Monday, September 26, 2011

Furthering what's best and forestalling what's worst

How wonderful that quote from Mark Slouka is! It is the quote that I ended my last post with. I was just thinking about how it encapsulates fully the dilemmas we face as we move forward with addressing issues of the environment, culture, society, and justice. He said that we need "...men and women capable of furthering what's best about us and forestalling what's worst."

Slouka comes to the table from the position of an educator and a strong proponent of humanities education. He makes some fascinating points in a recent Harper's Magazine article titled Dehumanized: When math and science rule the school. But regardless of what position he comes from, and what he is advocating for in particular in the article (which is actually incredibly expansive and provocative), his statement is almost axiomatic. It speaks to me at a level that is very deep, touching on ethics, touching on greed, touching on power, touching on the good work that people are doing, touching on the forces at play that keeps that good work from being recognised. What I believe it says, partly, is the following--that there is something in most all of us that can be tapped into to cause introspection and reflection about the choices we are making as individuals and as a collective, and that the culture and society we live in have definitely not lived up, even partly, to the ideals they pay lip service to.

I have not written much about education explicitly on this blog (maybe once), although I have alluded to education by writing about dialogue and conversation, features necessary in a critical education. Education comes in many forms, and the idealist in me hopes that education never ends for anyone, anywhere. Of course, this isn't the case, with many public examples of people being uninterested in open dialogue, standing resolute in their beliefs in the face of well-founded facts. Regardless, the wisdom of what's best about us, and the knowledge of what's worst about us, a continuing education, that is, comes only from an openness of mind, the ability to accept that some things just aren't working, and the fortitude to expose the deficiencies in social norms, as I wrote in my last post.

Collin said to me today her vegetarianism can seem like a judgement on non-vegetarianism. To me, it is a judgement, because really, every decision we make is a judgement, and any critical thought stems from a judgement we make about norms and values. It takes fortitude to stick to these judgements, and it takes mettle to continually have the discussions provoked because of them. Only then will we able to expose what is best about us, and what is worst about us.

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