On Being Too Busy For Others To Question Your Sources


ocean sea acidification

I met with five administrators of schools in San Joaquin County, California this week, and those principals and vice-principals of public and private educational institutions in the Golden State had one thing in common. They didn’t believe that the oceans were dying.

One said he thought that “the oceans are big and can regenerate easily enough over time.” Another exclaimed, “What do you mean that edible fish will disappear? Do you have any idea of how many creatures there are in the ocean?” A third declared that there was no way that the oceans would die during the lifetimes of his students. And the other two clearly felt that the scorecard wasn’t in in terms of what was likely to happen. That five highly educated and influential academics in the most populous U.S. state can take such stances —  hold such environmental views — should trouble everyone worldwide. For it’s certainly every bit as horrible as the fact that three principals from Ventura County, California told me that they saw “nothing wrong” with the Nuclear Preparedness video that came down the pike courtesy of the Ventura County Public Health agency recently,

Definitive documentation IS in, of course, on the oceanic score, and what’s more we have — unquestionably — very little time, if any, to reverse our horrid momentum respecting the vast majority of the earth’s surface and vital underbelly. Nelly, the very wealthy and highly influential entertainer and entrepreneur indicated in a recent interview that he felt — essentially — the same way, except he added, “But even if the seas were going down, I wouldn’t frown, I’d keep going downtown… enjoying myself.”

One administrator made it clear that he didn’t have the time to deal with injecting controversial topics into his school; he was clearly concerned that doing so would require that he referee between opposing parents on the political spectrum. He underscored that his community was very conservative, and that many youngsters wore red Trump hats on campus.

I’m a very experienced educator with great credentials and references. I had offered to volunteer and donate singular resources to each of the schools, contingent only upon my being able to interact with students, staff, teachers and/or parents respecting the daunting deadlines we’re facing vis-a-vis the oceans, but I had no takers. Apparently, even though each of the schools were going through academic challenges related to high teacher/student ratios, inappropriate student classroom attitudes, financial dire straits and a lack of parental engagement, my gesture didn’t secure even a “Thanks, but no thanks” response from more than one of my targets. My deep experience respecting all four “academic challenges” didn’t outweigh the trouble I might cause by advocating that one and all consider addressing one of the major issues of our time. The questions and confrontations that might arise as a function of my functioning as a concerned citizen and educator focused on our collective crises.

I do feel for administrators who have to tactfully navigate the troubled waters stirred up on campuses as a consequence of some educator pushing the envelope on select issues. Everyone, as everyone knows, doesn’t agree on what’s coming down. And taking a strong position on any issue is guaranteed to lead to administrators’ jobs becoming more difficult than they would be if everyone avoided controversy. Most educators, truth be told, are quite content just keeping things as peaceful as possible, picking up the paycheck and imposing parameters designed to encourage… Ostrich Syndrome.

But the fact is that none of the students, parents, teachers or administrators will be okay if ostriches go extinct, drought proliferates or any of our many collective crises continue to be ignored.

The bottom line problem can be expressed in terms of educators (people, in general) expressing their opinions about issues, and then — in the spirit of our high tech times on the run — refusing to engage in in-depth back and forth. Points of view, then, can never be authentically challenged.

How is that education? That is being on a treadmill, not learning. And one overwhelmingly big burning issue of our time, it seems to me, is how to encourage leisurely exchange among well-meaning and highly educated folks.

I have a way to do that, an approach which will not burden or threaten educators, a means for interaction on campuses focused on our collective crises which will be asset for everyone. But readers involved in academia and/or readers who can connect with educators in their communities will have to take out the necessary heartbeats to contact me… for leisurely discussion.

Everyone has their opinions, yes. One of the administrators cited above said to me that he had something like 800 or so (potentially) different points of view to deal with every day, and that he didn’t want to upset the balanced dynamic he had so carefully created, and nurtured each day. It was tough enough keeping people from one another’s throats without injecting controversial topics designed to cause friction.

But, then, there’s the fiction that we are not headed for the precipice. [Pause.] That said, even if there was no such thing as catastrophic Climate Change in gear, I fear that educators being too busy to allow others to question their sources of information would take us over the edge.

Richard Martin Oxman can be reached at [email protected]. He’s been an educator on all levels worldwide for over half a century, but needs to connect with others in order to make a positive difference in this troubled world.



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