Education and Ecstacy

January 29, 2005

Jay’s notes on George Leonard’s 1968 book.

Teachers are overworked and underpaid. True. It is an exacting and exhausting business, this damming up the flood of human potentialities. What energy is takes to make a torrent into a trickle, to train that trickle along narrow, well-marked channels! Teachers are often tired. In the teachers’ lounge, they sigh their relifef into stained cups of instant coffee and offer gratitude to whoever makes them laugh at the day’s disasters.

To learn is to change. Education is a process that changes the learner.

Until relatively recent times, however, only a tiny proportion of the West’s population ever saw the inside of an academy. As recently as 1900, less than ten percent of American sixteen-year-olds were in school.

Since its beginning in the Agricultural Revolution, the period we shall be claling “Civilization” has marched relentlessly, if not steadily, toward ever more subtle and ingenious means of internalized, negative control, toward the ogal of “voluntary” individual submission to group funcitoning. Throughout Civilization , individuals have learned to do their duty:to provide human components for a larger working whole, thus renouncing individual wholenes. “Distrust impulse. Deny feeling.”

Dewey sought a unity in life. He recognized that education is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.

Learning eventually involves interaciton between learner and environment, and its effectiveness relates to the frequency, quality, variety and intensity of the interaction.

What then is the purpose, the goal of education? A large part of the answer may well be what men of this civilizaiton have longest feared and most desired: the achievement of moments of ecstacy.


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