5.13.2009

Dualism and Western Education

Writing that essay on Rhetoric and Gorgias below made me realize what I've been so passionate about lately... I'm convinced that education in the West is suffering at every level from its continued dualistic assumptions. My dad, himself a college professor (in Physical Education, no less!) who is currently working closely with some Indian educators, told me recently that every public school in India begins with 90 minutes of physical education every day. Stretching, cricket, Yoga, etc... then shower. Then books. Our students sit in rows for four hours, walk down a short hall to eat a bunch of high fructose corn syrup, then sit on a step outside for fifteen minutes, then sit in rows for another four hours.

I've been doing Yoga for a while now. I can't believe I haven't expressed it this clearly before. Contemporary Theory, Philosophy, and Rhetoric make no claims on the body... in one of my Yoga videos the Yogi asks viewers to bend sideways, reaching one hand up toward the sky, letting the head fall sideways, looking up at the high hand, letting the low hand hang down to the knee. She says, "This movement will open your physical heart; an open heart opens the mind."

What Yoga has understood for thousands of years -- that the experience cannot come to a person who will not get out of their study, off their couch -- is something that the West has yet to embrace in its public education institutions. We believe that a person who eats unhealthy and never exercises, who never walks in the woods, never throws a ball, might be our next great philosopher. But to the Indians, such a notion is laughable and characteristically immature (how young this "West" is, after all). Wisdom is half body, half mind, and we have been treating only the mind for hundreds of years.

And this all explains -- for me, if for nobody else -- why I have been so drawn to those descriptions of poetry and literature that go so far as to make physical claims (this one from Emily):
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?
Seriously: stop talking about all of these ideas and try one. I mean, you know, if you want.



My favorite line here is, "If you want to bring your arms down, the best I can advise you is: Don't."

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