Our education system has failed us. I know this because I go out into the field and observe what teachers are doing and saying with our youngest children. Truly, most of them are completely stuck in a behaviorist system of punishments and rewards with a mostly authoritarian approach. They become angry and frustrated whenever a child wants their attention. They want the day to go as planned - structured and scripted, standardized and tested, with very little room or time for imaginative or creative thought or expression. Children are forced to sit cross-legged, or up straight in front of the teacher as she/he makes them recite days of the week or talk about the weather using unimaginative charts and boards that are irrelevant, meaningless and boring for young children. They learn that when they have a creative thought, try to express themselves passionately or (Lord forbid) out of turn, or stray from what the teacher describes as the norm, they will be punished - put aside in time-out or humiliated in front of the class in other ways.
I have written about this recently. But this morning I feel it more urgently. I feel it because of what we are witnessing with our political situation. Because people with imagination and knowledge would have rejected this situation long before it became so out of hand. They would have been thirsty for understanding and would have wanted to know more - not less. I feel it because wherever I go - schools, or in presentations - children and adults are starving for attention - starving for relationships. Authentic relationships that encourage self reflection, self exploration, and creative ideas. Authentic relationships that validate feelings and create environments where people can feel safe to explore and express.
When I first came to America I saw a bumper sticker that read: If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Now - I know that in this capitalist environment the best way to people's understanding is through economics. So, this saying speaks volumes - especially as we consider what is always being said about providing funds for quality education in public schools (read Jonathan Kozol on this subject - hopefully he will blow your mind!). But more than being expensive, it is dangerous when people refuse to verify facts or think critically about what they are told. It ultimately causes pain and anguish to millions of people, who are marginalized - or who are children - who cannot fight for themselves.
Probably most of my few readers already agree with me and believe in a lot of what I am saying here. I am preaching to the choir. But my heart is sick and sore with how we have arrived in this place. How can we reinvent the education system when so many people have been brought up with a behaviorist approach, and who cannot imagine any other way? Those few struggling schools and educators, who work tirelessly and devotedly to showing how another way can benefit all of us - are just that - few and struggling. The system runs deep here in our country. In order for us to reform or replace it, we have to unlearn so much of what we were taught in our childhoods, and in our own schooling. And not many are willing to do that - it takes hard, painful work to confront our Selves and our earliest emotional memories.
I think of a young man in one of my workshops who described to us how he remembers the smell of his basement when he was a small child standing in a corner with his nose to the wall down there - punished for who knows what - speaking out? Talking back?
See - painful!
I will continue to try and show the way with my tiny candle in this long, dark tunnel. But, gee - this morning - my heart is broken.
A year ago at Mining Nuggets: After the storm