Carly Welsh, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. School is a central component of our society, and its place in the community is changing- or at least it’s trying to. The days of telling parents to “get their homes in order” and only focusing on intellectual pursuits within classroom walls need to be over. A teacher presenting multiplication to a classroom of children with no concern for their empty bellies, or fear of school shootings, or social isolation can’t motivate their students to learn or thrive in any meaningful way. Many children have barriers to meeting their intellectual needs that are too big to ignore and trying to address their educational needs before their human needs doesn’t work.

 Recently, a call has been booming through the education world and gaining more traction- this is the idea that children must Maslow before they Bloom. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory of psychological developed by Abraham Maslow which orders human needs in pyramid form to show that the most basic needs must be meet in order for the individual to have motivation to attend to the higher needs on the pyramid. Maslow’s hierarchy places human needs in the following order: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, Self- Actualization. Alternatively, Bloom’s taxonomy of education objectives, which shape much of the traditional classroom and curriculum in America, are a set of learning objectives that appeal to the cognitive domain, the affective domain, and the psychomotor domain.

 This movement urges educators to consider that Bloom’s Taxonomy, when considered within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, falls under the self-actualization category at the very top of the pyramid. This means that we as a society must consider what basic (physiological and safety) and phycological (love/belonging and esteem) need to be met for children before they can be successful in engaging in learning. This movement is primarily being presented in the academic world; however, it is absolutely a public health issue as well. Education is a fundamental social determinant of health, and education outcomes effect the health of our population. While schools can fight to make sure children are fed, have full-time school nurses, feel safe, feel like they belong, feel supported in their accomplishments, and do their best to allow them to thrive in school—children ultimately return to communities with structural barriers to meeting their basic needs which schools alone cannot overcome.

 We know that dropout rates are higher among children from lower-income families. For example, in 2000, young adults whose families were in the lowest 20% of all family incomes were six times more likely to drop out of school then their peers whose families were in the top 20% (Kee-Smith 2006). We also know that feeling safe at school improves relationships at school, which then improves esteem at school, which then allows children to be motivated to excel at school- it’s Maslow’s hierarchy in its most basic form.

 Knowing that continuation of school and success in school have major implications on population health outcomes, we must act to make this possible for all children. Although Maslow’s hierarchy includes self-actualization, not all people meet the basic and psychological needs required to be able to begin the journey to self-actualization. We need to focus on providing children with the tools they need to meet their basic and psychological needs, so that school can be a place where they can focus on learning, growing, and thriving. There are many structural barriers that exist for children, especially children with families with lower incomes, and there is no simple solution to erase these barriers. What we must do; however, is recognize the poor chance we are giving children if we don’t fight to meet these needs. Attention must be turned to helping children have their most basic needs met, so that they can move forward into self-actualization, and “Bloom”.

Cause I Ain’t Got a Pencil By Joshua T. Dickerson

I woke myself up

Because we ain’t got an alarm clock

Dug in the dirty clothes basket,

Cause ain’t nobody washed my uniform

Brushed my hair and teeth in the dark,

Cause the lights ain’t on

Even got my baby sister ready,

Cause my mama wasn’t home.

Got us both to school on time,

To eat us a good breakfast.

Then when I got to class the teacher fussed

Cause I ain’t got no pencil


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