The remarkable characteristic of our chaotic and crisis riddled world today is their deepening and continuity
Crisis after Crisis: Financial Crisis. Credit and Banking Crisis. Environmental and Ecological Crisis. Biodiversity Crisis. Housing Crisis. Health and Well-being Crisis. Education Crisis. Spiritual and Moral Crisis. Trust and Trusting Crisis. Indifference Crisis. Fake, Fake News and Faking Crisis. Reality Crisis. Populism and Fascism Crisis,...all of them leading ours to be a generalized "time of crisis."
The pertinent question at this time of crisis must surely be: When and how on earth are we, the people, the citizens, going to rise and challenge the underlying causes of crisis by saying enough is enough. I am not going to be fooled anymore. I am going to challenge the system and the so-called leaders that for so long have abused me, lied to me, cheated me, humiliated me and have brought me such a bitter harvest.
Here and now, in this short piece, rooting my argument in common sense and everyday reality, I am setting up my stall by saying it loud and clear, once and for all, that, the main culprit for this ugly rise in crisis of all sorts is the global rise in values-less, meaningless, nonsensical education. Wherever you go, the same nonsense is on offer!
This is my first charge. The second charge, that follows from the first, is the accompanying rise in the narcissistic and egoistic elites, worldwide, who are undermining the common good; which constitutes the very essence of any society or nation.
The third charge that neatly follows the first two, is that, all in all, by and large, the citizens have now become the spitting image of the narcissistic leaders, deflecting their attention from a much needed social critique.
This process can and must be reversed. But first we need to weigh the moral obligations of citizenship and carefully consider how we relate to honour, shame, patriotism, nationalism, trust, beauty, wisdom, truth, and the meaning of leadership. In the final part, below, I will shed some light on how this might be possible.
Education to Better the World
In the wise words of Irina Bokova Director-General of UNESCO, ‘There is no more powerful transformative force than education – to promote human rights and dignity, to eradicate poverty and deepen sustainability, to build a better future for all, founded on equal rights and social justice, respect for cultural diversity, and international solidarity and shared responsibility, all of which are fundamental aspects of our common humanity.’
This is why, as I have been saying for a long time now, that we must begin to think big again, by focusing our minds on the big questions of life, and re-vision education in a changing world. For this, we need debate and dialogue across the board, and that is the goal of this Blog – to be both aspirational and inspirational, to speak to new times, to be a voice of hope and possibilities.
Mind before Matter: Debunking the Myth of Education
Many prophets, sages and scriptures have reminded us that "in the beginning" was the divine Mind, from which comes the universe of time and space in a Big Bang, and it is always there underlying all that is, including our own consciousness, but we have to mindfully notice its whispers and winks as we move through our lives.
This is My Charge Sheet
Our education system by and large has failed us all, with hugely tragic consequences. When education is designed, controlled and implemented by narcissistic political and business elites, who have become prisoners of a reckless ideology-neoliberalism- drunk on market values and market forces, all morally and spiritually objectionable and intellectually bankrupt, when education is not for the pursuit of wisdom, virtues and beauty, when students are called customers, and education becomes a commodity, when universities become service providers and centres of business, trading in “commodities” buying them cheap and selling them to the highest bidders, when teaching is not a vocation, when learning is not a sacrament, when education is all about the rankings and targets, when it all becomes about running low quality courses, with no heart, spirit and meaning, just to get ‘bums on seats’, taught by stressed, fatigued, overworked and not-valued faculty, when it is all about delivery at the lowest possible costs, and exam results are hugely inflated, to keep the customers happy and not complaining; then, we have opened the doors to the destruction of all that makes life good and worthwhile.
In due course, the consumerist citizens, now fully materialistic and not able to find the happiness that was promised them via consumption and shopping, they become fearful, insecure, hopeless, helpless, frustrated, angry and in despair. The popular culture, the social media become a pithy substitute for real life. Virtual friends, overtake the real friends and comradeship. Trivia and amusement supplant substance and meaning. The citizen becomes sinister and complacent, easy prey, prone to acts of indifference, voting against their own self interest, allowing caricatures to lead them, making decisions for them, deflecting their attention from a much needed social critique; from questions of substance. Questions, like what it means to be a human? What is the purpose of this journey we call life? How can I lead a meaningful and worthwhile life?
All in all, the citizens then become the spitting image of the narcissistic leaders, and all is lost.
This, in a nutshell, is the tragedy of our time, and nothing, but a sea change, a moral and spiritual revolution in our education system, model and values, can bring the vital changes we need to reverse the bad with goodness, ugliness with beauty, to enable and empower us to build a better world, many of us are hoping and dreaming for. Carpe Diem!
Debunking the Myth of Leaders and Leadership
Our Narcissistic and Egoistic Elites Undermining the Common Good
Like the ancient Greek myth of a beautiful youth Narcissus, who died through falling in love with his own image, today, our elites too, are in love with themselves, incapable of empathy, unable to relate to and totally unaware of other people’s needs, or even their existence…Selfish and individualistic, they are devoid of any humanity, altruism, kindness, compassion or a sense of justice. They show no remorse for their destructive actions. They destroy the common good and create a society based on fear, anxiety and hatred. ‘The re-modelling of the public organisations as ‘efficient’ (read flexible and dispensable) business units, the widespread privatisation of the Commons and the diminution of the value of the public good are just a few of the means by which this has been achieved.’
Now, the biggest question of them all: What is to be done?
We must transform our lives and values to save ourselves
Without a Better Education, a Better World is not Possible
A Path to Rediscovering the Common Good in Values-led Education
Holding Hands for the Common Good
The principle of seeking the common good states that “individual rights are always experienced within the context of promotion of the common good. The common good is about respecting the rights and responsibilities of all people. The individual does not have unfettered rights at the expense of others, but nor are individual rights to be subordinated to the needs of the group.”-Photo:nellathink.com
In a nutshell, the world today is at a crossroads. We live in a world that promotes working for our own ends, but if we are to survive and flourish it is time to start sacrificing for the common good by working together, nurturing and nourishing our souls and minds, imagining a better life for all.
In Education and the Common Good: A Moral Philosophy of the Curriculum, Philip Phenix outlines two types of democracy: the democracy of desire and the democracy of worth. He describes the first, desire, as the “highest good”, characterized by independence and autonomy. “Human beings are regarded as continually in pursuit of happiness,” he writes, “and the goal of this democracy is to help people as far as possible get what they want.”
The second type, democracy of worth, Phenix states, “[C]enters around devotion or loyalty to the good, the right, the true, the excellent. Devotion is different from desire. It is primarily other-regarding rather than self-interested. It invites sacrifice and loyalty instead of conferring gratification.”
Within the education for the common good, we have opportunities to work together out of sacrifice and love, when the ultimate duty is to prepare all citizens for a democracy of worth: community members devote themselves to providing all pupils and students the chance to reach their optimal potential. All are allowed to use their strengths and talents towards the common good. Democracy of worth is the ultimate goal, where the focus is on a love for all.
However, as I noted above, unfortunately, the current global education system is following the democracy of desire model, in which the pursuit of individual self is overriding the devotion to the good; where providers of education are encouraged to act like the free market, promoting competition as the vehicle to better serve students’ needs and priorities. This is not what a true education is all about. That’s not what learning is supposed to be. Learning is about working together to understand concepts, each other, and about finding our place to help each other., lifting each other up, helping to build a better and more harmonious and life for all.
Thus, our focus, our vision should involve a democracy where all are of worth; not a few, but the many, the all.
In the world today, it seems, we are in the midst of a moral and spiritual revolution that is about creating a democracy of value in which the central focus is love. The task is daunting, but when all of us come together and sacrifice part of ourselves for the common good, there is hope for everyone.
Let us come together for the common good. Let us not deny love to all our children and grandchildren. Our children and future generations deserve our devotion to the notion that education is a common good for all. Carpe Diem!
To read and reflect more on how to rediscover education for the common good, see below: