There is deep power and beauty in loving relationships that guide the human heart. How do we bring this greater energy of purpose and compassion to the hearts and minds of our collective thinking? How do we inspire wonder, awe and compassion that inspires the “zest for life” in our children, our youth, parents and leaders — ourselves? The process requires the transformation of our American “way of life.”
I’m addressing the “education” of our children, but reforming schools is not enough. We can’t focus on schools without considering the family. We can’t focus on the family without considering the economy. We can’t focus only on the economy without including our dysfunctional political system. And we can’t simply focus on politics without reflecting on our worldview that includes the meaning and purpose of life. That’s a job for all us at all levels and positions in life.
Political, economic and institutional control prevail over the mystery, joy and creativity of real learning. We measure school dropout rates, but this doesn’t count the children who are disengaged. Reforms generally are based on conformity rather than creativity. Language and math skills are necessary, but not sufficient. Our schooling and education has to provide equal weight to the arts and content to unleash creativity in the service of a truly democratic, free society.
Learning can foster the values of love, caring for others, generosity, intellectual curiosity and compassion that are essential for a democratic society. A focus that honors the soul and trusts the creative process that can develop socially minded consciousness. The arts, such as visual and performance arts, which includes music, hands-on projects, drama and other creative activities, recognize that humans inherently are naturally different and diverse with the potential for discovering their personal inner passion and skills. This can light the spark of curiosity in children, as they are natural learners. Our present system stifles and trivializes much of what passes for education. Creativity is not important just because it can improve math scores, but because it speaks to children’s “inner self.” In place of curiosity, we have a culture of compliance rather than the power of imagination, critical thinking and the freedom to create.
Most teachers are dedicated, and there are many wonderful, creative, alternative programs in the Asheville area and our country in spite of the dominant culture of what we call “education.” I’ve participated in these creative programs, but these are the programs that are underfunded or eliminated with budget cuts. The illusion being that national standardized testing is the most important measure of schooling. Change is needed! A typical student in American schools takes 112 mandated tests between pre-kindergarten and 12th grade, while most countries that outperform our students test three times during students’ school career (Council of the Great City Schools, October 2015).
Teachers, parents and all of us need to insist that our schools foster and support our children’s capacity to be playful, joyful, spontaneous, loving, creative and compassionate while developing their intellectual curiosity. This is a huge change and seems exceedingly unlikely unless we take a radical turn toward a new kind of politics, a new of way of life that addresses the unmet spiritual and psychological needs that our present capitalistic system does not acknowledge.
Each of us can work for truth and social justice in our own small way depending on our situation in life. It’s an unending task required by democracy. We each inform ourselves and do our little thing. We all affect eternity and never know where our influence stops, no matter how small.
When we help heal a child, support families, build and inspire a community, we instill faith in a hopeful future; we serve humankind. The best planned organization of our society cannot help us until we become capable of imparting a “New Spirit” that is our moral and democratic responsibility. Resist ideological absolutes, greed and the corporate and elite motivations of consumerism, escapism entertainment, greed, environmental destruction and militarization.
Our families and communities, along with service to others, have more impact on our happiness than money and wealth. With every breath you take, be the most ethical, the most responsible, the most courageous and authentic you can be, because you are cutting a path into tomorrow that others will follow.
Again, each positive, caring act, no matter how small, affects eternity. Let us all be compassionate of heart, gentle in words, courageous in thought and action and generous in love. Yes, it’s difficult, even painful, when we participate to create a better world. But the satisfaction of fulfilling the yearning for peace and justice is great.
— Ed Sacco