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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We need to add subtraction to life's lessons

In his monthly column for Spirituality and Health, Thomas Moore writes "Teaching What Matters" in the May — June 2009 issue. He introduces his topic,
"When I was in graduate school, I was fascinated by a play by Eugene Ionesco called The Lesson. In it a young woman studies for the total doctorate, but she has a problem. She can add perfectly but can't subtract. The teacher gets so upset by her failure to learn that eventually, he attacks her with a knife.

In school we learn how to add. We learn more and more facts, study more subjects, and acquire more diplomas and degrees. We learn enough to become a success at work and add more money to our bank accounts. But like the woman in the play, we are not good at subtraction. We don't learn how to live with one person in a marriage or how to lose our freedom as we bring up our children. We don't learn how to deal with jealousy and envy, emotions that afflict us when we don't have what we want. We don't learn how to deal with failures and setbacks and losses. We don't learn what to do when our health is in the minus column. We don't learn about the ultimate subtraction — death.

There are many aspects of ordinary life that apparently we believe we can accomplish naturally, unconsciously. It's interesting that these things — marriage, illness, child-raising, depression, mortality — are fairly major concerns. Then why are these important items missing from the school curriculum? All signs indicate that we are not doing well in these areas, and yet major writers and artists have written about them, dramatized them, reflected on them, and written a vast quantity of music about them. There is much to study and to learn."
Moore suggests commoditization may be a negative factor in education. Lack of time may be cited for the exclusion of significant subjects. Relevance may be missing. However, he shows how each of these concerns may be addressed.

He concludes, "Maybe if we taught the things that really matter, if we aimed at the total doctorate, we parents and teachers would be passionate in our love of the subject and love of our children."

Moore's column for the July — August 2009 issue, "How to Empty Your Head" will be available in September.

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