Letter: It’s in our hands to transform schools and values

Graphic by Lori Deaton

It’s encouraging to read opinions addressing Olivia Senor’s question, “Does pushing students to succeed foster achievement or cause harm?” [“Emphasis on Excellence: Does Pushing Students to Succeed Foster Achievement or Cause Harm?” Sept. 21, Xpress]. Olivia is right on target. This reinforces my hope for the world that younger adults are facing.

I’ve advocated that we must transform our educational system, starting with public schools. But there’s a big caveat in the way. It’s our way of life. Our dominant culture’s values are psychologically, physically, spiritually and socially stressful and toxic — poisonous. This affects how we live individually, in our families at home and the larger human family. Schools will not change until we develop a revolutionary, nonviolent transformation of our cultural values. In other words, education is not a single, standalone issue.

I urge young adults to question your assumptions. Think deeply about who we are and how we can live more fully and freely. Dare to be free to follow your own hearts and not be led by today’s conventional thinking that stifles and corrupts our ideals of democracies. Pay attention to local groups that attempt to educate the public on issues going beyond the trivializing entertainment of our media. This affects your own future.

Do the brave and life-shaking work of examining the truth of your life and the cultural values. This is no easy task  in a society of economic inequality, wealthy elites and political leaders unwilling or unable to institute transformational changes in our institutions.

If you are searching for your place in life, or even to be comfortable and secure, this is the time to expand your life to a bigger You as part of our community. Merely blaming the parents or the schools in isolation is not enough. It’s our system, our way of life. Parents do not raise children in isolation, and our culture does not support attuned, present, responsive, connected parenting. We need to take a good hard look at the challenges of raising children in a socially toxic environment that includes economic pressures on parents and schools, violence,  inequality and a polarized political system.

Education is much bigger than schooling. There is much talk about schooling children, but what about your own education that helps you grow and find meaning in life? I recommend reading the classics as one way to get started.  Classics are books that have universal appeal and have endured over time. There are various lists you can Google. J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Orwell’s 1984 are examples.

Read for your own interest, not what formal schooling requires. Here’s a question to ponder: “What do you really want out of life?” Check out Michael Ringer’s short talk on YouTube that might motivate you to search for bigger truths in your process of lifelong learning. Also, check out Dr. Gabor Maté’s recent book The Myth of Normal. On YouTube, he talks about the dynamics that distort human development and the modern capitalistic wisdom that erodes our instincts.

Olivia Senor’s question is relevant: “How can we work to change not only the culture at the school but also within ourselves?”

— Ed Sacco


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