“All we have to fear is fear itself.”
I’m re-living the confusion and horror of that ordinary Tuesday morning ten years ago, not believing what I had heard in the coffee shop until I saw car loads of people crying on the freeway. Then the hope that from the ashes of the Towers might come some great good, from the heroism of the early responders, to a fanning of the spark of global unity and compassion.
The phoenix has not flown, shot down by the vengeful response and the cynical manipulation of the public through fear – the red and yellow terror alerts and so on, and the political capital to be made from the so-called common enemy of Iraq.
What’s fear got to do with education?
First, that we as educators don’t frighten our children into cynicism or perpetual distraction, while giving them enough honest information that they can be properly prepared for what’s to come. That goes for war, terror and global warming too.
Just because I’m afraid for the future, doesn’t let me off the hook to teach it, nor does it give me the right to preach the coming apocalypse, unloading my own psychic pain on my classes.
Bill McKibben was talking at the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland Ca. on Friday night and re-iterated that point when asked what we should be teaching children – to love nature first, rather than to feel responsible for fixing it.
We are at 390ppm of CO2 now, far higher than McKibben’s 350 that was considered to be the highest ‘safe’ limit to avoid catastrophic climate change. Most of the more dire predictions made at the time of the Copenhagen summit in 2009 by the International Panel on Climate Change are on track to happen. Obama has not carried through his environmental promises and let’s just leave it at that…
It’s too late to stop the climate from changing. But it’s just the right time to be teaching and practicing resilience, flexibility and inventiveness that will be needed for civilized society to survive. Because really, would it be worth surviving in any other kind of world of the future? “The Road” springs to mind by Cormac McCarthy. If you are ever feeling too annoyingly optomistic and cheerful, read this astonishing, ravishing book with the tiniest streak of hope in the overwhelming darkness of it’s post-apocalyptic world.
I’m remembering what being afraid is like at a personal level: before the Wednesday class in inner city Richmond when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get furniture thrown at me, or if I would lose complete control of my closed-faced and angry students as a traveling science prep. teacher. It brutalized me too. Fear makes me reactive, rigid and protective: everything is about base survival of the organism.
So put frightened people together and well, it’s more likely to be itinerant gangs and warring tribes, whistling back to the Dark Ages.
How can we tip the balance in favor of the heroes our children long to be, of love and cooperation, loyalty and community? What can we do as educators to tip that balance for our individual students and for the global community they’ll live in?
I hope and believe that compelling projects involving students in service to something bigger than themselves, is part of the answer. It’s hard to be afraid when you’re busy making things happen. Even harder when you are working with other, like-minded people and having a laugh along the way.
Here’s a great place to start: 350.0rg’s 24th September Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels video.