Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Back to Kindergarten

“Let us make our education brave and preventive. Politics is an after-work, a poor patching…

We shall one day learn to supersede politics by education.”


-      Ralph Waldo Emerson


It was time. My wife had been complaining that the books on my bedside table were spilling over and finally, even I got tired of the overflow. So today on a day that threatened a rain that never came, I decided to dive in. And there were all the books that I put close by thinking that one or the other should be next on my list— and lo and behold, a few years later, there they were, still unread. And looking over them today, it became clear that many would remain unread. And so I trudged over to our local independent bookstore and traded eight books in for $28 worth of credit. Yeah!


But one of the treasures I uncovered was a book called Emerson on Education and I opened it up to this quote. Astounding. He summarizes in a few sentences what I’ve known intimately my whole life, but never so much as these last four years. And yet more powerfully these last four days! 


Every single person who makes it in the news with the next outrageous behavior or statement betraying a complete lack of moral compass, intelligence and overall human decency, I wonder about their family, about their neighbors, about their church. But I particularly wonder about their school. How could they have graduated from an elementary or high school or college without learning how to be better? Remember that book “Everything I Need to Learn I Learned in Kindergarten?” Things like how to share with others, how to help with clean-up, how to play fair and follow the rules, how to say “thank you” and “please”? Don’t lie. Don’t be a bully. Use your words. What happened to that kindergarten self? 


And so Mr. Emerson, I agree 1000% that if we did our work well in schools, the politician’s life would be so much easier and so much more effective because we would be having civil conversations based on those kindergarten values. Married to adult minds that cultivated their thought and intelligence as well as their heart. In this little book, Emerson also says: 


“It is no proof of a man’s understanding to be able to affirm whatever he pleases; but to be able to discern that what is true is true and that was is false is false—this is the mark and character of intelligence.” (Take note, deluded “stop the steal” folks.)


An intelligent and caring civil discourse is possible. It just happened yesterday as I tuned in to a San Francisco Board of Supervisors dealing with a hospital expansion right in my neighborhood. I listened to people present both sides calmly and articulately, politely asking and answering difficult and challenging questions. I listened for over an hour and then just needed to get out for a walk. I ended up walking for about 3 hours, but when I came back, my wife was still tuned into the same meeting! It went on for yet another hour and by the end, they agreed to postpone the hasty deadline the hospital proposed to be yet clearer about some of the issues. That’s the kind of civil discourse that could be possible once again in this country.


But first we have to pass kindergarten. 



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