Visions for the Future: Democracy and Education

Change, Change, Change! Yes, Yes, Yes…

Change, Change, Change – Yeah, but…

In my office at the University where I teach, there is a poster which I look at frequently, but keep mostly hidden from others: “I touch the future: I teach.”

Now older, many years of experience in thought and in teaching, I am even less bashful. “I inspire the future : I teach.”

Change, yes: but towards what? How can we envision the futures of democracy, without probing where we are, how we got here; and where is there to go?

Where are we: emerging from another “gilded age,” a “money bubble” which has so altered the shape of democracy, that it might be powerful enough to shape our very ideas of change. How to see, how to study these so-fragile times?

How we got here? We have been part and partners in the great money bubble: our children, our students go to school less to learn how to think, or grapple with their futures. More they go because that is the “thing to do.” Not to think critically, but to work toward a credential as “efficiently” as possible. Then their futures will be “O.K.”

Envision the future?? It will take care of itself, as long as we do what we do? Think critically? Bah! Do what we’re “supposed” to do, and…

Change, change, change. The mentality of the gilded age has pushed us into ourselves on facebook and U-space. The world in which we reside shapes us so much more than we realize. We have – not thoughtfully – accepted the oligarchies of money and power which shape our very desires. As it is all collapsing – in “crisis” – my students hardly blink, as they hardly realize that the world is always, already changing. Democracy entails awareness.

How to study these so-fragile times? History can be very useful? How did the last “gilded ages” – of the late 19th century and the 1920s collapse? How did the “progressive age” take place? Explore Hofstadter’s “The Progressive Movement,” and Josephson’s “Robber Barons.” How did we move – forward – from the great depression?

How might we envision the future of democracy? Where may our “Next Places” be – both politically and personally? A next progressive era?

Education: said John Dewey – probably the most thoughtful of the progressive thinkers – and do-ers. The very idea of democracy must be rethought, and taught to each new generation. It is the future, their future, in which they need to think and act. Teachers need to be sufficiently thoughtful and “important” to be able to inspire their futures.

The gilded ages have been driven mostly by new technologies: ideas, products, and the new monies generated and then controlled by the very clever, and very selfish and greedy few. How to return the U.S. to “we the people” as we go from boom to…?

Explore where we are, try to foresee various possibilities, then set out visions for the futures of those students whom we inspire to become truly engaged – in these times and their times – toward education and democracy.