Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Failure of Public Education

A lot of people seem to think our educational system only suffers from a lack of funding. If that were true, then how is it that people in this country can still believe in superstition.

I'm not disputing that there is indeed a power in this universe capable of bringing forth life. This planet is teeming with it. Maybe less so now, but still, life abounds. It doesn't matter to me how it got here. What matters is how we live with the rest of the life on this planet, and that includes the other human beings too. But they are a special case for they require great gobs of education to make up for what they lost in instincts. It's the price we paid for the incredibly remarkable development of the cerebrum, the frontal lobes of conscious thought capable of great imagination as well as delusion.

Sorting out delusion from reality can be very tough without the right kind of instruction called critical thinking and the proper exercise of reason and logical thought. By logical I don't mean the Greek kind of argumentation. I mean the kind that uses everyday experience as a check on theory. The essence of scientic thought is to accumulate information, formulate a hypothesis, make a prediction, and then test it. If it checks out, move on to the next experiment. Experimentation should not be reserved for the laboratory alone. It must involve everyday experiences.

Unfortunately, whatever our educational system is supposed to teach is certainly not the kind that leads to lucid thought. Otherwise, Bush would not be in the White House, we would not be in Iraq, and we would not be facing Armageddon brought on by deluded Christians who believe Revelations is upon us. If it isn't, they intend to bring it with nukes.

As a result, I deem our educational system an utter failure by design (google John Taylor Gatto). This is not something more funding is going to solve. The only thing that can solve this is for the very purpose of education to brought into question and serious answers sought as to what constitutes being "educated" and how we can turn that into wisdom.

In the process, we will need to sort out the world's religions and determine which of them are actually valid avenues of spiritual development and which are the more arresting. As it is, Christianity only qualifies as a kindergarten religion on the moral development scale. It has nice of set of black and white rules, but too many of them contradict each other and lend themselves too easily to manipulation and demagoguery leading to all kinds of bloodshed, wars, and pure delusion. So, as a moral guide, it's a failure. And the hard reality of the Christian God is about as real as Zeus (Sam Harris, "The End of Faith", 2005).

The only dispute I have with the Christian God is the limitation put on it. It's male, it's a person, and it's fallible.

I am decidedly an Easterner in this regard. I find the Tao and Dharma to be much better at explaining how things work in this universe. It is a natural order based on causes and conditions, and, as with any complex system, you find there are patterns that underlie it all. In the human world the single greatest rule is moral reciprocity, meaning you get what you give. Even the natural world reacts this way to humans as well in the sense that if we sufficiently damage the ecosystem we are in, we make it unfit to continue living in it. Whereas, if we act like a natural part of the system and live in harmony with it, we find it to be emminently sustaining and sustainable. I consider this a far wiser way of looking at things instead of believe that some God or gods has brought devastation either as punishment or as a second coming, or conversely, has brought good fortune through no effort of ours.

This planet is indeed a paradise if only we would learn to see it that way and appreciate it as a true gift and not waste it on human foolishness, greed, or hatred.

As one Buddhist master once said, "There are not two lands pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds." The only way to reach the good is through proper education and the constant emphasis to cultivate one's humanity, sincerity, honesty, and sense of justice. Without these, we shall only create hell on earth and extinguish ourselves in the process.