In the United States, the damned of the earth attend schools where they are shamed (assaulted, or murdered) because they violate the unspoken contract all oppressed nonverbally agree to with their oppressors by virtue of their existence. In the greatest (patriarchal, classist and xenophobic) country on earth, every day, millions of students encounter physical and non-physical violence directed towards them because of their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, gender, appearance or demeanor. Others, born into communities evacuated of wealth and opportunity and infiltrated by the “punishing state” (Giroux 2014) of surveillance and police, suffer from the absence of what is known as social mobility. These students are victims of “what amounts to a war on poor minorities” (Giroux 2014) and become the “high school drop-outs, the homeless, those self-medicating with alcohol and street drugs, and people with mental illness” who fill up our prisons and jails (Meiners 2007).
It is highly more spiritual, enriching and meaningful to combine the practice of metta meditation (sending love in every direction) and the everyday practice of deconstructing internal attitudes that give rise to oppressive behaviors, speech and thoughts, with the political life of an engaged, socially thoughtful citizen. Educators can set an example as exemplary citizens by being outspoken when their voice can challenge, what bell hooks calls, the white supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy. They can also be inspirational luminaries and guardians of genuine humanity through the examples they set with their language, attitude, attention and time.
Spirituality and politics are linked in public schools by both being topics of external study, rather than lived, moment-to-moment practices. The deep yearnings of utopia that stir in the hearts of human beings are what will propel the “vast subversive sequal” (Debord 1979, pp.8-9) the radicals of the 1960’s dreamed of. Our utopian dream will be achieved through our willingness and capacity to act with love and anger. The wealthiest nation in the world is realizing that “even material abundance cannot compensate for the absence of passion and autonomy” (Plant 1992, p.15). Our “necrophilic” (Freire 1972, p.77) model of education today is stuck treating students as if they were passionless, emotionless automotons. What we are really saying by having the goal of being the greatest economic power, as Alfie Kohn lucidly points out, is that we want other countries to be worse off than us (Kohn 2011). The “very old ideal of the cosmopolitan”, who affirms her allegiance to the “worldwide community of human beings” (Nussbaum 2002, p.4), rather than to a single flag of a single nation, might be inspiring to us today. We might consider the humanistic values that alternative pedagogues place at the forefront of their curricula to be hints of what stirs within the hearts of those who dream of more than outcompeting. There might be the solution to our existential agony.
Reading through the blog of a chick who wants to kill herself. It’s always nice to see the little scrapings of happiness she finds, amongst all the reblogs of the photosets of other’s abuse, gore, and her own posts where I can tell she’s thinking about it.