Education Is A Dehumanizing Mess But Its “Nirvana” Moment Is Coming…
At the moment, I live in several different universes.
I live in one where there is tension to reform math education in a way that honors the the stories, events, and people of the history of mathematics — to make the learning/teaching of mathematics more expansive and welcoming to the deepest ideas of equity. I have lived in this one for over half my life. While the ideas are hopeful and rich with humanity, the systems that need to install this robust mathematics are old, sterile, and rigid — beholden to long outdated institutional beliefs/purpose of education.
I also live in a much smaller universe of passionate, real, raw, and unfiltered ideas to transform education, to bringing it back to its earliest days of promise of wholeness and romance in teaching children. We are talking ideas that were fermenting wildly a century ago, but never managed to outwrestle the mechanistic compliance of the industrialized vision of education. Great thinkers like Dewey, Parker, and Whitehead. This is the universe of the Human Restoration Project, a non-profit initiative started by two Iowa teachers, Chris McNutt and Nick Covington. This grassroots organization has grown incredibly over the last few years, and palpable momentum to manifest organic change in education is most definitely happening in 2022.
Finally, I also reside in the magical universe of music. My fourth and final book is about music. Halfway through now, I realize this universe has the greatest impact on my own personal development and outlook on life — including education.
So, the inspiration for this article really is how all these different universes intersect right now.
Everything eventually collapses, especially if dysfunction and disillusionment have become malignant ideas. In the end, humanness will always triumph. There might a long period before this can sometime occur, but occur it will. On a macro level, I would highly recommend reading the book below.
If societies have a long history of collapse, it shouldn’t be surprising for other things to suffer the same fate. Over the last 25 years, the internet and the advent of digital technology has rendered many things obsolete that were vital before. And, when the pandemic hit, a sobering clarity to what should have been obsolete in education was presented to all of us.
Education, generally speaking, with a dangerous combination of ignorance and arrogance, ignored the warning signs of its future relevance. The last few years should have been The Great Reset. There was no stop and rewind. There wasn’t even a sizeable pause to deeply reflect on the continuing damage that dehumanizing systems were doing to students and teachers. Mental and emotional health were now, regrettably, front and centre.
Focus on content during the isolating last two years was a big mistake. The focus should have been on connecting, counselling, and playing games.
2500 years ago in Lydia, there was a famine that lasted 18 years. King Atys decreed that in order to stop fighting about food, people will only eat on alternate days. The days they do not eat, they will play games(dice) to take their mind off eating/famine.
What did we do differently during our education famine of 2 years to alleviate the pressure/anxiety of learning/isolation. Not much, as the exodus of teachers from the system has risen dramatically over that time.
While I have witnessed first hand as to the negative effects of this on my own two children(ages 13 and 15), the downward spiral of education’s currency with regards to testing, grading, and sorting students is reaching its nadir. The time to fix is gone. The time for something new is on the horizon. Death and Birth are happening simultaneously.
The mid to late 80’s was a bloated time for rock music. Hair bands were dominating the scene. The hair was big. The egos were even bigger. Everything was choregraphed. The music was unapologetically sexist. All the conditions began pointing to a revolution in music — stripped down songs/artists playing with a ferocity, urgency, and realism.
Music that resonated with community, convicition, and earthiness. It was a rebuttal in no uncertain volume to how grotesque music had become. It was Newton’s Third Law being symbolically applied with grungy guitars and grungy voice. Shit was about to get real — literally.
We are at that same stage in education.
Let’s also be clear of the word “radical”. I don’t think the solutions are the ones that should be labeled as such. I think what we are currently doing is radical — a radical departure from the true essence of what it means to be human, kind, compassionate, graceful, and helpful.
Dehumanization is the radical beast. A few years back I would have suggested many ways to slay it. Now, as I see it lumbering and snorting with exhaustion and little might, I am now merely waiting for its long-needed death. Primarily so we can finally fulfill “The Eternal Promise of Childhood”, a beautiful print by Mark Launer that combines real romanticism with surreal fantasy to convey the magic of learning.
The revolution is afoot. It will be televised. It will be loud. Just you wait…