Plumber in Training
Plumber in Training


A sneak peak from my current project:

What if the primary goal of a child’s education were to acknowledge and understand the connection between human wellbeing and the health of the natural world? What if our children were taught to identify every tree species in their community before they were taught their multiplication tables? What if their “standardized testing” included fire starting, songbird identification, and bread baking? What if, as part of their daily study, they were expected to spend a full hour outdoors, freed from toys, tools, and agenda? What if we placed as much value on feelings and relationships, as we do on information and knowledge? 

What if the point of an education were not to teach our children to assume control, but instead to surrender it? What if the point simply cannot be found or measured in the context of performance-based assessments, or projected lifetime income? What if the point of an education were to imbue our children with a sense of their connectivity, not merely to other humans, but to the trees and animals and soil and moon and sky? What if the point of life is to feel these connections, and all the emotions they give rise to? 

What then? 

11 thoughts on “Hypothetical”

  1. There you go, Ben. I feel like that’s what you’ve been getting at in the past few posts. This strikes a deeper chord, goes to the core of your (and my) beliefs. Nice work.

  2. This is a great hypothetical. Our culture however, has not evolved in any way that establishes this hypothetical as reality. Unless one lived alone on an island, it would be impossible to exist without the influence (and tension) posed by coexistence of the hypothetical and established reality. Perhaps it is not impossible to embrace both, and with creative energies, guide our planet’s future in a way that progressively brings together the natural and the “developed.” The values expounded by this hypothetical are much too important and directed to Earth’s long-range well-being (as opposed to the short-range benefits of our existing reality) to pass by only with lip service. Thank you Ben, for continuing to challenge us to become more tomorrow than we are today.

  3. A parent’s primary goal in the education of their children is to imbue (awkward) the ability to live, survive in a certain place and at a certain time.
    A State’s primary goal in the education of children is to imbue the ability to support the existence and perpetuation of the State.
    I’m not sure that urban children should be taught every tree. I am sure that my kids are being taught every tree. Clearly kids in the Sahara (or Mojave) should not be taught the trees of the Eastern Deciduous Forest.
    How do we (parents) understand what is necessary, important and good for the survival of our kids and their kids to make the decisions to satisfy that primary goal? Seems like it boils down to ‘what is the best way to live’ and this will be very subjective.
    There are a lot of narratives out there on what’s the best way to live. Of concern would be if people cannot see those narratives in action. Or even worse, if they could see those and not reach/become them. Think of an urban kid first knowing about the way Amish people live then deciding it is best for them and then having the ability to go out and do it.
    Where it becomes interesting is the cases where there is conflict. You think the best way to live is to ‘feed the world’ and in doing so you kill the native pollinators that make my way of life possible. Or my open pollinated seeds become illegal.
    Getting off into other issues but I think the main one is recognizing the difference between the first two statements. And that there problems inherent in the State.
    Barry Commoner’s laws of ecology should be taught to every school kid. Of course that’s my opinion. If WWIII happens it may not do them any good when they are trying to survive.

  4. The question that arises in my mind after reading “Hypothetical” is your proposed idealization would mean exactly what for your boys in relation to the rest of the world? If all our children were raised as you expressed it, Ben, and who wouldn’t want to be raised so, what would it mean for them if the rest of the world excels in the arts of technology and science, all in the competitive framework we now exist in? How would they cope if the world overtakes them and thus “controls” them, if you will, because it controls the way’s of the world, it’s economic day to day reality? The perfect life I’ve found has the seed of sadness within it, because, it is my belief, we cannot sustain it here in this world. The deeper we experience happiness, the deeper we sense the fragility of life, its impermanence, its imperfection (Tim O’Brien’s song “Brother Wind” expresses it perfectly for me). How we prepare our children for the world they will inherit is a profound question because it exposes our deepest beliefs to our own self and our responsibility to them. I think you’re doing a fine job, Ben, with your boys, and I think that whatever turns life takes for you and them the most important lesson for life has been taught – love. The very best to you and your boys!

  5. Yeehaw! “…teach our children to assume control, but instead to surrender it…” If I thought you might be into reading Catholic theology, I would recommend “Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence” by Fr. Jean Baptiste St. Jure. This is the book that has inspired my family and I to make our living as farmers and unschool our kids.
    Peace be with you.

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