Thursday, July 26, 2012

What do you care to know about the world?

Teaching matters.
We owe it to our children to get it right.

 What do you care to know about the world?
There's a place for what used to be called boredom, for empty spaces to slide into your mind. It's not particularly unpleasant, but it lacks the dopamine we've programmed our children, ourselves, to crave.

If you sit still long enough outside, you will see things, hear things, smell wondrous things you hardly knew existed. But you need to sit still. Without music, without a screen.  Close your eyes and listen. Sniff. Touch the earth.

We train our children to believe that we have mastered our universe. We teach them how to avert their eyes. We answer their simplest questions ("Why are people poor?") with You're too young to understand...It's complicated...It will make sense when you're older. We actively work to make our children jaded.

Science teachers, like art teachers, have an obligation to teach children how to seek what's true, if we hope to teach them anything at all. We cannot tell them.

Has any young child not been charmed by the edge of a July pond, or by a tray of watercolor paint? Both teem with countless possibilities that cannot be measured or tested. We cede control when we hand a child a paintbrush, a magnifying glass, a few moments of unstructured time.

Before you dare restructure the world of a child--the heart of teaching--dare to ask yourself what do you care to know about this world? If you do not yet know, get out of the classroom until you do.

What do you care to know about the world?
I have stared into the eyes of animals as millions of my triceps muscle cells release calcium ions, triggering almost simultaneous contraction, driving the club between the eyes of the critter I am slaying.

It remains an awful moment for me, that last instant.

Awful comes from agheful, "worthy of respect or fear," full of awe, full of fear, a word now reduced to meaning "very bad." We've long lost our sense of awe, at least those running the show now--if we had it, we'd not destroy the world mindlessly.

Yet when I mindfully take a life, so that I may eat, I slide into a rich universe devoid of words, but not of feelings, in the most basic sense of the word--the rhythmic writhing flesh in my hands now quivers chaotically, if the blow is true.

Yet to do so in a classroom would be obscene, an affront to our children, an act of career suicide, and (*gasp*) a deviation from our lesson plans,. with every minute programmed to match a standard designed by folks who long ago lost touch with what matters.

What do you care to know about the world ?
As fundamental as this is, that we are here on a planet, inextricably linked to each other and to everything else alive, and to many things not, many of us live in worlds that are but shells of the fundamental one held up by the ground.

Just like the earthworm, we eat, we breathe, we toss shite from our backside, we entangle together to share genetic memories we pass on to new life, and we die. We're of the earth, and for those who believe that this is but a tiny journey to bide time until another world finds them, may earthy joy find you before your last breath.

And you will draw a last, agonal breath from this world, the only one we can know, the world of art, of science, of writhing life, of decay, of dirt, of us.

The world worth knowing...

Watercolor tray from Officemax site here.
Other photos ours, usual CC applies.


William Chamberlain said...

What if The world we choose to know isn't the natural world? What if we choose a place written in binary that is the creation of people, not nature? Stephen Jay Gould wrote a pretty influential piece I am sure you have read called Nonmoral Nature:

If nature doesn't take moral stances, should we be making them about The World?

doyle said...

Dear William,

I have not (yet) read Gould's piece, but I will--thanks for the heads up.

There are plenty of people who lead contented lives in our binary world, a tiny portion of the universe, and it's not my intent to make choices for them (but it is literally my job to show young ones the universe beyond the artificial one that dominates most lives here).

The problem is that too many people recklessly and thoughtlessly contribute to the degradation of the very processes that allow their binary world to exist. (Ayep, I'm aware of the irony/contradiction/hypocrisy/etc....)

I have no moral stand to take, at least as it pertains to the universe itself.

99% of the modern world can go become machine hybrids for all I care--just don't foul up the water, the air, and the dirt when you do so.