Creatively Maladjusted

The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto

by Theodore Richards

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“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Education is the subject of much public debate. Politicians and bureaucrats, educators and parents, students and concerned citizens all have an interest—and a stake—in the way we educate our children. But while much is said about the subject, seldom are the more profound, difficult questions ever asked, questions that require not only changing the way schools are organized and classes are taught, but also require a radical transformation of the very concept of education in the modern world. Creatively Maladjusted: The Wisdom Education Movement Manifesto approaches the problem of education from just such a radically new perspective.

The book includes a forward by education scholar and activist Bill Ayers. “Theodore Richards points us toward a more vibrant and liberated space where education is linked to an iron commitment to free inquiry, investigation, open questioning, and full participation,” he writes, “an approach that encourages independent thought and judgment; and a base-line standard of full access and complete recognition of the humanity of each individual. He demonstrates the power of learning from, not about: from nature, not about nature, from work, not about work, from history not about history. As opposed to obedience and conformity, the work promotes initiative, courage, imagination, and creativity. In other words, the highest priority is the creation of free people geared toward enlightenment and liberation.”

Nearly every discussion about schools assumes that the goals of our educational system are appropriate and worthwhile. The narrative of the modern industrial world that defines our values and shapes the metaphors with which we understand our world also determines how we shape our schools, our curricula, our children. From the White House to the little red schoolhouse, these values are seldom questioned. The debate about schools is about test scores, productivity, and quantifiable outcomes. Creatively Maladjusted argues that these values both undermine our children’s learning and, in the cases where children are “successful”, guide our children toward destructive, rather than creative lives.

Praise for Creatively Maladjusted

“Richards wants to shape edu­ca­tion by story rather than by infor­ma­tion, by resisting con­sumerism rather than edu­cating for it. The goal of edu­ca­tion, he reminds us, ‘is not to make better schools, but to make a better world.’ And ‘the ulti­mate rel­e­vance of a school is what kind of civ­i­liza­tion it inspires our chil­dren to create.’ Modern indus­trial cul­ture has pretty much defined edu­ca­tion in its terms; we can do much better today and must. The metaphors, nar­ra­tives and values of our edu­ca­tional system are out­moded. A Wisdom Education Movement can bring alive new values that assure a ‘nur­turing, cre­ative, joyous, inspiring place.’ This book is well worth reading; and dis­cussing; and arguing; and enacting.”

—Matthew Fox, author of Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet

“Theodore Richards’ book, Creatively Maladjusted, presents a necessary challenge and a new model to the often stale way of thinking about education. He reminds us that teachers are more than disciplinarians, and children more than robots. The creative agenda outlined in this book, along with Dr. Richards’ proven experience in the field of wisdom education, are a necessity for anyone thinking seriously about education or the development of the soul: he has thoughtfully united the two and demonstrated why we must never attempt to separate them again. Dr. Richards has written a profound and accessible work that is as prophetic as the man behind the idea of creative maladjustment.”

—Rev Julian DeShazier, Pastor and Recording Artist

“Dr. Theodore Richards sees the world from an ever evolving perspective that permits him, moment by moment, to see it with fresh eyes and bring what is within him out to the community, thus transforming it. Theodore has fastidiously studied the wisdom of those who have transformed society like Dr. Martin Luther King, who also saw the world with fresh eyes and used his unique inner power to build community and change it. In this book, he provides a fresh approach about how we should not only see and relate to our children, but also how educators can teach them to see themselves in the world, their uniqueness as well as to harness their divinely endowed transforming power to lead effective lives and to build and transform community. Creatively Maladjusted is a ground-breaking path to changing our approach to education.”

—Jay Speights, director of The New Seminary and author of 7 Days with Adam


Theodore Richards

Theodore Richards


Theodore Richards is the director and founder of The Chicago Wisdom Project, a core faculty member of The Fox Institute, and the author of six books. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including two Independent Publisher Awards, The USA Book Award, and the Nautilus Book Award. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters. For more information go to his website, www.theodorerichards.com.