I grew up in Richmond, Virginia during the sixties. This was the era of U.S. Civil Rights Struggles, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs, Watts, Detroit, Assassinations, Vietnam, the notion of the “Ugly American,” Chairman Mao and his ‘Red Book,’ and so many events, developments, crises, and life and society stuff.
That’s the era of my life development.
Throughout all of this and throughout my education (school, that is), my teachers drilled home the constant mantra of, “Get a good education and get a good job.” A constant barrage of this continued throughout my elementary, junior high and high school years, even during my junior high and high school years in integrated (the term desegregation didn’t really come to my attention until the seventies, and it was usually joined with the term, ‘court-ordered.’).
And even if the core of integration in education at that time was some sort of patronage or appeasement, I still received a strong dose of the education for life mantra in church. As a matter of fact, my grandfather, who was also the minister of our church (and there weren’t any assistant pastors, or junior ministers in my church; Grandpa carried the entire load), always mentioned the familiar verses,
Good, better, best, Never let it rest,
Until the good is better, and the better is best.
And this was always directed at the youth of the church, especially if one of us made some noteworthy achievement in church, school or society.
Education and Learning
So what does all this have to do with the title of this post? Let’s see if I can make a connection.
When I was younger, the thrust between communities was to seek understanding and knowledge to help settle our differences. That understanding and knowledge was grounded in a foundation of sound education and learning either through schools, or community organizations, or individual effort. The public library had a significant role in the function and development of the community, as did the public museum and other cultural landmarks from where individuals could garner some awareness of times gone by and events recorded in archives for future reference and research or to be hopefully forgotten.
It appears to me now, and this is with acknowledgement that I am advanced in age – but not old – and not as involved in a lot of “stuff” as I was in my youth, that the core of information, education learning and overall mental and social stimulation has relegated or redefined into digital and cyber footprints that stand in place of pure social interface. And while the internet and multiple media and information streams do provide a plethora of information and awareness of happenings around the world as well as the neighborhood, we all seem to have become so numbed by it all, that much of what might be really useful and enriching simply passes by because we just cant take it all in.
Perhaps it would be best to go back to really simple basics, even in the light of advanced technologies. But just be able to figure out a sum in my head rather than use a calculator, or to be able to bend over and actually tie my shoe laces rather than flip over a Velcro strap, at least for me, help to reconfirm that my brain can still function. And if that is possible for these mundane tasks, then maybe, just maybe, my brain could also function to try to learn and understand the point of view of another human being, either next door, or down the street, across town, or in the next city, from my race or another, or even with a different spiritual orientation, or living across the planet, since we can really connect with each other now.
Options to education and learning are so numerous, that one would be hard-pressed not to find something interesting in a delivery mode that suits his/her social status, current financial issues, location in the world, previous work status or any other status or condition one may wish to describe.
That the world society continues to spin in a vortex of intolerance, violence, extremism and mutual hate is not a testament of confirmation to any faith or belief system in this twenty-first century world. That our children would rather spend all day in the house on a video console rather than hiking in a forest or sitting at the beach does not bode to foster increased understanding among the future generations.
Schools and learning institutions, while they may incorporate new technologies in providing learning experiences still hold the best potential for self-salvation in the world among all the world’s peoples. And no one particular model – not western government, eastern wisdom, or any other philosophy will succeed if we humans who claim we champion these ideals do not begin to literally and with conviction practice with our principles preach.
Guidance and Peace to all.