Monday, March 25, 2013

Steubenville: on Education and Social Responsibility

This Steubenville situation has me real fired up. The incredible disconnect of these boys and the witnesses to the violent sexual act is disturbing, at best. How can people be so disconnected from others' humanity that they don't see they are harming, violating, disrespecting, and abusing another human being?  Are we that self-involved and desensitized to humanity?  Are all human beings no longer worthy of respect? What is going on in our world? Are parents, teachers, leaders, no longer teaching the value of a person to our children?

This just bleeds into the broken education system in which we live. We need to nurture people's spirits, feed into children's souls, allow for their ultimate expression and care for it.  Let them be as they are and allow them to feel loved and appreciated, wholly. 

Demonstrate that appreciation so they can pass that on to others and see the value in each individual's contributions. 

We don't have that anymore.  Each person needs to de-"self"-themselves. Lose who they are to become a piece, an equal soldier in an army of conscious-less, spirit-less drones. (Teaching to the test? Pass/Fail to rate the quality of our schools and educators?)

Maybe this is the intersection, this disconnect, between artistic endeavors (our soul) and education and policy.  We remove passion and love and expression from our children's lives by not funding arts education, and by doing so, we tell our children that art is unimportant, that their soul dancing is irregular, unnatural, unacceptable, and their spirit soaring is an acrimonious violation of the social order. Their spark is diminished for the sake of conformity to a system… a well-oiled machine that needs to continue running, requiring its little workers to be one and the same, not alter the system so as to prevent it breaking. We can't handle change, difference, dissonance. We can't see the beauty in it.

But this system is already broken.  We teach children to remove their uniqueness, to learn to pass uniform exams, and we remove music and arts, the things that nurture their spirits and emotional intelligence, and replace them with basic, formulaic education, lacking creativity. Children no longer play with free minds, but rather desensitize through computers and gaming, numbing the frustration of an education that bores and discriminates. The system creates individuals so hardened that their hearts no longer see the hearts of others as beating, bleeding muscles of love and pain. They do not see that their touch, even their words, create gashes in the tissue… They do not see that it is life that exists around us and it is life they take through their coldness and disconnect.
Is empathy dead?

The reality is that we are socially responsible for each other. We are socially responsible to teach our children they are responsible for each other, that they exist in unison with their brothers and sisters. We are socially responsible to create a society with a living, beating, bleeding heart. This is our duty and where our responsibility lies.

The children in Steubenville that committed these horrific acts need to understand their actions for the harm they caused their sister, not for the negative consequences they receive themselves. Children need to learn of the humanity of others, awaken their hearts to their connection with this other person, and understand more deeply that the pain they feel about the status of their lives is tiny particle of a much greater pain, a drop in the ocean of pain suffered by the young woman they violated, and a mere hint of the pain experienced by the thousands of youth who suffer sexual violence every day. What they feel, others feel, and that can be their bridge to sharing in others' humanity. What she felt and feels today is an experience we all share in.

When one suffers, the whole suffers. We can't numb ourselves to this because in that numbness is where we lose our hearts, the heart of whole world, and we lose sight of our relationship and connectedness with every individual around us. We are one part of the whole. We cannot divorce that.

We are responsible for one another. We are all at fault here. And we are all empowered to change.

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