ANGLO AMERICA, 2 Dec 2019
A Meditation on Education, History, and Tomorrow
Imagine schools where the teaching and practice of empathy is combined with meditation, yoga, tai chi, volleyball, gymnastics, music, dance, painting, drama, and all the creative arts. With gardening, cooking, and school lunches that include what’s grown in school gardens (including herbs), and where the construction and care of such gardens is combined with math, geology, geometry, geography, meteorology, and the writing of essays (shared in class!) about how all those lessons and experiences have a holistic flavor, and how that flavor informs a holistic approach to the body and its health and to the globe as a whole (both in terms of ecology and community). Imagine combining all that with accurate lessons in relevant recent history and the virtues and dangers of democracy.
John Dewey pretty much did all that (without the Eastern touches, of course) as far back as 1894 (and on into the 1920s) with his “experimental schools.” His students were so creative, smart, well-informed, happy, cooperative, and astute that Chicago deprived those schools of adequate funding until they were starved into non-existence and the students were once again herded like sheep into America’s compulsory system of miseducation so as to remain bored, quiescent, ignorant, threatened, and easily manipulated by the barons of politics, wealth and industry whom Marx rightly called “blood-sucking vampires.”
JFK, MLK, RFK, Janice, Jimmy, Joan, Ali, Dylan and The Beatles changed all that for a while; and then (as Mailer notes) the Democratic Party betrayed the people’s movement and sold its soul to Wall Street at the 1968 Convention (in Chicago!).
Nixon got away with mass murder in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Ford shoved the lessons of The Vietnam War under the carpet, and armed and approved Indonesia’s genocidal assault on East Timor (partly so that Kissinger and Associates could maximize their profiteering plunder in south Asia).
Carter allowed the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, and launched a terror campaign against the newly elected social democratic government of Afghanistan, and he is therefore both directly and indirectly responsible for the catastrophic consequences which ensued and are still ensuing.
Ronald Reagan was deified despite his multiple lies and crimes, and was rewarded with riches and fame for his passion for deregulation, deficit spending, enriching the rich, poisoning the environment, bloating the Pentagon, and transforming America from the largest creditor nation in the world to the largest debtor nation in the world. Bush the Elder proposed, and Congress signed, a bill designed to do to Yugoslavia what Nixon and Kissinger did to Chile: “make the economy scream” until the country fractured into civil war and totalitarian politics conducive to Euro-American economic hegemony; and, after America shot down an Iranian civilian airliner, killing 291 men, women and children, Bush the Elder said: “I will never apologize for America, I don’t care what the facts are.”
Clinton signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby removing a major plank in FDR’s New Deal for the American people and setting the stage for Cheney-Bush. President Cheney-Bush frightened America with false alarms about a nuclear strike from Iraq and non-existent weapons of mass destruction, gave us the 2008 economic meltdown, and launched Vietnam Redux in the Middle East with our continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama continued the government’s policy of punishing and prosecuting whistle-blowers, and refused to stand up for Standing Rock, while substantially increasing America’s self-defeating drone warfare in the Middle East. And Trump the Triumphant now inhabits the oval orifice with a sophistry and pomposity that mirrors Mussolini.
Meanwhile, the Statue of Liberty weeps, the earth is crucified, economic apartheid rules the nation and the planet, and most Americans don’t know who Newt Gingrich was and how his Orwellian pamphlet (the Bible of Republican politics) poisoned American political discourse. And yet it really wasn’t all that long ago that James Joyce prayed daily to “awaken from the nightmare of history,” and George Orwell said “history is now a race between education and catastrophe.”
So, thank god for Greta Thunberg and her youth movement, the Dalai Lama and Socially Engaged Buddhism, Denmark’s redemptive and enlightened education system, Bhutan’s pragmatic and wisdom-based commitment to environmental preservation, and all the peace-and-justice-makers everywhere who, with courage and conscience, seek to create a world of safety, beauty and opportunity worthy of bequeathing to our children and all future generations.
Stefan Schindler taught philosophy, psychology, education, and religion for 40 years at institutions of higher learning, including The University of Pennsylvania, La Salle University, Berkley College of Music, The Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance and Theater, and the Boston and Brookline Centers for Adult Education. Co-founder of The National Registry for Conscientious Objection, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, a recipient of The Boston Baha’i Peace Award, and a Trustee of The Life Experience School and Peace Abbey, Dr. Schindler received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston College (on Freud, Sartre, Hegel, and Jung). He wrote The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Awards for Howard Zinn and John Lennon. His books include The Tao of Socrates and America’s Indochina Holocaust. His forthcoming book is titled Buddha’s Political Philosophy.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 Dec 2019.
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