Thursday, March 28, 2013

Teaching As If Life Matters

       "Schools are important loci of socialization, and the     socialization that occurs in schools is often in lockstep with the dominant culture with its emphasis on competition, materialism, individualism, and speed. We believe that such cultural values are antithetical to the flourishing of life and that the confusion that permeates educational institutions, as well as the anger and anomie evidenced in increasing numbers of students, is not fixable with more technology, more money, more reform, more time in the classroom, or more cleverness.

It is also our contention that the most vexing problem with education in the new millennia is not the size and/or structure of schools, not the qualifications of teachers, not the pedagogy adopted in schools (though obviously these are very relevant and related concerns). Rather, the most vexing challenge has to do with transforming our worldview - our consciousness. Indeed, whether we know it or not, all change begins with a shift in how we see. Specifically, the way forward is to birth a new view of education aimed at cultivating mastery in all life's relational realms, and we believe that it is up to teachers to lead the way."

This excerpt from page 14 of a book by Chris Uhl that I bumped into in writing about his newest book Developing Ecological Consciousness  last week. Of course none of the conversations in our community that revolve around the "failures" of our education system allow room for this kind of discussion, whether k-12 or beyond. Uhl, as usual, goes to the 'heart' of the matter. Our leaders seem to be in some kind of fog of 'technological optimism'. But as I lumber through Page Smith's 900+ history of late 19th and early 20th century history, The Rise of Industrial America: A People's History of the Post-Reconstruction Era, his chapter on education (#32 pp.587-612) we see a very similar set of dynamics as we face today. The big industrialists who founded schools like Stanford and University of Chicago pushed out any faculty who might have a different perspective of what education might be. Not too unlike the powerful today who try and shape our modern institutions in the way they approve, e.g., look at industrial agriculture's control over our colleges of agriculture, or for a more stinging and broader critique see Page Smith's later work Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America. 

In trying to find a copy of the book cover for this blog I stumbled into a review of this book by another teacher and I'll close with an excerpt.

This is the first book I have reviewed that directly impacted my behavior during the process of reading. When faced with a teaching challenge, I found myself asking, “How can this situation become an opportunity to build community in the classroom, and with our service-learning partners in the community, as we work together to make the world a better place?” Uhl’s text is inspirational. In his own words, it is “an invitation to ground education in love,” since “our times are beckoning teachers who have the self-awareness, courage, and wisdom to understand themselves as helpers, healers, facilitators, guides—as people who love!” (p. 14-15). This book is best read when one has time to linger contemplatively with his insights.