A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Take HEART

Humans have always dreamed of being free of labor. Yet, now that that day is foreseeable, now that technological advances idle both blue and white-collar workers at an astonishing pace, our society does not seem the have the wherewithal to grapple with the implications of a future in which more an more goods and services will be created labor-free. We intuitively know that the answer to the dilemma involves education, but we continue to think that if we can just train people in science and technology, they will be equipped for the emerging economy. It is in this frame of mind that we are teaching little kids to write computer code, to do mathematics that people my age didn’t do until college and cram their school days with activities inappropriate to their stage of development. We feel obliged to destroy their childhood in order to ensure a good place for them in the economy of the future. The name of the game in k-12 education today is STEM, science, technology, engineering and math.

Putting aside the absurdity of everyone learning to code and the other nonsense we inflict on children, less and less of a young person’s education today is spent on what we used to call a liberal education, literature, history, art, civics, comparative religions, languages. Fewer and fewer teachers dare to take time from preparing students for the high stakes tests they must pass to have any hope of a place in the economy of the future to talk about things like the degradation of our democracy, media literacy, the implications of the decline of the middle class, unending wars and, above all else, what it means to live the good life.

Several years ago I suggested that we needed to have a sexy acronym for liberal arts education. I suggested HEART for humanities education advances reading and thinking. I went on to say, “HEART is not about training, but rather about making sense of the world and the people in it. HEART is about envisioning a better world and having the knowhow to organize people to call it into being. HEART is the antithesis of training. It’s not about making a living but learning to live. It’s about having HEART.

One look at the HEARTless baboons who have taken over our country, these people for whom knowledge is a handicap and gut instinct a many art, one look at them gives us a glimpse of what a society devoid of broadly educated citizens looks like. We need to look closely and take HEART.

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