The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Shrinking Our New Prison While Fixing Public Education

on September 1, 2015

Hooray!  This is the first piece I’ve posted that I didn’t write.  Please help me rest my head once in a while by submitting news about something good going on in a school you are familiar with.

By Lynn Stoddard
For the Deseret News

Now that the location for the new Utah prison has been approved, there is another thing to consider before the architect gets too far along. What provision will be made if the prison starts out with 5,000 beds, and in 10 years only half that number is needed? Or in 20 years, only 1,000 beds are needed? It may be wise for the architect to design a flexible, modular prison where modules could be sold and moved away when they are no longer needed.

What would happen to the prison population if virtually every student entered school and graduated with a firm resolve to be a contributor and not a burden to society? What if the main source of inmates, the dropouts and push-outs from school, could be drastically reduced?

At the present time, our country incarcerates more people per capita than any other country in the world at a cost of nearly $50 billion a year. In Utah we spend a bit more than the national average to house each prisoner, while at the same time we spend less per pupil than any other state to educate our children. Could we spend more money on schools if we didn’t have to spend so much on lawbreakers?

While I was principal of two elementary schools in Davis County, the teachers met with each child’s parents at the beginning of the school year to form a partnership for helping each student grow as an individual. In these meetings they started to develop this revolutionary concept.

Because each child is unique and different from all others, a great variety of subjects are needed to help students develop “human growth standards” like those suggested many years ago by prominent psychologist/educator Earl Kelly: “What we need is a new set of standards to uphold. These new standards would not be oriented to subject matter at all, but rather to human growth. … We might call them human standards, and hold them high.”

The partnership conferences, combined with some priority surveys, revealed the following human growth standards: identity, inquiry, interaction, initiative, imagination, intuition and integrity. They were labeled as “I” words so that teachers, parents and students could keep them at the front of their minds to guide learning. After many years of refining and development, these growth standards are now called “Seven Powers of Human Greatness” and serve as a framework for creating a student-centered system of education.

When teachers and parents unite to help children develop curiosity and other human growth standards, students become voracious readers. Each child learns to read at his or her “right time” and they do not have to be coaxed, required or assigned to do it.

What happens to schooling when a top priority of teaching is to help students learn to ask powerful questions — when students find that school is the place where their questions are not only respected, but sought?

Answer: The school is transformed from a place where many students do not want to attend to a place where they scramble to get in and do not want to leave at the end of the day. When the power of inquiry is raised as an important human growth standard, it changes nearly everything. School becomes an institution that serves the needs and interests of each unique student. Every child excels in something that benefits society. Large prisons are no longer needed.

Utah’s soon-to-be new prison gives us a golden opportunity to lead the nation in both prison reform and fixing our obsolete system of public education.

Lynn Stoddard taught fifth and sixth graders and served as an elementary school principal for thirty six years. Stoddard now promotes Educating for Human Greatness as a new educational paradigm and way to help every child excel and become a contributor to society. (

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