Yesterday, through the miracle of technology, I was able to share in some of the joy and wonder of 500 educators watching John Hunter and his World Peace Game from the Martin Institute summer conference in Memphis. Much of the rapid and full Twitter stream as John gave the keynote had to do with the fact that he overtly incorporates The Art of War in his teaching of 4th graders…who completely understand this timeless work of strategy. For those who see and understand how John integrates Sun Tzu in his teaching, perhaps we are ready to cross the Rubicon!
Nothing set my sail more clearly about what we can and should teach students two decades ago than the simplicity and clarity of The Art of War. It is why I taught and wrote The Falconer. The dissonance I encountered was that, of the many, many translations and interpretations of The Art of War I found and read, I could not find one that spoke to the application of these simple ideas at a profoundly personal level. Most were about applications to military, business, and the martial arts, all true, but not foundationally grounded in the human experience that transcends discipline, subject matter, or area of expertise. Sun Tzu spoke to me on a deeply experiential level: all of us are happier if we can take advantage of opportunities and overcome obstacles in our lives. Isn’t this the key skill that we should teach our children? Why don’t we teach these skills in school? Why not start at a young age with language young children can understand? The lessons of Sun Tzu are terribly simple if we just adjust our translation.
John Hunter has created an utter masterpiece with his World Peace Game, and is proving that even 4th graders can understand and apply the timeless knowledge of The Art of War. But what will happen to his students if they don’t practice these skills as they progress through school? Just like any other skills, they will lose them, and that will be a true shame.
My challenge to all those who watch and are inspired by The World Peace Game: go back and figure out how to integrate the skills of the Game and of The Falconer and of The Art of War into your integrated curriculum maps! Build them deeply and strongly into the fabric of what and how you teach! These skills are not a marginal experience of education; they are the very core of passion and learning and success in life!