Educating For Identity & Democracy (895 Words)

Equilibrium equals a unity within a plurality, whether that plurality is the various instincts and often impulsive and antagonistic urges and voices within an individual, the equality or balance of earth, sun, and moon, or the balance that must live within a democracy that requires truth to achieve the harmony of multiple intelligence to achieve wise and responsive collective management.

Educating for and with equal respect for all parts that make up the whole is the basis of a balanced, mature individual, family, classroom, or society. The health of any system depends on nourishing the development of all parts appropriately.

Thus, we can suggest that the equal sign that is the fulcrum on which mathematics rests is at the heart of healthy individuals, schools, and societies.

While hierarchy dulls the sensitivity of those above and those below, equality calls forth autonomy, agency, reflection, and patient, persistent initiative that refines sensitivity and exploration.

For this reason, our sense of equality, which is the opposite of hierarchy and authority must be the foundation of education for individual, familial, and societal development. Equality should be the organizing principle we use to design learning interactions and assessments.

So, what do we mean by equality within the individual and how might we develop such balanced states of heart and mind to produce saner people, cultures, and societies?

Equality within the individual goes to the heart of the most basic spiritual practices in Buddhism and Christianity. In Buddhism we call this practice mindfulness, which means observing and experiencing without judging all that passes before and within us. In Christianity it is called witnessing or seeing without judgment.

To achieve this state of awareness, we must deflate our sense of duality, of better and worse, superior and inferior. Equality means moving beyond binary thinking, beyond yes and no; right and wrong, good and bad. To achieve a mindful or witnessing awareness is to dissolve mine versus yours thinking and to hold sensitive space for the other person’s momentary awareness and expression as well as your own.

This means that even when you are speaking, you hold space for the listener. We listen for the other person’s engagement. Where that engagement is lacking, we adjust what we say. We remember that explanations are designed not to show our intelligence but to inspire the other person’s engagement, and from that understanding thoughtful contemplation.

Thus, education can be seen as the movement from a linear world of stimulus and response, or conditioning, to contemplation, a spaciousness that creates room for multidimensional considerations. In the individual this means the ability to reflect, problem solve, and learn from an enthusiastic yet detached and thoughtful perspective. It means the ability to appreciate other people’s processes and conclusions.

Thought at its best is not linear, not binary. It is a spacious perceptive that grows from stillness and sincerity. It seeks the power to do good, to create harmony, over self-importance or the desire for power. Educated people understand that all humanity lives within complex and beautiful unifying cycles and that to mature is to work in the service of harmonizing diverse natural and psychological cycles.

Our founding fathers understood that equality was at heart of democracy. Thus, the famous phrase: All people are created equal. And in our national seal: Unity through plurality. And they were explicit that our human future depended on the quality of public education.

There’s a fascinating synchrony between the individual being educated to become a responsible, self-aware person and that person being a citizen capable of making sound decisions for a democratic society. We cannot separate educating for individual capacities and for an ever more ideal city or nation.

The history between education that leads to equitable self-knowledge and democracy is not nearly as long as our instincts and habits that value hierarchy that leads to conflict. Hierarchy and conflict are bound in our heritage as social animals living in authoritarian structures--families, tribes, or nations.

Building the bridge away from herd mentality and to individual and civic engagement is the essential work of education within a democracy.

Though perhaps not consciously, the minds of teachers and students are weary of superficial knowledge delivered within a hierarchical structure because they naturally yearn for knowledge of the joy of self, of the deeper beauty and delight in the balanced existence that emanates from and radiates novelty, beauty, and love.

A shallow and narrow linear curriculum playing on the surface knowledge and emotion that is to be judged right or wrong will not serve our purpose. For human life to survive and thrive on earth, we must open ourselves to the ever-evolving, mysterious greatness of the world, the wonder of life, the self that is individual and universal working in service to one another. Education must embrace the mystery of our spirit’s diversity and unity within a beautiful universe.

The future curriculum must seek its inspiration in our working knowledge of equality and harmony. The greater the beauty and universality of joy in existence, the more we will seek through intuitive sight and aesthetic expression the deepest fountains of delight, and the more our schools will become powerful creative sources for a greater, more sensitive, and more equal life.

While equality is a social justice issue, it extends beyond that and reaches into the heart of our human potential.

by Jon Madian inspired by Sri Aurobindo
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