All global ambitions are based on a definition of productivity and the good life so alientated from common human reality I am convinced it is wrong.This statement caught my eye as I read "Dumbing Us Down" this morning.
So what is society's definition of "productivity," of "the good life"?
As taught to me in public school these definitions included the following:
--a well-paying job
--order/lack of conflict or challenges
--approval by the experts
--getting whatever is newer and better, whether in material or intellectual areas
--getting ranked "higher" than those around us
Now I know that there is both great good and amazing teachers found within "the system." However, as Gatto himself is a public school teacher it is important to see how these "lessons" or "definitions" not only exist, but how they are destructive and can be re-defined.
My mind made automatic counter-connections with two monthly areas of impact: "pursuit of happiness" and "work" and the lessons I have learned over the years in our study of those areas. The lessons I learned through the classics in those areas took on more of the meaning that Gatto himself shares:
[We need to] locate meaning where meaning is genuinely to be found--in families, in friends, in the passage of seasons, in nature, in simple ceremonies and rituals, in curiosity, generosity, compassion, and service to others, in a decent independence and privacy, in all the free and inexpensive things out of which real families, real friends, and real communities are built.--pg. 16-17, "Dumbing Us Down"I have learned these lessons:
--happiness can be found regardless of income
--self-guided missions lead to most satisfacting productivity
--to be different is beautiful
--peace and productivity can be found not only in spite of but through challenges and difficulty
--it is through our uniqueness that we bless the world and find ourselves
--people may not understand or approve of us, but that is not a healthy basis of self-worth
--God and myself are the experts on my life
--to find satisfaction and use in the resources around us leads to greater happiness than the next best thing
--we are all on different paths and to celebrate the uniqueness of those paths without feeling the need to compete or tear others down brings joy and greater productivity. To spend our time comparing is counter-productive.
I have shared the following analogy before in association with our "7 monthly areas of impact" visual. Each component of the visual can be "colored" or "fleshed-out" through our study of the classics. As we interact with classics that illustrate positive or negative influences in those themes, our students start to feel what are right or wrong, healthy or unhealthy philosophies or activities in those areas. To have some negative exposure provides contrast to the beautiful, but the majority should be exposure to healthy classics.
For example, for the question of what makes a good society, it is beneficial to read books like "The Giver," Ann Rand's "Anthem," or "Animal Farm." However, to just dwell on negative examples is not enough. We need to give them immersion in healthy societies or interactions like "Princess Academy," "Laddie," "Wonder," or even "The Secret Garden." As a student resonates and interacts with the positive, meaningful and good in each of these areas, they will be stronger in their ability to recognize the superficial, the destructive, the meaningless in the messages so strongly sold through our current education system.
If nothing else, they will initially feel that something is wrong with a particular world view and then their faculties will arise to meet the challenge of addressing what exactly is wrong and try to fix it. It is that initial trigger of "something is wrong" "warning! warning!" that we need to instill in the rising generation to tackle the mass mind-numbing effect of social conformity to world views that are both unhealthy and inherently destructive to those very goals they are trying to meet: "productivity and happiness."
If you have any spin-off thoughts, arguments against, additional resources, please share or bring them up in the comments below!
I recommend reading the first 14 pages of Gatto's book if you have never read it or even if you have...quick read. Good refresher about why we do what we do. Try to answer his "lessons" with "counter-lessons" you want to teach in your home and how you can do it. I would love to hear your thoughts!