in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
When Dr. Leo Felice Buscaglia (1924-1998) was interviewed by the Dean of Education at the University of Southern California (USC) in 1967, he was asked about his five-year career plan. He responded by stating that he wanted to teach a class in love. By 1969, in response to the tragic loss of one of his students to suicide, Dr. Buscaglia followed through on his dream of “teaching” the first college class on love.
‘teaching’ is placed in quotations because Buscaglia (also known as Leo, Dr.
Hugs, or Dr. Love) often stated he did not teach this class but learned in it.
It was his general philosophy that teachers’ main role is to facilitate
learning rather than ‘teach’ in the traditional sense of the word. In his
teacher has taught anything to anyone. People
learn themselves. If we look at the
word educator it comes from the Latin “educare” meaning to lead, to guide.
That’s what it means, to guide, to be enthusiastic yourself, to
understand yourself and to put this stuff before others...” (Living, Loving
and Learning, p.6).
Buscaglia argued that the “essence of education is not to stuff you full of
facts, but to help you discover your uniqueness, to teach you how to develop it,
and then show you how to give it away” (Living, Loving Learning, p.10).
He spoke against an education system that aims to “make everybody like
everybody else” which can be seen by our rigidity and reward system associated
with curriculum in almost every stage of the education system.
Buscaglia discussed the idea that by treating all learners as the same we
are missing the point of education and deprive learners of the joy of learning.
philosophy is similar to that followed by A. S. Neill in the development of Summerhill.
Neill founded Summerhill in 1921 to offer an environment of freedom for
children to learn. The school was
structured only through regular democratic self-governed meetings of the
Summerhill community. The
children’s emotional well-being is considered of primary importance over
academic development as Neill promoted that emotionally healthy individuals will
not be inhibited in their learning process.
was the son of Italian immigrants and first learned to speak English when he
entered primary school. He was placed in a Special Education class due to his
limited English. This experience
led him to become interested in special education and most likely influenced his
views of the education system. He worked as a special education teacher, and
after receiving his Ph.D. in Language and Speech Pathology he worked as a
Professor of Education at the University of Southern California for almost two
teachings can be used as an analysis of the current education system.
An example of this can be seen through a website called Dear Habermas.
This website is described as a Journal of Postmodern and Critical Thought
Devoted to Academic Discourse on Peace and Justice. On this website one will
find the work of Leo Buscaglia highlighted and used as a discussion piece
regarding a non-violent response to structural violence.
An education system that denies uniqueness of individuals, places limits
on the learners’ outcomes and rewards only pre-determined outcomes would be
viewed as structurally violent. (see www.habermas.org).
love class was an instant success. With a limited enrollment of one year, it
started with 20 students and quickly progressed to 200 with a waiting list of
600 and full within 20 minutes of registration. By combining the teachings of
sociology, anthropology and psychology, Buscaglia facilitated discussions about
love, self-actualization and human relationships.
Some of Buscaglia’s influences included the works of Carl Rogers, Carl
Jung, and Jean Piaget.
1A began, Buscaglia wrote a series of best selling books that have been
translated into 20 different languages including Love, Living, Loving and
Learning, Loving Each Other, The Disabled and Their Parents, and Personhood.
Five of his books appeared on the New York Times bestseller list
concurrently. Many of his taped
lectures are also used as fund-raising tools for the Public Broadcasting System.
This is quite a successful career for a man who was placed in a special
education class based on an education system that deemed him “mentally
retarded” due to his language barriers.
his career, in his books and lectures and in his modeling of giving, Buscaglia
provided an outstanding example of a “teacher” for adults and children
alike. His work and life legacy speaks to much of the ideals of
adult education. Throughout his
work one can extract examples of his belief in community for learning.
The concepts of both personal and social transformation can be seen in
his work. For example, in 1989,
Buscaglia donated real estate valued at $500,000 towards USC and part of this
money was devoted to scholarships for Inner City Teacher Education.
Upon completion of schooling, a student in receipt of this scholarship
was required to teach a minimum of 2 years in an inner-city high school in
example of community/cooperative approaches modeled by Buscaglia can be seen in
the Felice Foundation founded by him in 1994
“to give special aid and attention to those who have dedicated
themselves to the betterment of personkind through the dynamics of helping one
another... structured around the dynamics of sharing and giving, and influencing
others to do the same...to encourage and reinforce socially contributive
behaviors where the focus is clearly outside the "self," looking
instead toward the welfare of others and the community.”
(The World of Leo Buscaglia Website)
Buscaglia died from a heart attack on June 12, 1998.
On July 18, 1998, a tribute to his life was conducted as a “global
community event” across the world called the following:
Keep Love Alive. The
direction for this event was: “ people should go to the most beautiful place
in their area, hopefully with a loved one or in a group. Dedicate the sunset to
Leo's memory, and also state a concrete way that you personally are going to
help perpetuate Leo's legacy of love.” (The
World of Leo Buscaglia)
the university course started by Dr. Leo Buscaglia is an exceptional example of
creativity in education where
learners are encouraged to tap into their own internal resources of knowledge
and share them as a community. Dr.
Leo Buscaglia is a tremendous model of teachers’ capacities to influence
positive transformation for individuals and societies.
Living, Loving & Learning, Buscaglia,
Leo (1982). Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Toronto
Loving Each Other—The Challenge of Human Relationships,
Buscaglia, Leo (1984). Random House Ltd, Toronto
URL: The World of Leo
Buscaglia. Retrieved Oct. 27 2002 from
URL: Dear Habermas.
Retrieved Oct. 27, 2002 from
URL: Leo Buscaglia—Internationally
known author-lecturer. Retrieved Oct. 20, 2002 from
URL: Author Index:
Leo F. Buscaglia. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2002 from
URL: Leo Buscaglia index.
Retrieved Oct. 27, 2002 from
URL: In Memory of Dr. Leo
Buscaglia. Retrieved Oct. 27, 2002
9) URL: A Brief History of Summerhill. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2002 from
By Lisa Bellon (OISE/UT), 2002
Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/ (date accessed).
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