Friday, February 12, 2010

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

A recent talk with Mikey has stuck with me where we were determining root causes of the mess we're in. By "mess" we mean that EM08 is just an expression of some things deeply wrong at base with our society. Lives of quiet desperation are now being heard, but it's not nearly enough in the face of forces with so much of a lead it's like running a mile race giving a 3 lap head start to the competition. How could it have gone so wrong?

Mikey mentioned he thought that much of it had to do with education, and I immediately agreed. We may differ a bit on certain particulars and/or exponents, but at base we think that it assumes responsibility for quite a bit that happens in society. Here are a few things I think are worthy of discussion when it comes to education:

1. One of the cliches we like to repeat here is the advocacy of literacy. This boils down here to reading, which is fine, but is not a rounded definition of "literacy." There are in the main 3 facets: reading, writing and speaking. Generally, until people have assimilated these basic tools, they will be unequipped to deal with the world in its varied forms in any way other than a reactionary one. In gambling terms, without these tools, they are in effect bred to be fish, the suckers who sit at the table and think they can play.

2. Relevance. Young people in particular are all about themselves, and in some ways, rightly so. They are the fawns on spindly legs, walking, but it's kinda awkward. That would tend to focus one's awareness upon one's self. Recently, I read an article stressing the need for us to get our young people inculcated into math and science because those are the skills that are going to be necessary to give one the odds for success in the future.

Oh really?

As they are handed down in Uncle Scam's system, math and science have been gutted of all forms of life and reduced to rote memory. This is why the liberal and fine arts in school have been destroyed in this country; because they get young people to creatively think, proactively think. And if they're lucky to have a teacher who's alive inside, all the better.

With the dominance of memorization in our schools, it's no wonder that young people are dropping out in record numbers. Educational curricula and methodology leave them bored - and rightly so.

3. What is it to be alive? A very wise man once said, "Point in any direction, and there's the infinite. But the shoddiness of our lives, the drudgery, dulls us to that astounding fact. Instead, most of us march to our graves, never gaining an inch on the most essential question of all; "Why was I born?"

This speaks to wonder, the essential mystery of life, which is completely removed from education, save for religious schooling which is a whole other can of worms. But I grew up in an overwhelmingly Catholic environment; my next door neighbor, Steve, went to parochial school, and I knew several others as well, and if it was one thing we public school plebes had in common with them it was our verdict that our schools were as interesting as watching paint dry.

If a lie is also the hiding of the truth, then the removal of this essential mystery from education is wrong from the very start. More accurately, it's dishonest. At first, young kids aren't stupid, but they can be pounded into submission and intellectual oblivion.

4. Why isn't education interesting, fun and dynamic? This is more a rhetorical question. But it does seem weird that the vast majority of school is boring, lifeless and dull, then when students enter the workforce their jobs are the same. Coincidence?

One of the most interesting things I ever learned was that seeing was not just physiological but psychological. Here's an example; take a pinball machine. As you play, you hear the bells and other associated noises, and you see the ball rolling around, hitting the bumpers and associated flippers. But what you "do not see" are the reflections on the top glass as you're involved in playing. I learned that from the great Noel Burch, a film theorist.

Another wise person once gave me the most sensible reason for why we're alive; "To grow perception, awareness."

Ask yourself if your education did that consistently for you. If not, why do you think that was?

I'm a big fan of John Taylor Gatto. Here's something basic from him: