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Oct 19, 2007

Morsels of the Real

This is my sixtieth blog, and I am not sure how many more things I have to say about all this life. I have something today though.

We had a good conversation with my Philosophy of Education class last week. We talked about Buber, and about I-Thou relations. Basically, Buber says that what’s important in our lives is not necessarily what takes the most time, nor is it something you can pinpoint as a behavior or a principle. The brief, infrequent, fleeting moments is what’s most important. Otherwise, the routine of everyday work and home worries and interactions sweeps away the very humanity we all possess. Buber suggests that the usual lives we live are not completely human, that the only way to become a full human being is to seek and appreciate these fleeting moments, when another person comes in direct relation with me, and as Buber writes, fills the heaven. It is when we relate to another person outside of restrictions and considerations of our relative positions, characteristics, stereotypes, and expectations. Those moments are the morsels of the real that actually make our lives worth living. Just thinking about scheduling, budgeting, big and little conflicts, programs, curriculum, etc, etc. – just thinking about this is actually quite depressing without some sort of a window to the real.

Our lives in big bureaucratic institutions and impersonal suburbs actually make this worse: we do not go to war, do not get lost in the desert, do not think about survival. The opportunities to reflect on our lives are not that plentiful. So, small problems tend to look bigger than they really are, petty fights look like big fights, and generally, the routine tends to eat us alive. How do we develop the capacity to always be on for the real? How do we manage to also pass this capacity on to our students?

What I am talking about may or may not be spiritual life. It’s basically, the ability to encounter other people without BS, directly. Lots of deeply religious and deeply atheistic people develop such abilities, although many others never do. Some people are a lot better at it than others. The problem is, we never specifically learn or teach how to seek the I-Thou, and how to recognize it once found.

What worries me is that this will sound crazy to many people. Then you ask them to tell a story about their lives, and how they sometimes feel a very deep connection to another person in a specific moment of a specific conversation, when the outside world somewhat disappears. And they suddenly remember, and agree that yes, it felt real, somehow profound. So, here is my suggestion: let’s amend the Performance-Based Standards for Colorado Teachers as following:

Standard Nine: I-Thou relations

The teacher has demonstrated the ability to:

1 Seek dialogical relations with his or her students
2 Maintain openness to the Other
3 Develop the need and ability to experience live in its fullest
4 Create classroom situations conducive to spontaneity, complexity and carnival

Or something like that...

I look at the list of my 59 blogs and wonder: how many of them about the real, and how many are about the superficial? Hmm, perhaps not that many.

  1. How to alienate people and damage relationships
  2. The Nomadic conference
  3. Authority and power
  4. Going with the flow: On the horizontal transparency
  5. On-line is on the line
  6. Playing the “you”
  7. Switching gears
  8. The Organizational Drift
  9. Can you ever go home?
  10. Dances with Data
  11. Churchill and tenure
  12. Freud for teachers, amended
  13. Weddings, rituals, and memories
  14. Curriculum and communication
  15. Shift Left
  16. The 90/10 rule
  17. The cost of fairness
  18. What is the most important
  19. Zeno, Buddha and Program Development
  20. What makes me angry
  21. Gospriyomka and NCATE
  22. Time density
  23. The clouds glide by
  24. The ethics of rumoring
  25. Time Management and Sorry
  26. The Lake Wobegon Effect
  27. The “B” Word, or How do you know what you say you ...
  28. Notes from AACTE, or American Absurdities
  29. On Scholarly Productivity
  30. Memories and time Symbolic violence
  31. Merit, Shmerit, or “Evaluate not and thou shall no...
  32. Why are we poor?
  33. Midwives, matchmakers, Napoleon, and Kutuzov
  34. On failings of humans
  35. On the Money
  36. What makes a problem hard to solve
  37. UNC’s Organizational Culture and Change
  38. Community and innovation: On the Academic Plannign...
  39. Neo-prog’s Educational Agenda
  40. Neo-progs wanted: Toward a new educational progres...
  41. The Academe and other Soviet states
  42. Teaching as research
  43. Justice is good bureaucracy
  44. Fall, foliage, and intrinsic motivation
  45. Notes from the Dark Side
  46. Accreditation and ambivalence
  47. Levine Report
  48. Cultural cycles
  49. On human errors
  50. The anatomy of human conflict
  51. How to stop turf wars
  52. Your director's list of task, abridged
  53. On the nature of human knowledge
  54. On authority
  55. Big ideas
  56. Complexity and catch-22
  57. On vision, geeks, and technology

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