Author: David Wine - CM Rubin World | Date: 14 December 2019
Jeff King is the Head of MUSE School in Calabasas, California, and the CEO of MUSE Global. He is the architect of the MUSE Blueprint that has enabled 100 percent of MUSE high school graduates to be accepted by their university of choice. “We recognized that there was a pervasive, systemic issue with the age-old ‘sit, get, memorize, and regurgitate’ model that has continued to hinder childrens’ educational experience for decades,” says King, who believes that the current system does not prepare youth for real world challenges, but instead “teaches them to memorize content.”
Muse school was co-founded in 2006 by James Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, and Suzy’s sister, Rebecca Amis. The team set out to create a learning model that equips students with the skills and tools needed to flourish in both higher education and the job market. The Muse curriculum is also heavily focused on critical global challenges such as climate change, enabling students to understand the issues unequivocally so that they are ready to play their role in the preservation of the planet. It was also the first school in the country to offer a 100 percent organic, plant-based lunch program. “We want our future generations to be nimble – professionally, intellectually, and socially,” King notes.
The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Muse School’s Jeff King.
Jeff, what inspired you to incorporate the Process Communication Method (PCM) in your curriculum? What have you learned from your process so far?
I’ve been practicing the Process Communication Model (PCM) for over 20 years; it’s an integral component of my life, both personally and professionally. In MUSE School’s early years, Suzy, Rebecca and I aligned on our belief that teaching children how to effectively communicate is an imperative component of education.
PCM was created by developmental psychologist Dr. Taibi Kahler, and the framework helps to facilitate communication through the identification of personality types and their subsequent ‘languages.’ It’s an incredible tool that promotes mutual understanding, despite any disparities in communication styles.
We are committed to instilling PCM principles within the classroom setting, and all of our teachers are trained in the philosophy and are empowered to connect, communicate, and resolve conflict with their students. We also see PCM as a diversity tool, in that it helps teachers identify students’ unique learning styles, because education is not one-size-fits-all. We also teach PCM to parents – many of whom have shared that PCM has helped them better understand their child, improving the parent-child relationship, overall.
The results in our MUSE School students are undeniable. From early childhood all the way through 12th grade, our students are exceptional communicators and can hold conversations with respect and confidence.
We are in the midst of an industrial revolution that is changing our world at dramatic speeds – and challenging traditional education models. Do you believe we will ultimately see a shift in learning models everywhere – perhaps among a younger generation of parents?
I think that traditional education models have a stronghold on parents and instill in them that academia is all about testing and homework. Because of this, a widespread adoption of passion-based principles may not necessarily play out in the near future.
We do, however, see this younger generation of parents that question the status quo, and seek a more holistic education for their children that will ultimately make them more well-rounded individuals – and that’s where MUSE comes in. Our hope is that over time, the culture will begin to shift around education, and we’re proud to play a part in this progress. We want to be leaders in the transition out of the traditional education ideals, to a more applicable, real-world educational approach.
How would you describe your greatest accomplishments with MUSE to date?
We’ve had 100 percent of our graduating seniors receive acceptance letters from the universities of their choice. This puts a significant amount of weight behind our academic philosophy, which has now been proven extremely effective by the fact that our students are being accepted to institutions such as UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, and NYU, among many other outstanding universities.
Another notable success lies in our principles surrounding sustainability. When we converted MUSE School to a plant-based model several years ago, we faced a lot of backlash and lost nearly 50 percent of our student body. But, we believed in what we were doing, and are so glad that we persisted. Since then, we’ve seen an incredible shift in public perception surrounding plant-based lifestyles, particularly given its validation from the science and climate change communities.
We’ve also become trailblazers in youth environmental education, and are facilitating change through our students – who are our planet’s future. The knowledge they gain from MUSE surrounding the climate crisis we are all facing is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. We want to give them the tools they need to be leaders in sustainability.
What have been the greatest challenges you faced – what did you learn from your failures?
There is a certain fear held by parents that has been a challenge for us to break through. They want their children to succeed, which we certainly understand. And there is a rigid structure that has been in place for years that defines academic success in a very siloed way, and parents certainly have hesitancy in straying away from that model.
What we try to communicate to parents is that their children don’t need to be constantly stressed over school, and they don’t need to put in three hours of homework every night to be successful. This actually prohibits them from learning, and makes it a dissatisfying chore. One of our goals at MUSE is to engage and motivate students in the classroom; not send them home completely bogged down with busy work every night. Our students genuinely enjoy coming to school every day and engaging with their teachers and peers.
How will you keep MUSE relevant and engaging for learners in a changing world? What are you working on now for the future?
This is where PCM really comes into play. It allows us to engage students and understand who they are as a person and as a learner, and educate them according to their unique needs.When students start their MUSE High School experience, they begin a process called YOU Prep, which presents students with many professional, academic, and social avenues available to them as they begin to think about their post-secondary school chapter of life. YOU Prep offers students and families an individualized plan to prepare for the real world in a way that suits their passions and personality.
We also offer exposure to human rights classes that are focused on some of the worlds’ most pressing issues, such as climate change and poverty. These classes provide students with the opportunity to apply to a domestic and/or international trip in which they provide services to underserved communities. We currently offer two climate change classes as well, in addition to a sustainability trip in which students have the opportunity to receive hands-on experience with professionals battling the climate crisis.
Our philosophy innately keeps up with the times because we follow the science – when research comes out surrounding screen time, or homework, we adjust accordingly; and I would say that most schools don’t react as we do. One of our greatest strengths lie within our core principle of ‘ever-evolving’,’ and we really pride ourselves on that. We want every student to fall in love with learning, and to embrace their own evolution through their time at MUSE School.