Dear Mr PresidentPosted: April 11, 2011
No. I am not going to launch into a song like Pink did when George W. was in office. I do not have the voice nor the legs. This is a note I have been wanting to write for a long time, Mr. President. But I can see the time is now.
When you were running for office, you were asked by one interviewer whether this was a good time to be President. The legacy of George W. Bush and his cohorts left a devastating amount of bomb holes in our already struggling country. They had kicked the legs out from under our economy. The fact that our basic needs had been undermined by special interests, lobbyists and out of control consumerism with the complete absence of producing anything of value as a nation, was a rampant fact. Your response was that this was the best time to be President because the challenges were great and that we as a country needed to rise to that challenge.
I should inform you, Mr. Obama, that I do not read the news in depth too often. I find that it raises my stress level and that I am more at peace with myself and my surroundings without the constant negative media influence. Given the fact that our media is controlled by a few mega companies is no encouragement, but I cannot avoid the news completely as I live in a city. I do not read many criticisms of you, so I am not influenced by how others view your work.
So given that, I can see that you find yourself in quite a pickle right now. The recent budget debacle is a good indication of that. You have become surrounded by lunatics, something that most Americans have little empathy for. In fact, Americans have little empathy at all, which is why we have many of the problems we do. That there is a “Tea Party” agenda is sickening to me. Why not call them what they are: Fascists. We do not have Republicans, we have Fascists. Let us be clear about party definitions. Republicans by their very name, aim to serve the republic, which is clear that the GOP does not. They serve their special interests. Democrats, which by their name should be serving democracy, do not even remember what that means. Washington has become, not surprisingly, a city of lobbyists. Elected officials are their servants. We the people are just flux to be extracted from. There is no republic. No democracy. We are unraveling as a nation. The corporations have become the country. And since robotics can do most of our labor, humans are no longer necessary. At least not for anything lobbyists are interested in with the exception of consumption. Consume the by product of corporations, which in turn, generate disease.
And though I have had great support for you and your vision, I think that you need a kind of support that does not exist in Washington DC (incidentally a city built by slaves). There are things happening out in the “real” world that you should know about, that might serve another vision. A vision that could build a new nation. The prime subject of this blog holds the biggest clue: Education. In this, America has truly failed its people. We have lost sight completely of what a country needs to do for its’ people. The meaning of education has been buried in the broken school systems that litter our cultural landscape. This includes colleges and universities. A system that was designed to serve the industrial revolution, which was over and done, generations ago.
The first time I wanted to write to you came after a speech your wife, Michelle, made to a group of London school children shortly after you took office. It seemed like a benign and rallying speech to encourage children to stay in school, be obedient and work hard. The old “pull yourself up by your boot straps” theory. But as a founder in a democratic free school here in Brooklyn, NY, I tend to take a dramatically different view. My understanding is that there are different types of individuals that compose any community. Some are highly competitive and obedient, which would support Michelle’s and your view that hard work and getting good grades is what is needed. But I do not believe in grading or testing, or homework for that matter. I feel that this view excludes the other necessary human types needed to create a healthy society. It excludes the creative visionary. It excludes those who are simply domestic. It excludes the farmer and the craftsman. It excludes all the other qualities we need to be complete as a nation.
Rather than pushing your “Race to the Top” agenda, we should be looking at how to dismantle this antiquated educational approach. Some pundits say to transform it from within. But history has not proven this approach successful. The process that appeals to my sensibility is stated by the following quote:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead
Brooklyn Free School is a grassroots school created by the community. I would tell you more about our school, but I will leave that up to your own curiosity. Briefly though, it is part of a growing movement of alternative schools across North America and around the world. It is the result of those who feel that the old approach to planting children at desks, and barking facts at them, then testing them on those facts, is a massive failure and can produce absolutely nothing good. Our solution is to strip away these restraints and reveal the natural intelligence that is locked inside of EVERYBODY. Everyone, Mr Obama. Not just a self elected elite who feel that by the accident of birth and opportunity, that they deserve more. To me the old system just bolsters the growth of delusion and mass psychosis. The GOP is a prime example of this hysteria. Is it not insane to argue against a healthy, well fed and intelligent population? Is it not true that these are the attributes of great nation? Qualities we no longer possess. We are seen by others as a sick and ailing nation. Not your fault. That was the scenario you walked into.
If we look at the basic needs of a human community, we would understand that all that is required, is to have healthy food, clean water, adequate shelter, and to be surrounded by loving friends and family. Everything else is superfluous. A good school would provide a microcosm of these qualities. It would encourage the individuals to find their own unique abilities. Experience shows us that when we force feed children, they grow into rejecting what we adults think they should digest. When children are allowed to flex their muscles in response to their immediate environment, miracles occur. We see the possibilities for a society that cannot be imagined by self serving lobbyists and congressmen. It will never be recognized by our country’s elite, because the very existence of a true democratic view in education, would supersede their very existence. If we remove the old systems, we fear, then we destroy several industries. But new variations will certainly arise in their place. As an example, this same fear governs our understanding of the legalization of drugs. Common sense tells us that if drugs were not illegal, there would be no “drug war.” Cartels would crumble at such a bold move. Theoretically, crime would diminish. It would impact the necessity of the DEA and the Prison Industrial Complex would see a drop in its numbers. But on the other hand, lobbyists will continue to push policy to allow pharmaceutical companies to drug our children with questionable consequences.
All this corporate diversion does is impose a narrow vision of what education can accomplish. Students are now rapidly growing depressed, and suicidal at the prospect of having to get out of bed every morning and face an institution guarded by armed men; presided over by insensitive administrators; prodded into learning useless facts in order to pass a test; treated as a statistic in order to validate a tired and cold system of behavioral control and have their creative spirit crushed at every turn. I am not talking about a few children who no longer want to face school. It is now an epidemic against the desire to learn. And the cause of this disease is the old tracking system. “No Child Left Behind” which leaves every child behind. Or as you call it “The Race to the Top” or as some may say, “The Race to Nowhere.”
The time has come for you to consider a different approach. Because everything I have stated has led our nation into this pit, where nobody knows what is right and decent anymore. Where religious zealots can impose their fantasies on the nation to the point where science and fact are questioned in favor of a lopsided perception of reality. For instance, take the argument against teaching evolution. These zealots prefer a creation myth to stand in the place of common sense. And history has indicated that this warped vision can lead to terrible things— the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Taliban to name a few. A child centered, democratic view of education, can lead to empowering citizens to take charge of their own lives. To work for the betterment of the community. And this is extremely important at a time when we face the kinds of challenges that are now global. Many of your desires and knowledge of a need for new energy policies, health care reform and the reevaluation our entire economic system, which by every indication is in its death throws, requires the acceptance of alternative thinking.
It is my desire, and the desire of many in my own circle, to see you succeed. We wish for you to accomplish, or at least initiate the original intent you had when you were running for the office you now occupy. We understand that you are surrounded by hoards of people who do not share this view. That though they invoke Christ, their true god is Greed. And we support your desire to rise above this mess. But in the process, you are going to have to abandon some old and tired views about a lot of things. My point is that education is the prime viewpoint that needs to be overhauled. If we can begin that process, there is a lot of hope for our role in the world as we move into the 21st century. We need to shed our skin as a military and economic power, and move toward becoming an example of sustainability and innovation. And if we stop crushing our children with antiquated notions of education, they will lead the way. We need to empower them. Encourage them to think and see that through teamwork, great and interesting things can be accomplished. We need to return the desire for life to have meaning. So that we can go to our graves knowing that we played a part in building a new golden age. Call me Utopian if you wish, but I have seen miracles. And a miracle is just what America needs right now.