This is an excerpt from “Everything But Money” by Sam Levenson.
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Once we have done everything to insure the child’s recognition of himself, we have to make clear to him the relationship between his self and the selves of others. The nature of the individual’s involvement with other individuals cannot be taught too early, since this involvement starts with the child’s first breath and does not end until his last.
In a society which believes in education for all, the ultimate objective becomes living with all, even with those you don’t like. Social justice should have nothing to do with personal likes and dislikes. The Scripture says “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It does not say you have to like him, nor does it say “See footnote A regarding color, shape of nose, texture of hair, ethnic classification.”
…We make much of “toughening our youth.” They are tough enough. What they need is softening. Our education is heart-less. It is more important for the child’s first reader to say “Love, Dick, love” than “Jump, Dick, jump.”
…We underestimate the ability of our children to understand mercy, sympathy, and generosity. Just as they can be taught that flowers are pretty and dresses are pretty, they can also be taught that behavior can be beautiful or ugly, sweet or sour, kind or unkind, just or unjust, tender or cruel. Self-expression includes what not to say as well as what to say, and what you say is more important than how well you say it. It is just as vital to approach the world with an open heart as with an open mind. Boys should not be taught that it is unmanly to cry. Men should not be ashamed to weep at injustice. When men will weep at the horrors of current history the world may become better. The world needs a good cry.
…Every lesson should end in a moral and should answer the question, “In what way, directly or indirectly, does this lesson make for better human beings, a better country, a better world?” The acquisition of facts and skills for their own sake is generally accepted as education. Knowledge can be destructive of all that the human race considers sacred. The soul needs education as much as the mind.
…What good does it do a young American to know the subjunctive if he feels no sympathetic pain for a foreign child of his own age who goes to bed hungry every night of his life? The travel posters on the classroom walls never showed such scenes. Who would travel three thousand miles to see a little girl with a twisted spine carrying her sickly little sister on her back? Let no child be called “educated” until he has seen and discussed the ugly pictures and made some moral commitment to the advancement of other human beings beside himself, a commitment not to be his brother’s keeper, but his brother’s brother.
The world has had its fill of educated brutes, “brilliant” men who have led great masses of people back to barbarism. I have seen as much personal cruelty among college professors as amongst illiterates. Personal inhumanity is not unusual in college departments which teach the “Humanities.” I learned this at the tender age of twenty-one when my own college elected me to the Spanish Honor Society, but dissuaded me from applying for a full-time teaching position because the department “policy” at that time was opposed to “inbreeding,” a policy which at that same time did not apply to qualified students of other faiths.