We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

The following image caught my attention on facebook. It was followed by a series of remarks that surprised me. Many spoke of their support for the point-of-view it espoused.

Here is a link to some of the comments:

And this was my response:

I do not think this cartoon illustrates anything. What I know to be true, is that this thing you call an “educational system” is nothing more than a factory which puts undo pressure on children to learn irrelevant material, and to live under the constant stress of having to be tested on such material. This system has robbed our children of childhood, and any ability to have a creative thought or a shred of empowerment. If this cartoon were to be more truthful, it would show the child under some stress in the 60’s and unbearable stress today. The system is an utter failure. I am surprised that so many here seem to think that this image has any relevance to reality.

I can sit back now and wait for the backlash. It seems that many of these responses are coming from teachers or backseat parents. What no one here is asking is: Why are grades relevant to who the child is as a person? I would think that there are many who would question my view that children are people and should have a say in their education. But that is where I come from and those who read my diatribes know that is where I stand. And with no apologies. All I can see from this cartoon is a horrible situation in 1969 and a tragic situation in 2012.

The way public schools are set up, crushes exploration. Everything is made to run on the same road, and if it does not, it is rejected. In a Democratic Free School, children have the option to explore at their own natural inclination. What occurs is that they are exposed to so many different ideas, it is staggering to behold. What scares people about Free Schools is that children do not naturally gravitate toward things like math, which in public school requires a lot of coercion. But once they reach a certain age, many feel the need to go and study math. And when they want to, the process of absorbing information is much quicker, because the child WANTS to. In a Free School children are not only accountable for their actions to parents and teachers, they begin to be aware that their actions can affect an entire community. That is the kind of education that will be required to extricate ourselves from the Corporate State which has bought and occupied and lobbied for every aspect of our waking existence. But nobody wants to have the conversation where we have to admit that our lives have been hijacked by corporate interests. That is just too hard to swallow.

Another image that caught my attention was a photo by Thomas Hoepker which was followed by an article talking about the controversy surrounding the image. It seems that this photograph was not published in the USA until 2006, but was shown in Europe shortly after 911. Study the image for a few seconds.

My first reaction is that Nero fiddles while Rome burns.

In many ways it is very unsettling. But we have no idea what these folks were feeling or exchanging. The photo makes you feel that these young people are lounging around, while the towers crumble into smoke and dust. In their defense (And I do not think this is about the people in the photo) September 11, 2001 was one beautiful day. It was picture perfect day, clear blue sky and a temperate morning when the news of two planes hitting the towers crossed our ears from the radio. We went outside to see the smoke passing over the sky of Bay Ridge. We walked down to the pier to get a glimpse of the towers in ruins. Now just a smokey spot on the downtown landscape. My wife and I are were in a state of shock, as were all the other people we saw on the streets and on the pier that day. No one was sitting on a picnic blanket breaking out the red wine and paté. We all just stood in silence and looked on.

But this photo does not, for me just focus on that day. It says something about the world we live in. A world where things are falling apart all around us, but the pain of that reality is so difficult to digest, that we need to immediately change the channel and occupy ourselves with something that we can cope with. The truth of my own insignificance is just too painful to bare. For me there is a strong connection between these two images. One is a cartoon about someone’s perception of reality, and the other is a photo that illustrates a difficult to accept truth. My belief is that if we can begin to accept the truth of where I stand in the world, I might be able to have some shred of influence on the community around me. Whether you agree with my view or not, you cannot deny that what I express is a deep care for how children should fit into the overall picture of the changing reality we call planet earth. If we can recognize that the systems that WE have created, are no longer useful, healthy or are worthy of maintaining, then they should be relinquished. If they are withering, there is good reason. And no quick fix will remedy the situation. If you are not clear on what I am talking about, it is the approach to education that the cartoon at the start of this post expresses. It expresses the views of a dying institution. And the only thing that can take its’ place is a deep act of humanity. When we can begin to admit that we do not have the answers to the situation, maybe a real thought will emerge. A path out of this epoch we find ourselves in. This is my practice. My wish is to infect more people with this wish for a better world.

“May you live in interesting times” — alleged Chinese curse


One Comment on “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident”

  1. princss6 says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog. I’m struggling with finding those who are not absolutely hostile to the decision to free school. It is really amazing to me that so many people continue to subject themselves to a system that is so arbitrary and subjective, at best, but seek no real understanding of alternative models of learning.

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