I’m Shrewd: Are We Losing Our Choices?

“You can’t make Socalists out of individuals. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society, which is coming, where everyone is interdependent.” – John Dewey
 I found this quote in my latest read, “Why I Stand” by Burgess Owens.  The quote sparked my interest to find out more about John Dewey.  Known for his advocacy of democracy, Dewy considered two fundamental elements – schools and civil society – to be major topics needing attention and reconstruction to encourage experimental intelligence and plurality (Wikipedia).  He was drawn to the schools of pragmatism and instrumentalism, both of which reject the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality.  Because Dewey is considered a father of the modern public school system,  I am going to do some “thinking” here and try to understand if this philosophy is what is being used to undermine our public educational systems and redefine the concept of “choice”.

As a parent, I instinctually taught my children to respect others and understand their own contribution to society.  These two traits were instilled in me by my parents and probably instilled in them from their parents who were all immigrants to the United States.  I tend to think that respect and understanding are both learned and modeled values in families that care about their next generation.  My grandparents chose to come to the United States for the opportunity to make better lives for themselves and their children, much like the immigrants who chose to come here today.

Education is critical to making a better life.  The first public school, Boston Latin School, was founded in 1635.  Originally for boys only, it is now co-educational.  I am a graduate of Boston Latin Academy which was originally the girls school and is now also co-educational.  Needless to say, since 1635 the public school system in our country has evolved.  I cherrish my six years of high standard education, but must admit that studying that many years of the Latin language was totally lost on me!  I much preferred math, art and geography, however I believe that the high standards set the stage for me to excell in the engineering fields in which I would later study and work.  What did those high standards mean in those days?  Lots of homework, tests, paying attention during class and very little choice of much else!!  Choice would not be something I could exercise until I graduated, and even then choices were never easy.  I had to think for myself what direction my life would take and apply my talents in an environment where I could add value and hopefully be paid in return.   The ability for me to use independent judgment (critical thinking) through my experiences allowed a deeper understanding of everything and everyone around me and brought me ultimate joy and happiness.  
Now that my children are on the verge of having their own children, I see a different environment being prepared for them.  In this environment my grandchildren will be in a public nursery school as soon as they are ready and continue in an educational system up through the end of college.  These schools will be facilitated by instructors who guide materials that are pre-approved by “professional” educators at the government level.  All data about an individual will be collected by computers whose artificial intelligence will instinctively guide my grandchild to their developmental match for work within the “society”.  Words, phrases and thinking points that match societal norms will be introduced to them early and reinforced throughout their school and working lives.  Happiness is measured by these “norms” so that harmony is achieved, and deeper meaning or understanding is discouraged because this would produce too much anxiety making medication necessary to lessen the angst.  All of this promotes interdependence.  

Back to reality…Choice today is a construct of not what I want or need for me, but what I must think or be for the “other”.  Everything is now categorized; genders, cultures, races, religions, medicine, weather, etc.  To be categorized means that it fits a pattern and so can be ultimately reimagined or reconstructed.  The reconstruction happens when former words and their meaning take on new meaning for the new shape of being.  This is not a choice, this is a construct meant to remove choice.  

Your becoming has meaning for you and those around you.  It is an instinctual part of  our humanity.  If we give our lives over to interdependence, we will only make it harder to come back to the truths that are self evident, “…that all men {and women} are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Our Founders knew this.  Let’s make sure we model it and pass it on to future generations.

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