Utne Reader Article #3greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread
Utne Reader Article #3
-- Anonymous, March 15, 1999
The Stuff of Life by Scott Russell Sanders, Nov.-Dec. 98, pages 47-51. Our Standard of Prosperity Submitted by Karen Swenson
In our world today we need to change the standard by which we measure prosperity. We could cut back on our consumption of fuel, food, wood, metal, and the size of our houses without suffering deprivation. We could choose to lead a materially simpler life not as a sacrifice but as a path toward fulfillment. Scott Sanders writes in The Stuff of Life that it seems that our evolutionary history has shaped us to equate well-being with increase and growth. This historical path leads to exhaustion of resources, acceleration of pollution, and to the extinction of species. It harms individuals by encouraging a scramble for possessions and a nagging discontent in the midst of plenty. The article says that if we were less burdened by possessions, and less frenzied by activities we might play more with our children, look after our elders, and take the time to appreciate nature. Sanders also writes that we may increase the likelihood of peace by living modestly and sharing what we have with others. He tells us that we need to seek spiritual rather than material growth. This comes through religious inquiry, art, literature, science, conversation, skillful and useful work, sharing bread and stories, and encounters with beauty in the wild. It means slowing down and focusing on the present moment rather that dashing through life toward some ever retreating goal.
Sanders made me reflect upon a recent trip I took to Las Vegas with a fellow colleague. The fast paced, get rich quick mentality of that city is contagious. We talked about the competition among businesses to have the biggest building, the grandest production, and the largest display of lights and billboards to attract customers. We were amazed at the enormous amount of money that it must cost to construct the hotels, casinos, water fountains, and lavish displays such as the animated statues at the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace. As we continued our discussion, we talked about the waste that we saw on our trip. The huge amount of food that is thrown away after being set out on buffet tables, the electricity that is used to keep the city constantly aglow with glitz and glitter twenty-four hours a day, and the money that people spend hoping to get rich quick made us wonder what constructive things could be done with that money to help our needs and the needs of the planet coincide.
After reading and discussing, I wondered what I can do in my classroom to increase the awareness of the need to shift the focus of our expansive desires. The capacity for restraint is based on our knowledge and compassion. Were the only species capable of acting, through love and reason, to preserve our fellow creatures and ourselves. I recently attended a workshop on school reform where a presenter asked us when the last time was that we asked our students who they wanted to be instead of what they wanted to be when they graduate from school. Maybe this is the question that needs to be asked to help bring about the change of the standard by which we measure prosperity. As an educator, I need to involve parents and the community in my classroom to ensure that my students take ownership in what is happening in their city. They need to be in contact with the elders in their area so that they can learn from the past and celebrate the future. I feel strongly that I need to use a social skills approach with cooperative learning groups to give my students the opportunity to develop a culture that is able to, through shared conversations, govern its own appetite.
-- Anonymous, March 15, 1999