"Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob."
-Seneca in Letters From a Stoic.
Though I've only been chin-deep in the world of full-time educative practice for several months, it takes much less time than that to see that very few people understand their own views regarding education. I think that this is neither good nor bad on it's face, but it is the case.
I have recently had conversations some of the most influential and well-regarded leaders of education reform in Denver--a city which, like New York, is currently a major reform hotspot--and they candidly report that they don't know where to start when it comes to the question, "What should the educative experience look like given our current context(s)?"
Odd that Brigham Young picked Salt Lake Valley of all places to settle. Partly because Salt Lake Valley is relatively desolate and salty, but compared to the amazing land that he had to travel through to get there, the SL Valley is pretty weak. Exhibit A (gloriously overwhelming scenery) is below:
Despite the amazing, awe-inspiring grandiosity that Utah has to offer (no, that's not sarcasm if you haven't been there), it is still not a great place to settle.
We ate lunch at The Sizzler in Salt Lake City--which, by the way, was one of the weirdest dining experiences I've had, thanks to their bizarre tri-brid between fast food, buffet, and sit-down dining--and as I tried to think of things to appreciate about the city, SLC Punk kept coming to mind.
First, a weird little rant:
The first thing that struck me about Idaho--after waking up from a short nap in the passenger seat--was how very little the land seems to have been utilized. The second thing that struck me--after several hundred miles of empty plains--was how very little the land seems to have been utilized despite the brutal massacres of Native peoples from whom we took it.
For what it's worth, "Idaho" is a Shoshoni phrase that translates roughly to the joyous exclamation, "The sun is coming down the mountain!" Seems like a pretty good effort at "cultural tolerance," right?
[Total Read-time: 8 minutes]
As I'm sure you heard last week, a video on African warlord Joseph Kony went viral and racked up an impressive 100 million views in about a week and a half. Everyone was talking about it. As an aside, Justin Beiber's "Baby" music video has about 700 million lifetime views.
Young folk: the Kony conversation seems to be a wonderful exhibition of how our generation is completely flummoxed by inspiration. Other generations have their problems too, but I'm talking to us for a second.
So, to all teens and twenty-somethings:
Apathy is an integral part of our generation's American cultural identity. When we're criticized by older generations for not caring, we dismiss them. We care about things, after all, it's just that adults don't see it. When we're criticized by our own generation for caring, we dismiss them. We don't really care about anything, after all, we just thought it was kinda cool for a few minutes.
In high school, apathy looks like a sign of strength: "I don't care if things don't work out, whatever, I don't give a s***!" If you don't care, smack talking can't hurt you, disappointment can't hurt you, rejection can't hurt you.
In college, apathy is either cheap armor or the evil villain. As armor, it protects us from looking foolish; from being both uninformed and inspired. As the villain, it is to be avoided at all costs, even if the cost is stagnant optimism.
After college, apathy is the once-distant storm that has finally reached our doorstep. It's heart-wrenching to watch your once-vivid dreams fade to a dull gray, and the disappointed brow of your family and friends only makes things worse. Better not to have great dreams. Makes you feel stronger.
Whether or not these are your dominant narratives, we all recognize them and have played into them to some degree along the way. This is why we have conducted the conversation around Kony 2012 in the way that we have.
[If anyone from the Occupy movements from around the country reads this, please offer your thoughts below. Anyone not affiliated is also very welcome to post their thoughts as well.]
I'm writing this after having just returned from spending the evening in the Occupy Portland camps talking with people there. Very, very interesting. Lots to think about.
Around 10pm this Friday night, my friend Katie and I parked downtown on SW 3rd and Yamhill and walked down to Alpha and Beta Camps of Occupy Portland. Turns out two city blocks filled with tents and structures aren't immediately easy to navigate. It really is a society within a city.
After wandering for a bit, we found the information booth--they were very friendly and gave us a quick run-down on the logistics. Basically, there are many, many committees: finance, education, medical, relaxation (which is apparently a euphemism), strategic planning (i.e., logistics), and so on. There is no centralized authority.
The various committees all hold meetings and if they come up with a proposal that affects everyone in the camps, they bring it up for a vote in the nightly General Assembly (GA). I had heard they make decisions by consensus, asked about this, and was told that they do base decisions on consensus and if you don't agree with the consensus, you don't have to go along with it.