For years Maslow’s pyramid has been part of the education administration curriculum I’ve been teaching as a State University of New York adjunct professor. We review Maslow’s needs theory, from the foundation of the pyramid (basic needs like food and shelter) to the tip of the triangle (self actualization).
We talk about how Maslow believed that individual needs must be satisfied at each level before each individual can progress up the pyramid towards being all he or she can be. We talk about how that theory applies to school administration. We give examples of what administrators can do to foster a sense of belonging, of interdependence. We discuss the need for recognition, for creativity, for opportunity.
With the death of legendary coach John Wooden last week, I’m wondering if I’ve been focusing on the wrong pyramid all these years. Maslow focused on needs; Wooden focused on responsibility. Of course, they’re not mutually exclusive thoughts, but I was struck by how little we focus in schools on some of the basics upon which Wooden insisted: friendship, loyalty, initiative, poise.
Oh, sure, some of this comes under “character education” in some schools, but it’s often seen as a course of study rather than a way to live. Wooden focused on how to live, and that’s what his players remembered years and years later.