Sunday, January 3

‘It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past, rather that the hope of creating the future, dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young.’ Bertrand Russell

I was reading a critique of the US educational system, the focus of the article being on the alarming downward trend that was extant in US achievement standards over the last forty years in spite of the increased attention and funding that the system has received. (This trend, although perhaps not so dramatic, is extant in Canada as well, just so I’m clear that this isn’t some sort of nationalist argument.) The ultimate point of the argument was that the failure of the system to improve the overall educational system was no failure at all; rather, it was the original intent. The crux of the argument was that a government capable of over-seeing NASA and space flight, capable of mounting multi-billion dollar military campaigns, capable of facilitating a multi-billion dollar taxation system, would not be as utterly incompetent in the creation of a better education system unless the greater failure of that system was their intent.

Think about it for a minute: Why is it that our governments can be very successful at accomplishing those things that support their control and political infrastructure, but seem incapable of accomplishing anything that will actually benefit the public? I would suggest that they fail, at best, because our benefit is inconsequential to politicians who, in spite of rhetoric to the contrary, are concerned only with their own security and comfort, their own consumption, and their own ability to affect some sense of power. At worst, it could be argued that the general ignorance of the greater population is a crucial aspect of a system designed to increase social and intellectual stratification. A dumb majority is more easily controlled.

We live within a secular system. That’s a simple fact. Our society, the world around us, our cultural values and the influence of all of these dynamics on the system itself are in a constant state of flux, ostensibly evolving in response to the pressures that are created within that system and affected upon it. It could also be argued convincingly that this social evolution has been co-opted in a short-term sense; that our secular system is currently engineered contrary to how it might evolve in the absence of a culture that uses as its primary impulse the generation of revenue, and worships as its primary deity the concept of free-market economy as the savior of the species. Of course, evolution will re-establish pre-eminence sooner or later, either when we smarten up and begin to establish a social construct that seeks a more harmonious state of equilibrium with our environment, and a truly democratic and egalitarian social system, or when we drive the global meta-system to the brink of collapse and drive ourselves to extinction. One of the two will happen, for the free-market commitment to profit at any cost is at odds with our long-term survival as a species. It’s a one-or-the-other dynamic.

To make the right choices as the fourth dimension exerts its influence over us, it is our children (perhaps their children too, depending on which version of climate change and social dynamic theory you adhere to) that will have to stand up, where we have and are not, and reclaim our future. And yet they are the very ones that are being subverted by the educational system to avoid free thought at all costs, to become sheep within the herd and focus on nothing more than accumulating the largest amount of the newest stuff possible – to focus only on the fuzzy butt in front or beside them, and be concerned only with doing as well as or better than that fuzzy butt.

In spite of all the work our governments are doing to undermine the educations system, there ironically seems to be a growing sense of discontent and this says more about the sovereignty of the human spirit than anything else. Young and old alike are standing up in greater numbers to say, “Hey, something isn’t right here!” or, “We know what isn’t right and we’re going to do something about it.” From the script of The Network, many are starting to say, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” Our freedom starts where our trust of our current political and social institutions ends. They aren’t looking out for us, but the inclination to stand up for ourselves seems to be increasing. If the systems that educate all of us, from the education system to our daily fix of mass media, aren’t going to foster our potential, I guess we’ll have to do it ourselves, educate ourselves, motivate ourselves, and find a non-passive yet non-violent way to affect change, the change that we desire for the whole of our species and planet.

If those who are paid to serve us feel rather that we are here to serve them, then stop looking to them for inspiration and hope. It’s like looking to a rock for comfort, or maybe like looking to a shark for it. Instead, we should be looking within ourselves and, when we find that spark of hope, we should be passing it forward. It is our responsibility to inspire each other and the next generation; our right to stand and be counted; our dignity that is at stake; our survival that hangs in the balance. If the system won’t be inspired or inspiring, then I guess it’s up to us to look forward with realistic hope and pragmatic idealism to “be the change we want to see in the world.”

Honk if you agree…