Where to begin this post? Ever since the New Age was officially ushered in last month, my writing skills have somehow eroded. Hopefully this is simply another one of those annoying side effects of entering another dimensionality, and will eventually pass. Okay, back to the subject at hand this evening, namely that of Leadership, or no leadership: a complex question. These days, more than ever, semantics are tripping me up. I have noticed that communication attempts with other human beings have become a bit tricky, to say the least. Many seem to be on a hair trigger, and the least little thing I say or write (I hope I am not including most of you, dear Readers!) seems to become obscured and twisted into something else that I did not intend. Like this concept of leadership and who makes decisions, and what is that really all about? Do we, humanity, really need leaders anymore? Shouldn’t people be able to decide things for themselves by now, can’t we throw away the whole idea of following a leader, and simply decide things by consensus, do away with hierarchy and patriarchy and all the ‘archies,’ and essentially become our own leader? Would our human society be better served if the leader mentality dissolved into more of a leaderless, or servant, model?
I will narrow this discussion to the realm of pedagogics, or the education of children, for tonight. By now in the western world, there are so many choices of pedagogical philosophy, it can nearly make one’s head swim. When I lived in Eugene, Oregon, several years ago, the amount of choices for the kind of school my daughters could attend was staggering. Back in the 70′s, the leaders of their public school system had decided that parents ought to be free to choose the type of school their child could attend, which opened up the world of public education in that progressive state. Hence there were traditional schools, Montessori schools, Waldorf-inspired schools, international-inspired schools, immersion schools, and the list continued. No longer was it a simple matter of one’s child attending the neighborhood school for their age level, now parents had to become very savvy and find out about all these various educational philosophies, and then try to make an educated decision as to which one would best fit their child(ren.) No easy task.
Back in the olden days when I was a child, going to school was, in some ways, a whole lot simpler. There was the teacher, and us, the pupils. The teacher, Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So, was the undisputed leader of the class, and everybody knew it. In the schools I attended, there were very few (I remember exactly one) ‘trouble-makers’ and the classroom tended to be a place where kids listened when the teacher gave the lesson, and then more or less quietly did the work afterwards. This was true for all the academic subjects, i.e., language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign languages, history, etc. Only in classes like art, drama, physical education and music, was there more freedom to decide for ourselves how to do whatever it was, but even then, the specialty teacher still was the Teacher, and showed us what to do and what was expected, and we mostly followed, and did it. And there were consequences if we did not.
Fast forward to Now. The question we have to ask is, what kind of human beings do we want to have on the planet, those who can think for themselves and create all sorts of wonderful and amazing things for the Earth, or those who will be very good at following a leader? And is it possible to have both?
I have noticed recently that both on a small scale (i.e., the school where I currently work) and on a collective level, the vast majority of humans, regardless of age, would prefer to defer to The Person In Charge, and do what someone else has either suggested, or commanded, that they do, rather than the alternative: DIY. I am wondering why this is so, and what it implies.
To take an example from my own life, at the school now we are working on creating a theatre play of Alice in Wonderland, in Danish of course. This has been quite the exhaustive process, but by now we are at the point of practicing on the school’s stage, planning the scenery and solving technical problems, and beginning to make and find costumes. Some days it is me and about 16 Danish kids, together in the hall, attempting to make something cohesive out of this. No easy task, I assure you! I am reminded, over and over, of various plays I myself have been a part of, and searching my memory banks for just how the director ‘did it.’ The term ‘herding cats’ springs to mind. The thing is, all those directors were the undisputed leader, and basically told everybody what to do and how to do it, and we more or less complied. However, I ask myself, and now you, dear Readers, is having the Leader/dictator taking charge and telling everybody what to do, the best way to do things in our new, shiny, higher vibrational World? Or is it, perhaps, better to have it be very messy and chaotic for as long as it needs to be, and eventually have the kids (or adults or…) LEARN to Do It Themselves?
Obviously I do not have a solid answer to this question at the moment. I simply am holding it as a living question as I show up there each day, continually let go of expectations day after day, and do my best to let the process unfold. A friend of mine at the school told me that he had learned recently that Plato actually was an advocate (or perhaps inventor?) of the Dictator Leader. He believed in it, apparently, because he felt the most intelligent and enlightened men ought to be the ones to decide everything for the rest of society. Which I found fascinating, since I had always associated Plato, and ancient Greece, with democracy. Can it be simply time to move beyond all of these old concepts, and into something totally, altogether new? Throw away old dictatorship and democratic models, and find a new way for people to be with one another, to learn from one another, without any hierarchy or top dogs, and where everyone gets to learn how to decide, how to create: Yes, a huge new ‘How To DIY’ society is simply waiting for us to become ready for it!
I think there is an old Lao Tse saying, “From chaos appears order.” I think that is what I am getting at, but with a twist: the order that will eventually appear will not come from this or that ego-filled leader, but instead from within each soul. Cooperation, consensus, and compassion, the new way for society to work together. Some quotes to ponder:
Gary Linden in his book “Homeward Horses and Point Geese” tells this story: “A group of American Christians were visiting a Chinese Christian commune in mainland China. The Americans were looking for the leadership of the community. They were directed to see one particularly revered elder. After much searching of the commune grounds they found him, but even when they found him they had to be told that the leader was, indeed, the little old man with the large wheelbarrow full of human dung heading for the nearby field. The greatest among you will, indeed, be the servant of all.”
I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. –Nelson Mandela
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. –Max de Pree
Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy. –Mahatma Gandhi
- Three Professional Reads That are Worth Your Time (teacherleaders.typepad.com)
- StudentsFirst Rheeport Card Is More Education “Reform” For Reform’s Sake (ourfuture.org)