(Politics and the Human Spirit – Installment 6)
While our noble human qualities have graced modern society with the Internet, cell phones, iPads, space stations, lasers and other marvels, our savage side has been nipping relentlessly at our heels… stirring up lawsuits, theft, international conflicts, and all manner of problems.
Our noble-savage nature was forged long ago. Our noble side emerges from the finer spirit within us, while our savage side spins out of our carnal concoction of hormones and egos.
Most human suffering down through the ages has been caused by our savage side… far more than what’s caused by natural disasters, diseases, predators, and other forces outside human affairs. For the most part we humans create our own suffering
For that reason I’ve long believed that the main role of education should be to strengthen our noble side and to teach us how to contend with our savage qualities, starting at a young age and continuing into adulthood.
Foster good will and trust among children, help adolescents deal with their hormones and egos, help everyone to understand their basic spiritual nature in contrast with their carnal human nature…. I’m talking more about our basic spiritual nature, less about religious teachings that are centered around personalities of religious authorities and icons.
Using those kinds of facts and attitudes (noble values, self-knowledge, and spiritual understanding) as the foundation of every educational system would bring out the best in humanity and help to sustain peace and stability across the decades.
Math, science, language arts, and other studies, then, would be built on the foundation of true human understanding and decency… if this were an ideal world.
The world today is far from ideal, though. Let’s look at some of the challenges underway in modern education.
Fundamentalist religious countries, especially those in the Middle East, struggle to sustain a noble culture in the age of the noble-savage Internet. It’s hard to keep kids focused on moral principles when vulgarity and desecration are right at their fingertips when sitting with a PC or iPad. Iran is trying to develop a filtered version of the Internet that’s compatible with Islamic teachings.
Technologies can disrupt or enhance the learning environment, depending on how they’re used or abused. Two recent surveys of teachers suggest that kids’ heavy use of digital gadgets makes them unfocused and impatient in the traditional classroom… while other teachers have found that kids today adapt to touchscreens like ducklings to water, and incorporating iPads and smartphones into classroom activities can make big strides in the learning experience. Apparently, then, digital technologies can be either a blessing or a curse in modern education.
When society celebrates our noble-savage nature in all its glory, as the US does today by beating the drum for human rights, personal liberty, and minimal government interference in human affairs, then the savage side of human nature tends to run a bit wild. Competition becomes more rewarding than cooperation… prevailing becomes more important than getting along… and then harmony and trust begin to give way to growing crime, conflict and suspicion. Growing ranks of kids choose gangs over classrooms. Gangs clash with each other, and law enforcement clashes with them all. Today, violence is no longer confined to the streets but boils over into the social networks.
When a savage-leaning nation embarks in for-profit education—taking schools out of the hands of well-meaning government and placing it in the hands of dogmatic or profit-motivated groups—then curriculum becomes narrow-minded and college recruiters become predatory lenders.
Many Problems, One Solution
All of these problems would be solved once and for all if education were restructured as I described at the beginning of this article: Give education a noble core. First and foremost, foster good will and trust among children, help adolescents deal with their hormones and egos, and help everyone to understand their basic spiritual nature in contrast with their carnal human nature. Rebuild today’s marvelous, comprehensive school programs on that sturdy core.
An educational renaissance of that type won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, there are already various localized programs moving in that direction… and they might help move things along… if we can learn from their successes and struggles.
The OneGoal program in Chicago involves 23 high schools in which students are instilled with resilience, integrity, resourcefulness, professionalism, optimism, self-control, and ambition. About 95 percent of participants have enrolled in college, and 85 percent have hung in there as they approach college graduation.
KIPP (the Knowledge Is Power Program) is a network of more than 100 schools in the US that forges an agreement among teachers, administrators, parents, and students… all dedicated to instilling character development and a successful mindset in each student. More than 90 percent of KIPP middle-schoolers graduate from high school, and more than 80 percent of participants go on to college.
HCZ (Harlem Children’s Zone) is a nonprofit program working with poor families to break the cycle of generational poverty… by addressing kids’ every needs, from dental work to homework… from cradle through college. It receives matching funds from the government’s “Promise Neighborhoods” program, which was created to spread the values of HCZ to other communities across the country. Frankly, HCZ has been struggling a bit since it’s founding in the 1990s, and I think it’s because the program hasn’t spent enough effort establishing what I call a noble core… what program officials call “managing the culture of the school.” The program would be saved, I believe, by focusing first and foremost on character development.
These are just two examples of education programs in the US that focus on noble values as the core of education… with remarkable success. And a third program that’s struggling to get there.
I hope the pattern of a noble core boils over into a new education system that can be adopted nationwide.
Many government-run educational systems around the world are far more successful than American schools. They could also be used as a model for the US. You can read more about them…
Politics and the Human Spirit series:
1 Introduction 2 Privatization and the public good 3 Military 4 Information 5 Spirit of Society 6 Education 7 Regulation 8 Economics 9 Managing the World in the 21st Century – 10 The carnal line between noble and savage – 11 Embrace the divine; it’s where we shine – 12 Who decides what? – 13 Finally… good politics
Best and worst countries to be born – Election fraud 2012 – Best and worst US presidents – Humor in politics - Human spirituality and politics - Biggest political news - End of the American dream – Blown to bits in the computer age - Standards, the key to peace – What Obama and Stalin really have in common – Bad counsel and a short leash – Capital punishment & the human spirit