Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How To Be Part Of Something Bigger Than Ourselves

When your playground has a slope and children are free to play, they will roll things downhill. We've rolled all manner of things, but in this case it was tires. It could be anything, it could be our own bodies, and the point really isn't the rolling, it's the doing it together.

That is the purpose of school at Woodland Park, figuring out the complexities of community, of friendship, of giving, and of taking. We do things together not because someone has lectured us on teamwork or cooperation or being kind, or because someone has imposed rules to that effect, but rather because it's simply what human beings do when left to our own devices.

This is when I know John Locke and Jean Paul Rousseau were right: human's are essentially "good." The essential "evil" that Thomas Hobbs postulated only emerges when we're in circumstances that suppress what is natural in us.

No one told these children to help one another, but they did, pitching in, sharing ideas, leading a hand, leaning into the work of the moment, the challenge we've set for ourselves.

No one told these children to be careful, but they were, giving one another space, taking turns, stepping out of the way.

We often ask ourselves, How do I be me in a world of we? And it's a good question, but probably not the one that gets at the heart of things. The question we ask as we roll tires together down and back up the hill is, How do I find my place within this world of we? And we answer it by doing it, by choosing to roll those tires up and down the hill together.

The adults are here for our wisdom, our greater knowledge, a product of experience, about things like schedules, responsibilities and safety, but otherwise we stand back and stand ready. I often say it's a little like playing softball: you may stand there all day without a single ball being hit in your direction, but when it comes it helps to be on the balls of your feet.

Otherwise it's up to the children, these essentially "good" humans to see what needs to be done and to do it because that's what we do when I am part of we.

I joke sometimes that our little cooperative preschool is proof that communism is the best way to organize humans, but only if everyone volunteers to be a part of it. And indeed not all the children bent their backs to the project of rolling tires downhill. They were off pursuing community elsewhere in their own way.

If this is the only thing we do at Woodland Park, rolling tires up and down the hill, then we've done our work. Being together, playing together, figuring out how to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Without this, the rest is meaningless.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'm lingering over your expression of the belief that the children are essentially good. Marietta McCarty talks about the importance of philosophy in her books. Your belief in their goodness seems to guide all that you do. What beliefs are guiding others in education today?