“We live in one global environment with a huge number of ecological, economic, social, and political pressures tearing at its only dimly perceived, basically uninterpreted and uncomprehended fabric. Anyone with even a vague consciousness of this whole is alarmed at how such remorselessly selfish and narrow interests – patriotism, chauvinism, ethnic, religious, and racial hatreds – can in fact lead to mass destructiveness. The world simply cannot afford this many more times.” — Edward Said
At the end of this article I provide a link. It gives a relatively mild spotlight to one of our collective crises. I trust that after reading this short piece readers will want to get busy with radically transforming our educational institutions.
All U.S. schools are, of course, embedded in a culture which rewards selfishness to the nth degree. But I’ve seen no acknowledgement of that, for all practical purposes, in the classrooms I’ve visited over the last 20 years; that’s a total of hundreds nationwide, both public and private.
For sure, there is talk about the importance of being kind and compassionate. And, unquestionably, there’s the obligatory verbal nod to sharing and the like. However, when it comes to providing a clear description of what’s coming down around us and why there’s… nothing much addressed. Not without window dressing, modifying the truth of our momentum to an extent that makes the “talk” meaningless. Meaning, while interacting with token gestures about the value of taking the high road as a well-meaning, moral member of society, contributing to the Collective Good, everything — pretty much — evaporates in the context preparing for the next test; in the name of advancing academically and — eventually — securing employment which is self-serving for the most part, if not totally*. Almost any youngster given the opportunity to get on board with a Silicon Valley corporation, say, would make personal hay very quickly without a second thought about the Collective Good. That’s my take.
*This dynamic can be observed too outside of formal educational circles. One example can be found in the realm of documentary film work, where I have personally had contact with a number of directors and producers. To cite but one of many negative examples I could give with regard to issues across the spectrum, the director of The Messenger showed no interest whatsoever in even discussing viable options respecting saving songbirds with activism that would follow a fresh paradigm. I must admit that I don’t really know why, but I’m guessing that the primary concern of that film maker was securing funds for her next project, or some other self-serving reason.
Am I wrong about this?
Prestigious universities, which almost all students would die to enroll in, such as Stanford, are complicit in monumental abominations that are destroying the world. To zero in on one example of what I’m trying to spotlight here, note that Bechtel is housed on the Palo Alto campus of Stanford. Bechtel is a horror easily the equal of Hitler, Stalin and Mao put together. And the academic counterparts to this ‘cross the country are plentiful. At Harvard, among the 26 campuses of the University of California system, MIT, and even at my alma mater Columbia University. It’s typical, this corporate control of education, this turning a blind eye on the part of academics whose self-interest — securing grants? — enables atrocities to be carried out.
Yes, all of those institutions of higher education do have their wonderful positive aspects. But that point is a no brain thought, by any standards. I’m straining here to point out that the upsides are not to be talked about in the same breath as the downsides presented by most major colleges and universities. Meaning, the horrid societal and environmental momentum being fed by such institutions far outweighs the way in which they can benefit a given individual.
Like, say, your child.
Let’s focus on that tender, individual kid now. What’s in it for her or him down the road, if she or he excels in this or that respect academically and/or with regard to employment?
I’m going to make this as simple as possible. The answer. Just keep in mind, if you will, that I’m well aware of the fact that the disappearance of species is discussed in schools. Talked about.
[Take a moment.]
No songbirds. No song birds, nothing to sing about. To children. With children. For children.
But to elaborate, I ask the reader to consider what it means for schools to encourage students to pick up plastic on the local beaches, but not to be involved in anything effective respecting the fact that we’ve produced more plastic in the last ten years than we have over the previous century.
The “selfish and narrow interests” addressed in the opening quotation above is not being given equal time in schools alongside instruction that is focused on individual self-advancement.
“Anyone with a… consciousness of this whole” should move in solidarity with colleagues to change education in their local realm, so that our children can inherit a life worth living. Not cave to the culture.
Healthy children want to be songbirds. They need natural models.
Valleria Ruselli writes exclusively for alternative media outlets, and has been an educator and activist for decades. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.