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Posted on Feb 6, 2013

The Educational System in Crisis | An Excerpt from Creatively Maladjusted by Theodore Richards

The Educational System in Crisis | An Excerpt from Creatively Maladjusted by Theodore Richards

There seems to be near-universal agreement that there is a crisis in education today. In the United States, this tends to take the form of our failure to “compete” with the rest of the world. During the last presidential election this was a common theme; and it will be again in the next one. This dualistic vision of education as a battle in the global marketplace generally assumes that there is nothing wrong with the goals of modern education, but that we simply are not doing it well enough.

This book takes a different view. I will argue that our problem is much deeper than America’s well-documented failure to compete. As the Dalai Lama says, “Education is in crisis the world over.” Even those who succeed—the winners—are failing; for to succeed in the modern educational system is to lead humanity down a path of ultimate failure. We speak condescendingly of children who are “at-risk”; but what of our at-risk-civilization, -species, and -planet?

To illustrate the point, I will borrow a metaphor from the activist Van Jones, well-known to me and others in Oakland for his work for social and ecological justice there, better known nationally when he became President Obama’s green jobs advocate, and still more famous when he was attacked and ultimately forced to resign from his position by the Right wing media. Originally working exclusively on issues of social justice—that is, helping the marginalized attain equal status to the elites—he eventually came to see that this approach was inadequate for the challenges of the moment, particularly the ecological crisis. We do not need to make the poor more like the rich—that will only mean that we will all fail together. We need the poor and the rich alike to radically transform our way of life. He describes his transformation as a shift in metaphor, saying he used to have the wrong metaphor, the slave-ship the Amistad—that is, we need to emancipate the slaves from the dungeon of the ship and bring them to the top. A more accurate metaphor, he now says, is the Titanic. We are all sinking together. Education is no different. Rearranging the structure of our schools is no more useful than rearranging the desks of a failing classroom—or of the deckchairs on the Titanic.

To figure out what is wrong with education we must first do what no one—not even educators and certainly not the politicians and bureaucrats—ever does: ask first what is wrong with our civilization. I am referring not to any particular group of people, but to global, industrial capitalism; for it is industrial capitalism, spread throughout the world by colonialism and globalization, which has defined modern education.



Creatively Maladjusted Cover_sm

Look for Creatively Maladjusted March 9th on, B&N and right here, in the Hiraeth Press bookstore. 

Creatively Maladjusted will also be available in Kindle Edition! Along with Theodore Richards’ award-winning book Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism and the Birth of a New Myth!