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4695#4695 - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - Editor: Gloria Lee

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  • Gloria Lee
    Aug 31, 2012

      #4695 - Thursday, August 30, 2012 - Editor: Gloria Lee
      "The plain fact is that the planet does not need more "successful" people. But it
      does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and
      lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It
      needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world
      habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our
      culture has defined it."
      ~ David Orr

      Ed. Note: The quote above, wrongly attributed to HH Dalai Lama, led me to find
      the essay by David Orr from which it was taken. Enough mistakes like that will
      turn anyone into a fact-checker. What impressed me the most was how very nondual
      his perpective was, without once actually using the word. Because he looks at how
      an education that splits, divides, and separates subjects inevitably does the same to
      the person studying it. When wealth and status become the sole indicators of "success"
      in a culture, so much else is ignored and lost. The same might be said about pursuing
      Enlightenment. Okay, so you're enlightened, what is it for? How does that affect the
      way you live?

      What Is Education For?
      Six myths about the foundations of modern education, and six new
      principles to replace them
      By David Orr
      If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of
      rainforest, or about an acre a second. We will lose another 72 square miles to
      encroaching deserts, as a result of human mismanagement and overpopulation. We
      will lose 40 to 100 species, and no one knows whether the number is 40 or 100.
      Today the human population will increase by 250,000. And today we will add
      2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons to the atmosphere and 15 million tons of
      carbon. Tonight the Earth will be a little hotter, its waters more acidic, and the
      fabric of life more threadbare.
      The truth is that many things on which your future health and prosperity depend
      are in dire jeopardy: climate stability, the resilience and productivity of natural
      systems, the beauty of the natural world, and biological diversity.
      Historically, Francis Bacon’s proposed union between knowledge and power
      foreshadows the contemporary alliance between government, business, and
      knowledge that has wrought so much mischief. Galileo’s separation of the
      intellect foreshadows the dominance of the analytical mind over that part given
      to creativity, humor, and wholeness. And in Descartes’ epistemology, one finds
      the roots of the radical separation of self and object. Together these three laid
      the foundations for modern education, foundations now enshrined in myths we
      have come to accept without question. 
      In the modern curriculum we have fragmented the world into bits and pieces
      called disciplines and subdisciplines. As a result, after 12 or 16 or 20 years of
      education, most students graduate without any broad integrated sense of the
      unity of things. The consequences for their personhood and for the planet are
      large. For example, we routinely produce economists who lack the most
      rudimentary knowledge of ecology. This explains why our national accounting
      systems do not subtract the costs of biotic impoverishment, soil erosion, poisons
      in the air or water, and resource depletion from gross national product. We add
      the price of the sale of a bushel of wheat to GNP while forgetting to subtract
      the three bushels of topsoil lost in its production. As a result of incomplete
      education, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that we are much richer than we
      This is not the happy world that any number of feckless advertisers and
      politicians describe. We have built a world of sybaritic wealth for a few and
      Calcuttan poverty for a growing underclass. At its worst it is a world of crack
      on the streets, insensate violence, anomie, and the most desperate kind of
      poverty. The fact is that we live in a disintegrating culture. In the words of Ron
      Miller, editor of Holistic Review:
      "Our culture does not nourish that which is best or noblest in the human spirit.
      It does not cultivate vision, imagination, or aesthetic or spiritual sensitivity. It
      does not encourage gentleness, generosity, caring, or compassion. Increasingly in
      the late 20th Century, the economic-technocratic-statist worldview has become
      a monstrous destroyer of what is loving and life-affirming in the human soul."
       (Only topic headers are given here.)
      Measured against the agenda of human survival, how might we rethink education?
      Let me suggest six principles.
      First, all education is environmental education. By what is included or excluded
      we teach students that they are part of or apart from the natural world.
      A second principle comes from the Greek concept of paideia. The goal of
      education is not mastery of subject matter, but of one’s person. Subject matter
      is simply the tool. 
      Third, I would like to propose that knowledge carries with it the responsibility
      to see that it is well used in the world.
      Fourth, we cannot say that we know something until we understand the effects of
      this knowledge on real people and their communities. 
      My fifth principle follows and is drawn from William Blake. It has to do with
      the importance of "minute particulars" and the power of examples over words
      The lessons being taught are those of hypocrisy and ultimately despair. Students
      learn, without anyone ever saying it, that they are helpless to overcome the
      frightening gap between ideals and reality. 
      Finally, I would like to propose that the way learning occurs is as important as
      the content of particular courses. Process is important for learning. Courses
      taught as lecture courses tend to induce passivity. 


      One of the articles in The Learning Revolution (IC#27)
      Originally published in Winter 1991 on page 52
      Copyright (c)1991, 1996 by Context Institute