On Peace in our Schools
By Rog Lucido
Learning is a human endeavor. Life is full of different random events. We respond-sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Fruitful actions become reinforced and failures are noted to be avoided in the future. In short, we learn from both our achievements and our disappointments. School is a place where educators attempt to mimic the real world. They create situations that have academic, athletic, social, artistic or political ‘lessons’ attached to each. Teachers hope their students see the value in what is created and make the connection to its parallel in their lives. Learning becomes more relevant.
Thus, the educators’ world view is critical in preparing these lessons. If they buy into the viewpoint that the world is ‘dog eat dog,’ where conflict between humans, such as aggressive consumer behavior on ‘Black Friday,’ is the norm, then they develop ways to mirror that belief in our schools. The fastest, the strongest and the smartest become the winners and the remainder become the losers. Some state and national education laws legislate ways to isolate and separate one group from another, whether it’s students, teachers, schools or districts. These laws compare and contrast to satisfy a need to validate a ‘survival of the fittest’ world view.
The high-stakes testing regime spawned by NCLB provides invalid test scores that are then used to promote an incentive to classify and categorize students, educators and their learning institutions. This degrades and marginalizes what appears to be the weaker in favor of those deceived into believing they are superior. This establishes criteria for conflict and division, pitting one student and educator against another and one school or district above or below others.
The truth is that this is an artificial structure not based on the reality of the human spirit. One only has to see the ways we reach out to each other in times of need like natural disasters to see the magnanimity of the human heart. We reach out to help those in need. This is when we are at our best in making our world a more peaceful place.
In the plant and animal kingdoms life is not about ‘survival of the fittest’ as common lore would have it, but rather survival of those species better able to sustain the symbiotic relationships with other organisms in the ecosystem. It is more a give and take proposition where one species seeks out its needs while providing a benefit to others. This process is mutual to the advantage of both.
I am glad ‘survival of the fittest’ is not the paradigm from which I base the most meaningful relationships in my life. I seek out common ground from which deeper understanding and appreciation of likenesses and differences can be cultivated. We humans seek peace in our relationships. One of the main purposes of the United Nations is to foster peace between countries: ‘to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors (from the UN Preamble). Here at home from the preamble of our Constitution: ‘We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility…’
We need peace in our schools-peace between students and teachers, teachers and administrators and schools and the community. One of the steps of peace is to eliminate the weapons with which we attack each other. We can go a long way in establishing this peace by eliminating high-stakes testing.
Students and educators come to the common ground of school already altered by the aggressive aspects of our culture. Our schools should be a place where a redeeming society of peace is fostered. Countries thrive with peace. Families thrive with peace. Schools will thrive with peace. Anxiety will be reduced and productivity will increase. Let the symbiotic relationships between humans without the need for winners and losers become the model for our children and a better world.