Anyone who knows my work in education or has been reading these blogs knows that I’m not a fan of fundamentalism. I stand for independent thought, analytic critique, relentless curiosity, probing inquiry, articulate expression and standing up for your unique perceptions. I’m a lover of the parachute mind, the wide perspective, the turning things inside out and upside down to reveal the hidden. I’m close to fanatic about the absolute necessity of flexible thought— while being flexible in my fanaticism! My classes with children are designed to cultivate these kinds of minds, my writing and music and the life I live aspire to model the cultivated point of view married to the spontaneous improvised response, the conversation between the tried-and-true techniques of former times and the experimental risk attending to the needs of the moment.
But every once in a while, I wonder what it would be like to have all my opinions ready-made by my church or political party or Fox news pundit, to simply shake my head— or my fist— in agreement, to feel bonded with my fellow non-thinkers and relax into the soft cushion of unquestioning obedience in the house of manufactured consent. I happen to think that even if it might be personally comfortable, it would be— and is— dangerous for the health of a culture and a person and a planet. But still I wonder.
I thought about this after today’s staff meeting at my school. We had an issue on the table and everyone had an opinion and wasn’t shy about expressing it. Don’t get me wrong— it was a good meeting and we came to some good compromise solutions. But what made it difficult is that people had different ideas than me!! Why can’t they just nod their heads and acquiesce to my well-crafted thoughts? Why did we have to probe deeper to clarify what we meant? It took a lot of time and it was exhausting!
Happens in my music classes sometimes. Some sassy 8th grader thinks he has a better idea than I do about how to end the piece and makes no bones about telling me so. Or another thinks my idea connecting a Baroque piece with a be-bop tune really doesn’t work and is not shy about expressing it out loud. What kind of respect is that?
Well, I hope you see my tongue in my check here (feeling the filled-in space where my fake tooth fell out yesterday). It does take time, it can be tiring, it sometimes feels misguided or too arrogant or even disrespectful. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s in the give and take between multiple perspectives that real understanding takes place and the very real problems facing us in all sorts of areas will move towards solutions. It’s not quick, it’s not efficient, it’s not always easy, but it’s perhaps the single most important thing demanded of us in these troubled times— independent thought moving towards interdependent solutions.
Don’t you agree? Just nod your heads and say, “Yes, Doug.”