Wednesday, November 11, 2009

to what may we aspire?

The current head of AIG, the insurance giant that was bailed out by the US government is complaining that the pay restrictions in place courtesy of the Obama administration are completely unbearable. Robert Benmosche spent his first month on the job working over the internet from his luxury digs in the Mediterranean and cruising on his luxury yacht. It was particularly grating for Benmosche that AIG wasn't able to make a corporate jet available for his personal use. Such are the delusions of entitlement.

I want to use this interesting bit of information to make a point about education. If Finland can bring its top 10 percent of the best and brightest into teaching, then why would anyone believe that such huge salaries and bonuses would be so important in sustaining American corporations? You give people emotionally rewarding and important work to do, and get out of their way. And if they don't think there is enough there for them, let them do something more important. How about teaching? The challenges are just as great. And why should we have a corporate pay structure that siphons the best and brightest away from the needs of our children and the development of our culture?

I have been reading a book of essays by Karl Popper, All Life is Problem Solving. While Popper became a world renown philosopher, it had been his early life ambition to become a teacher. It was an obvious way through which he might make a contribution to others. And on his way to becoming a teacher, he decided that becoming a cabinet maker would add to his teaching credentials, as he describes in his essay, "How I became a Philosopher Without Really Trying:"
Because I felt that it would be useful for me as a schoolteacher if I were able to master a craft like cabinet-making, I decided to learn that too; and I actually obtained the official certificate of the Austrian state that I had become a qualified cabinet-maker.

It was while working at a cabinet-maker's bench that I arrived at what I may describe as my first conscious solution of a philosophical problem. The problem concerned the origin of our Western system of classical music--tonality, harmony, and counterpoint. I did not write it down, and I never talked about it to anyone; but fifty years later, in 1969, I described it briefly in a short chapter of an autobiographical book entitled Unended Quest.
Popper's music theory from the early 1920's was later discovered to be almost identical with a theory published in 1922 by German sociologist Max Weber.

You may recall Jean Jacques Rousseau's comment which I have shared in the blog many times before, "put a young man in a wood shop, his hands will work to the benefit of his brain and he will become a philosopher while thinking himself only a craftsman." You can see that Karl Popper was a graphic example.

And so, I ask a very simple question as I head off to school this morning. "What kind of men are we making in this society?" Is our objective to send our best and brightest into corporations where they can indulge themselves and waste their lives at our expense? Or do we make real men, real women, philosopher/teachers of them that they may live intelligent lives serving others, that we may come to better terms with such things as protection of the environment and discovery of true and lasting peace?

You may say I'm a dreamer, but if you are reading this, then I'm not the only one.