Mountain Xpress informs the public on important issues of public schooling. It is important, but hopefully we recognize that these issues have been repeated again and again — in my experience, since the 1960s.
Competent educators, psychologists and scholars already know the needs of our children. It’s not knowledge we lack, but addressing it with the courage and energy to understand and act. I believe preschool and primary grades of schooling are more attuned to children’s needs, but after that, the schools are geared more to fitting children into our dysfunctional and polarized society. It is not merely an educational problem, but a spiritual and political problem for the country, which must be addressed locally by we the people. Gulp! That’s us.
We need to transform our institutions — from our politics to our economics, our culture, our patterns of leadership and even, in many cases, our religions, which have become all too competitive, ideological and mostly “noncontemplative.”
By contemplative I mean the practice of some form of meditation, listening, informing ourselves and acting to the best of our ability rather than locked into secondhand media information and politicians controlled by powerful elites.
What kind of America do you want? Children need better examples to follow than those offered by our materialistic emphasis on consumption and pleasure seeking. We need an educational system not just for children, but also for adults. Talking and blaming is not enough.
What can you do? You may not have the time, experience or temperament to be directly active in issues of peace and justice, but what you do now will influence your later years. Inform yourself, expand your knowledge and spiritual awareness. It will open a burst of energy and understanding with the zest for life that experiences an authentic freedom. It’s more than surviving; it’s creating, thriving, flourishing at any age. And scientific research shows such activities raises spirits, counteracting feelings of helplessness and fear.
Each of us has some degree of truth, and it helps to listen to understand each other. Read books like Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak & Listen From the Heart by Gabriel Wilson and Kimberly Loh. Or watch TEDx short talks on YouTube along the same line.
Read Thomas Piketty’s book Capital or view the documentary to understand what motivates those who are actively contributing to a positive vision that can unify our country.
And The Way Between by Rivera Sun, a book for teenagers and adults, suggests possibilities of the way between “fight or flight” before polarization and violence destroys everything we love.
Discover your own gift, even if it is just one thing, and use it for the good that gives us unity and embraces kindness and respect. It’s hard work. Athletes know that if our muscles are not challenged, they will eventually be unable to compete. We are not surprised when exercises such as weightlifting lead to physical changes in the muscles. But how about challenging the mind?
Is your life big enough? Do you cling to secondhand information, dogma or a narrow ideology? Challenge yourself. As life goes on, your patterns of participation and relationships will either expand or contract. Your way of life today will determine the pattern for your whole life. If you are closed-minded, your focus will narrow. If you are hopeful and trusting, it will expand your consciousness and courage. It’s not true that people stop pursuing dreams when they grow older. They grow old and closed-minded when they stop learning. Life is hard. Work at it. Pray, study, reflect and participate in our democratic system.
— Ed Sacco