A recent NY Times news story, “In a Mother’s Case, Reminders of Educational Inequalities,” by Peter Applebome plunged me into fetid shadows akin to Dickensian London and Victor Hugo’s Paris of injustice on the brink of revolution… the dark and shameful inequalities that define the American school landscape circa here and now.
“Facts” are troublesome (and I perhaps no reliable narrator), but the story at hand is of a drug-involved mom who allegedly used her babysitter’s address to enroll her kindergartener in a better school district—and who now finds herself (aside from drug charges) facing charges of “first degree larceny” and “conspiracy” on account of sending her kid to a better-equipped suburban school when she actually lived in a poorer urban school district.
The boy, Andrew Justin Patches, bears a name-is-destiny sort of Dickensian yoke (just in patches/rags) and half made me wonder if I was dreaming (or is it nightmaring?) as my dandelion tea cooled beside my laptop last Thursday morning. Is this a narrative to illustrate the spirit, if not crisis, of our time? Are these people for real? Are we, as a culture that leaves so many kids behind for real? What sort of revolution might grow out of such injustice? And what good might it do if this is where we are, centuries after much-vaunted revolutions in France and America, that have come and gone on in business as usual inequality and injustice?
While laws organize a society (but may also oppress it) and morality attempts to dictate behavior, consciousness is a self-organizing principle; it grows like a tree or a bird into what it simply is. Humans are interesting in that they self-determine their culture, however the ego-self (society’s architect) is swamped by the melancholy of its own mortality (and perceived scarcity of resources). The scared, lizard-brained, ego then aggresses against it’s own fellows, miring itself in a situation of vast melancholy and loss of purpose and meaning. Achievement appears to the the meaning, but it is really a manic denial of smallness and of the inevitability of death.
Love and compassion, not leaving each other out in the cold, behind, hungry or broken… might this not constitute a revolution of a different, subtler, n0n-action stripe? Perhaps if we were to educate and support all our children (and not just our precious chosen favorites) we might actually feel proud of ourselves as a culture, and we might spend more of our resources in life-enhancing (education and wellness) rather than life-ending (so-called “defense”) arenas.
Thus, perhaps if we consciously come together, and henceforth not leave any kids behind, at least in our shared consciousness (as simplistic and unmeaningful and unpragmatic as that may sound), perhaps we will, strangely enough, find ourselves feeling less left behind, less unloved, less impoverished and less frightened. To make changes in our consciousness can render us non-violent, compassionate and free… inner circumstances rippling out to influence our own lives and the shared world we truly co-create.
We know we do leave kids behind. We know that our culture is not organized around loving kindness, compassion, inclusion and love; nor is it organized around integrity, authenticity and non-judgment. In our hearts we may suspect that if our society was ordered this way (something that cannot be decreed, legalized or religiously demanded) then we would trust, share, love and be markedly happier, more creative and more productive. The challenge is to think, and love and live this way before it is the norm, when it is not the norm and when it sounds naïve, even ridiculous, to speak of it. But if we turn to small shifts in trust and mindfulness, to loving those in our circle (and drawing ourselves into this circle of compassion and connection), we change our consciousness, and this changes the world just as surely as believing in/clapping for Tinker Bell revives her, and makes us feel good and efficacious and included in the bargain.
So while most readers of this blog are not packing crack cocaine under their wigs like Justin Patches’ beleaguered mom is accused of doing, we are all interested in having “our” kids get into the “right schools,” how can we possibly be happy when all schools are not the “right schools?” (And how much calmer might we be if they were?)
If we cannot be happier than our least happy child, then every urchin who went to school today without breakfast, every five-year-old just-in-rags and patches, every drugged out kid and stressed out kid, is placing a drag on our potential (collective and individual) happiness, liberty and exuberance. Perhaps we might take change to another level, releasing our misguided perception of good and bad people in favor of awake and asleep people, gently awakening those who toss and turn in a nightmare of scarcity, rousing with butterfly kisses and unremitting love. This is how children think—and it is children who shall change our world… if only we stop stopping them.
Meanwhile, Andrew Justin Patches’ mother faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted of this “larceny.” Larceny means taking something that doesn’t belong to you; does a good education belong to every child or not? If it does, then perhaps it is our broken educational system, our scared and broken society itself, that is committing larceny by defacto thieving a fair and equal education from any child born on the wrong side of whatever tracks divide Our Town.
If there is something you can do to help widen the circle of our shared consciousness so that more and more of our fellows are inside it, go for it. What I felt inspired to do in the awareness of yet another child left behind and a mom who might end up behind bars for advocating for that child was to write these words and thus invite you, and every kid we know, and know of between us, into our circle of widening, and loving, consciousness. In this way a better day may be no longer coming, it may be here.