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E.M. "Mac" Swengel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Education
School of Education
United States International University
San Diego, California

  “Under One Roof”
THE BENIGN SCHOOL
by Edwin M. Swengel, Ph.D

4

Decades ago, I read one of those quotes the Reader’s Digest has always scattered randomly on its page bottoms: “Some ideas stretch the mind so that it never returns to its former dimensions,” (attributed, if memory serves, to one of the Oliver Wendell Holmeses).

Of late I have been engrossed in first scanning and then re-reading the beautiful book by “renowned historian” (so acclaimed on its back cover), Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Ideas that Changed the World, (Dorling Kindersley, (i.e., DK Publishing), 2003). He traces and summarizes the gradual accumulation and development of 175 mind-stretching ideas--—odd and bad—that helped form world cultures, from 30,000 B.C. (ideas archeologists infer from the artifacts they find since there are no written records during the earliest millennia) to the mind-wrenching ideas about and responses to the New York City Twin Towers catastrophe of September 11, 2001, A.D.

Combining the opening quotes with my summary overview should suggest that my ideas may require a considerable mind-stretch to fit their concepts into current and traditional thought patterns about education and the common feelings that accompany them, for none of our thoughts are feeling-free. We cannot have “pure thoughts,” cleansed of fuzzy emotions. Our brains are designed to produce and commingle—reinforce, actually—thought and feeling. It gives each about equal power to affect our actions, for good or ill, but their relative strengths vary according to the situation that stimulates them.

In light of recent neuroscience discoveries, Holmes’ mind-stretch quote needs to be itself stretched to include the heart, that vital organ traditionally but wrongfully regarded as the seat of our emotions. Our brain has no internal sensory apparatus, thank goodness. We’d go crazy if we were constantly alerted to all that goes on in that most complex organ in the universe. The brain sends its emotional messages elsewhere to be sensed—palpitations of the heart, gut feelings, e.g.) “Hearts” as well as minds can, have been, and must continue to be stretched beyond relapse. Thus, this stretching of the total brain-work that produces ideas that change the world requires, if Wells is correct, that we create and manage an educational system that will avoid catastrophe.

This stipulates a much expanded, broadened, and deepened vision of the total educational process if we are to avoid the prophesied “perishing” or its milder translation, “getting out of hand.” (This modern translation fits well our 21st century human conditions, worldwide. But if we do not develop, embrace, and activate a practical vision to radically improve them, the King James version of that biblical prophecy may literally come to pass.)

This treatise takes a unique position on Wells’ cautionary judgment and its implicit recommendation. Can we infer that he meant that if we lose the race—destroy ourselves and our nourishing planet, as we’re fully capable of doing (and perhaps nearer doing so than most people believe) that it will be because our education system is now and ever has been faulty?

Whether he meant that or not, I take the position that the only realistic way to avoid catastrophe at every level—ecological, social, cultural, and personal—is to develop a comprehensive, free (tax supported), public educational system that creatively nurtures our human nature. Evidence abounds to support my belief that the overwhelming majority of people can be educated in ways so they become psychologically, morally, socially, and intellectually incapable of intentionally and seriously harming others and themselves. Not by totalitarian brainwashing, not by behavioristic manipulation to get pre-planned responses but by genuinely benign, creative guidance to nurture the better side of each person’s unique nature.

This means that students, along with their teachers and parents, should get a great deal more real-life, hands on involvement in both the school and community life than traditional schools have ever provided. Although many visionary reformers have urged schools to do this, these reformers have not proposed or created the type of school structure to make it realistic.
 

 
  (Continued)

Treatise - Parts:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12 
 
 

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Copyright © 2010 by E.M Swengel