge of
teaching the sons of nobility, entrusting that charge to monasteries or
specially designated learning “centres.” Many of these centres evolved
into the distinguished learning institutions of today, including
Cambridge University, whose first college, St. Peter’s, was founded in
the establishment of higher learning in the early 1700s, the curriculum
of college preparatory and universities broadened considerably. However
not all things were equal inside the schoolroom. In 1749, Ben
Franklin’s concept of an academy of learning consisted of an English
school and a Classical school. The Latin master had a title, and the
English master had none. The Latin master made twice the salary, and the
English master had twice the students.
school, originally known as “terminal” school, came into existence in
1821, in Boston, for boys 12 years and older. Once more, law entered the
educational fray, dictating that towns of over 500 families must have a
high school with the prescribed curriculum. Towns with over 4,000
inhabitants were required to teach Latin and Greek, as well as other
boarding schools enjoyed a very brief existence in the 1820s and 30s,
having been established in the country to fulfill the needs of “idle and
morally exposed” children from the city.
the beginning of the 20th century, parents and the general public began
to demand more practical and useful curriculums, and in so doing, may
have helped elevate teaching to a respectable profession. (Teaching
Through the Ages: http://historyeducationinfo.com/edu1.htm)
Unfortunately, this demand and trend towards a universal
education diluted the mystique of learning itself. When a thing is
available to everyone and mandated by law, it ceases to be regarded as
something special; it becomes “common.” What is needed today, I believe,
is to restore the wonder and mystique that once surrounded the very
idea of education.
The Grimoire and the Grey School
2002, I convened the Grey Council—an assembly of two dozen respected
and learned mages and sages, elders and teachers. Council members follow
many different paths, but all hope to spark the imagination, beauty,
and power of the minds of seekers everywhere. We worked together over
the year 2003 to weave our best lessons into the Grimoire for the
Apprentice Wizard. It was specifically designed for all the Harry Potter
readers who might want to seek further, and explore the genuine “Wisdom
of the Ages,” as once taught in the ancient Mystery Schools, and
imbedded in traditional “Classical Education” into more recent times.
For wizard literally means “wise one,” and wizardry is, pure and simply,
wisdom. Much like the term philosopher means “lover of wisdom.” And it
certainly seems that the present world could use a great deal more
Grimoire, however, was only the first phase of a long-range Vision to
make available the Wisdom of the Ages for a new generation and a new
Millennium. It is both an essential handbook of Apprentice-level
Wizardry (like the Boy Scout Handbook) and a basic textbook for a full
seven-year academic curriculum of Wizardly studies. Thus, its lessons
begin very simply and become more complex as students advance.
book was an instant success, encouraging our publishers, New Page
Books, to commission several sequels and spin-offs, of which four have
since been published, with many more in process. The next phase of the
Vision was to establish an on-line School of Wizardry to serve as a
larger context for the Grimoire and wisdom teachings, and where all the
readers whose appetites had been whetted could go for further study.
so, on August 1, 2004, the Grey School of Wizardry opened its virtual
doors. Designed for students of all ages over 11, the Grey School
provides an extensive seven “year-level” program of studies, at an
Apprenticeship level. Graduates will be certified as “Journeyman
Grey School was incorporated as a non-profit educational institution in
the State of California on March 14, 2005 We are currently awaiting our
IRS Determination Letter for our 501(c)(3).
the Grimoire’s basic curriculum as a starting point, the Grey School of
Wizardry offers additional classes, lessons and practical exercises,
links to other websites with specialized materials, etc., and many color
graphics and images which could not be reproduced in the printed book.
Class materials and interactive lessons are designed and taught by
highly-qualified faculty members and lectors, presently numbering about
40. Over 200 classes are currently available, in 16 Departments, and new
ones are being added continually.
offered in the Grey School provide a grounded classical education in
history, mythology, geography, mathematics, literature, natural history,
general science, astronomy, chemistry, physics, zoology, botany, and
even Latin—with Greek to be offered shortly. The performing arts are
included as well, with classes in poetry, music, theater, and illusion.
The wonderful thing is, with the mystique of enrolling in a magickal
“School of Wizardry,” our students are eagerly studying all these
subjects which would bore them to tears if they were taking them in a
mundane public school!
Grey School is highly interactive, and includes not just study
materials, but four Elemental “Houses” (Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines,
and Gnomes) in which young students may socialize with each other. Each
House has a faculty Head and student Prefect to moderate the forums,
etc. A similar set of four Elemental Lodges (Winds, Flames, Waters, and
Stones) have been created for adult students, who now comprise _ of the
have a diverse selection of social forums, clubs, and a newspaper. The
forums provide a venue for people to gather. The Great Hall includes
areas for General Chatter, Challenges, a Bardic Circle, and much more.
Office forums provide access to the Administrators and other positions.
Houses and Lodges have their own forums, plus separate Youth and Adult
forums for mingling. There are Departmental and other forums as well.
allow members to explore interest in a special area outside of Classes.
They also provide venue for students and faculty to socialize, share
information and plan projects related to their club’s theme. Every club
has a Faculty Advisor as well as student officers.
Grey School publishes a quarterly school newspaper, Whispering Grey
Matters, with its own forum area in the Great Hall. All students may
submit their original work (essays, poetry, photos, artwork, etc.) for
consideration. Staff members also gather news from the Administration,
Departments, clubs, and other sources.
of the Grey School’s second anniversary (Aug. 1, 2006), the student
body (748 students) represents 49 of the United States (all but
Delaware), a number of US military bases, two American Embassies, and 15
countries: Australia, Austria, Canada (7 provinces), Chile, France,
Germany, Greece, Mauritus, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey,
the United Kingdom, the United States, and Venezuela. Our northernmost
student lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, while our southernmost resides in
Santiago, Chile. Our students’ ages range from 10 to 72.
January of 2006, the Headmaster and Headmistress toured Australia on
behalf of the Grey School, and the following July the School held its
first annual Conclave at a park in Oregon. Several regional Conclaves
are already being planned for 2007. Other Grey School assemblies, events
and presentations are happening all around the U.S., and in other
countries as well. The Grey School is really taking off!
students and faculty members are now beginning to dream seriously of a
physical campus—ideally a castle like Hogwarts, or a large country
estate like Prof. Xavier’s. A perfect facility could be an old monastery
or retreat, providing classrooms, dormitories, offices, staff
residences, kitchen, dining room, meeting hall, library, laboratories,
enrollment and tuition fees for the Grey School are very low, as we
have wanted to make this education available to all including
impoverished students. We even have a specially-funded scholarship
program for those who are unable to meet even these low rates.
Additional funding has come through small donations, sales of
school-related items, and royalties on Grey School textbooks that are
being published by new Page Books. But stipends for teachers are
currently all less than $200 per month, and all are greatly underpaid
for their dedication and work. We would like to compensate our faculty
more appropriately, and we would like to acquire a suitable facility for
future offices, classrooms, and residences.
Oprah Winfrey said about her new school for impoverished girls in South
Africa: “I understand that many in the school system and out feel that
I’m going overboard, and that’s fine. This is what I want to do. I
wanted to take girls with that ‘It’ quality, and give them an
opportunity to make a difference in the world.” (Newsweek, Jan. 8. 2007)
this is what we want to do with the Grey School of Wizardry—to find
students who have unique potential that is not being addressed by their
experiences in public schools, and give them the inspiration and
information that will enable them to go out and make a real difference
in the world. This is true education. For the difference between wisdom
and stupidity is really all about considering the consequences—”unto the
seventh generation,” as the Hopi proverb says.
In closing, here’s what one of our students had to say about the Grey School Vision:
By Stacy, Prefect of the Society of the Four Winds
years from now: Over a hundred have graduated to Journeymen Wizard, and
another thousand Apprentices continue in training. The pendants we wear
are no longer merely logos of the school we attend, but the symbol of
our Order. And our symbol is not just recognizable to those whom we call
brother and sister, but to the greater world, both Magickal and
Mundane. We are respected as honored and reliable sources of wisdom,
guidance and hope to the communities we live in. We are recognized in
congress, the military, in covens and conclaves, and through our deeds
we are recognized as an organization devoted to helping influence the
evolution of the world.