When I first began teaching in 1975 there was a huge counter movement to what I had been studying at one of the most progressive schools of education for that time period, the University of North Dakota. The counter movement was called “Back to Basics” which capitalized on the mistakes of the progressive movements so that schools would just focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Sadly I have to say that the Back to Basics movement won. By the early 1980s progressive education was all but dead even when it had learned from mistakes and held much hope for the future.
The progressive movements had really sprung out of the failures of the more traditional systems because so many students were just not learning using the old methodologies. The Back to Basics movement struck back at the progressives by using an amazingly effective strategy that put fear into the hearts of the vast majority. They took the mistakes of the progressive systems and blew them way out of proportion. It wasn’t difficult to find mistakes. They were abundant for sure,so the traditionalists had huge amounts of ammunition which they used unceasingly.
They also performed another interesting strategy which also worked very effectively. You have to give them credit. They really crushed new ideas and experimentation to shreds. Their strategy was simply to glorify the past as if it were much better than any new ideas could ever be. It gave the psyche of a fearful public just what they needed so that they would not have to make significant fundamental changes in their lives. Glorifying the past while ignoring the issues was the drug of choice. It seems to me that is has been the addiction of the world’s culture for quite some time now. The strategy is driven by the fear of the unknown in the future. It has kept really meaningful innovation from entering institutions because every new idea is crushed by the traditionalists convincing people that innovation will lower the standard. Whenever you bring up innovation or change in conservative circles the quick retort is always about the standards, especially that change will lower the standards.
Now that the traditionalists have really had their way for the past 40 years, the cracks in their protective shields have really worn thin. Glorifying the past, ignoring the issues, and blaming someone else by magnifying their mistakes doesn’t work in the public’s eye as much anymore. We are finally reaching a stage where we can’t hide from the issues anymore.
Psychologically it is relatively easy to map out the old pattern. Here is how it goes. Inwardly we are all driven by our spiritual nature to grow and make changes. Since growth possibilities are always unlimited, we are always pushed inwardly to change. So if this is true what makes people stop. At the moment that our true self presents a new opportunity for growth for us, a new future, it also presents the issues that keep us from achieving the desired future. On the one hand there is a new vision, but on the other is the negative energy that keeps us from growing. So what most people do is to feel the negative energy, become uncomfortable with it, and then try to find some sort of comfort in a glorified past so that they won’t have to face the discomfort. It is usually accompanied by other forms of diversion as well. We all do it.
It is particularly difficult right now in the history of the world because the vast majority of people in leadership positions owe their positions to this strategy. They assert the past, glorifying the standards of the past, but completely ignore the current issues. When someone tries to do something new, they lay in wait for mistakes and then magnifying them making themselves seem great for pointing out the failures of others. And if all else fails they accuse others of lowering the standards.
The new strategy that is extremely effective is get a preliminary vision of a new future, address honestly and openly and determinedly the issues that are holding the new vision back by taking full responsibility for them, and then doing the internal work to solve the issues and release new energy. The key is having a great deal of honesty about our own issues without trying to put them on others. When we take the plunge of honesty, it helps us to see what was truly positive in the past and what wasn’t so positive. We keep the strengths, and change the weaknesses rather than glorifying a false image of the past and ignoring weaknesses.
Let’s see. Right now I am having an issue with the fear of being attacked by conservatives. Ok, so I want to implement more radical ideas and I have a preliminary vision of that but the fear originates when I started my education work. The fearful is like a thousand people yelling at me that I am wrong and they are right. I am feeling all alone and just want to go and hide. What is the solution? Hmmmm. I can see thousands of people accepting positive ideas about change and beginning to work on their issues more honestly. I think I will just start with people that are supportive and gradually expand outward. Ok, that’s it.