Friday, May 20, 2011

The Impulse to do Good

Inside of me, I feel an impulse to do good. I think most humans share this impulse, one that’s been explored through research into altruism, resilience, and the moral instinct. In firefighters, nurses, teachers, and others who dedicate their lives to community service, the impulse to do good has become a driving force. They want to care for others even at risk to themselves, at low pay, or in difficult circumstances. I include myself in this group. When I see something that needs doing, I want to do it. When something needs fixing, I want to fix it. I want to make life better. The suffering of others is like a fire in my own heart, urging me on, and the satisfaction I get when I succeed in serving and healing is a great joy in my life.

In fact, even a few moments of helping and making better are powerful enough to give me peace in spite of the cruelty and greed and evils that are too powerful for me to change. It’s the frustration of this impulse in my work the past few years that’s been the source of much of my unhappiness.

No matter what I’ve done for money in the past, I’ve been able to do good through my work: teaching at Planned Parenthood, raising money for heart research, helping folks quit smoking, making schools more diversity-positive . . . no matter where I was or what I was doing, I could offer service to the world. As I investigated my nostalgia for the 50s, it was easy to see that although the world is different now, it’s not better or worse. Humans are still struggling, some people are mean and some are kind. As LLB said, there’s sadness and beauty. So, why have I become increasingly discouraged, even depressed about the state of the world?

At least in part, I think the answer lies with my helplessness at work. I’m unable to inspire children to learn or help make their lives better. I haven’t got the time or opportunity to teach. Instead, I babysit, both the kids and the machines, and I’ve been given the role of “technology leader” when I believe that digital technology is hurting, rather than helping kids to read, think, and grow. Meanwhile, public education itself is oppressive. Our 11-14 year olds need to run and play. They need to build and work with their hands, be of service to their communities, do things that matter, interact with the natural world, follow their interests, horse around, and be in constant social interaction with one another. And what do I do? I tell them to stop socializing. I tell them to work on things they don’t care about. I keep them indoors and in their seats. I wear the face of the oppressor, and I can see the hurt in their gazes on my face. I am the enemy.

I feel like a doctor, vowed to do no harm, who goes to work and is told to mutilate instead of heal. No wonder I’m depressed. No wonder it seems like there’s no hope for the world. I’ve become caught in the dominator wheels, and I come home too exhausted even to make art.

So, I’ve decided to do something about this: I’m going to speak a little piece of the truth. At the next faculty meeting, for which I’ve been charged to teach about technology, I’m going to talk about digital immersion and how it’s hurting our kids. Digital immersion (interaction with digital or electronic media for the majority of a person’s free time) is changing our children’s cognitive abilities, making them less capable of sustaining attention, less able to read, process information, and thinking deeply. Digital immersion is hurting our kids. The loving and kind thing to do would be to give them a break from it, not increase their screen time, as we’ve been told to do.

I’m sure some folks will call me a Luddite, but I suspect that the majority of my fellow teachers have already recognized that something's wrong, because kids can’t sustain attention through a single page of text or sign their own names. I believe, after studying the subject for the better part of a year, that digital immersion is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and I’m going to stick my neck out and say so. Just thinking about doing this is giving me hope. Sometimes, in order to do good, a person has to take risks, for low pay, in difficult circumstances, but then this fallen world might be nudged, ever so slightly, toward the light.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that your brave desire to talk to the faculty is a good impulse! Did it happen yet? What was the response?

Your point of view is well supported by many researchers before you... You might want to get involved in the Waldorf Community there in Ithaca somehow,,, you may find that their style matches your own better.

Hugs mama.... I love your truth/fullness