Deep Time Journey Forum › Countering Intolerance With Cosmic Education
- March 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm #17902
How is intolerance expressing itself in your classroom? And how are you using deep time learning (cosmic education) to counter intolerance?
Montessori teachers and many others have used the story of the universe to show how we all share the same origin, and how differentiation (difference) is a governing theme of the universe that expresses itself at all levels from microbes to galaxies, and how differences in humans are a natural part of this larger governing process.
Montessori Cosmic Education is the basis at the elementary level for teaching Peace Education, grounding all of education inside a framework that shows how everything is connected. Over all these many years of presenting to teachers, I’ve heard countless stories of how teachers create a space in their classroom for students to share the tradition in their household and to embrace it inside the larger story of an evolving universe.
What are YOU seeing in YOUR classroom right now with the rise of intolerance that’s happening in so many places. Is Cosmic Education providing a way to help answer questions? How are you doing it? Artwork, music, storytelling? What books? Are there ways in which you can understand the rise of intolerance, where causes it, and explain it to your students? How do you do that?
Let’s start a conversation here to share what teachers are doing in their classrooms.March 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm #17912
Cosmic Education can serve as an antidote to intolerance. The overarching themes of interconnectedness and unity are powerful in helping us not only accept differences, but to even celebrate them, and realize we need them to keep us all moving forward. It is our differences that make us unique and special, both individually and as groups within our society.
Two things stand out to me in reading this post; first the idea of teaching whole to specific, and the idea of commonalities of all living things.
In traditional education, we often start from the detail and move outward. For instance, we study our country or state. Montessori sought to give children the big picture first; present the Universe, or the map of the planisphere (whole world map) first. This does several things; it allows the child to have context in the detail to be presented, and the framework. It is like reviewing the table of contents in a book, it gives the detail a place to rest that gives it more meaning. This technique also allows for a more unified and complete perspective over time. Humans can be quite egocentric, and studying things in a larger context gives our students a global, or even universal, perspective.
The fundamental needs of Humans is a series of presentations and works that allow students to discover the commonalities of all humans. Students identify and name those things humans need, which includes not just concrete things such as food and shelter, but moving beyond that and discussing things such as art and religion. Once we see that all humans tend to have a way they celebrate beauty, God, or birth of new life, and we then compare these to our own with a sense of respect and reverence, we develop tolerance. The differences are investigated and honored, but even more so a deep respect for the differences emerges. In many schools, the study of other religions does not begin until middle school history, when ideas of tolerance are typically already formed (although never too late!). We want to allow these exposures at early ages as well.
Lastly, I cannot state strongly enough the power of connecting with nature. We cannot expect children who don’t play with the earth or spend time in nature, or know where their food comes from, to truly then care for the future of the Earth. Allowing children to merely play and be with nature with their time unstructured, allows them to connect and therefore care. Even adults find it to be healing, rejuvenating and often necessary. More to come on this another day….
These things can be done in homes with some forethought as well.
Some books I enjoy on this subject:
Last Child in the Woods, Louv
Peaceful Children, Peaceful World, Aline Wolf
On The Day You Were Born, Frasier
Miss Rumphius, CooneyMarch 17, 2017 at 12:08 pm #17917
I work with Lower Elementary children (ages 6-8). I agree with Gwen Shangle’s point about the structure of Cosmic Education experiences that move from the “big picture” perspective to the personal and local. Lower Elementary children are moving out of the egocentric stage of their lives, and it is truly meaningful for them when their first impressions are of what it is that we all share as members of the human race–that we all began from that same instant in time, that we all live under the same stars, that we all have particular needs as living creatures. Maria Montessori spoke of the absorbent mind, and I think it is true that children of this age have absorbent hearts as well. They are so ready for the lessons of humanity, and to discover their roles in it. Their sense of social justice is so strong at this time. The Lower Elementary classroom seems a perfect place and time to guide children in becoming global citizens as their social selves emerge.March 17, 2017 at 5:23 pm #17918
In my work with adults in intercultural communication contexts, I have seldom been content with ‘tolerance’ as a disposition. It’s has a negative odour rather than the positive ones which words like ’empathy’, ‘patience’, ‘approval’ bring into focus. I guess too that ‘intolerance’ is a milder form of saying one is ‘prejudiced’ or ‘narrow-minded’. Yes, I love the Cosmic Education – Deep Time Journey Orientation because it reverses these. ‘Open-minded’, ‘compassionate’, ‘fair’, ‘kind’, ‘soft-hearted’, ‘tender’ – these are words which ring with deep resonance. Whereas for me ‘tolerance’ has an element of ‘well I’d really rather you be different from the way you are but I’ll put up with you for now’, which is just another form of ‘intolerance’. Thanks Jennifer for your post. These two words are shorthand for all the positive dispositions that are out there and available to us. But let’s expand the words to their full relational and life-giving meaning.March 17, 2017 at 10:11 pm #17919
Do any of you have particular stories of children or adults who were moved by deep time (cosmic education) to go beyond boundaries to embrace others in the full relational sense of communion that Thomas Berry talks about when he says “We’re a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects”?March 18, 2017 at 11:22 am #17925
Regarding your post, Di, I feel the same way. The word tolerance, for me, doesn’t sit well. It feels, as you say, like putting up with something rather than feeling love and appreciation for other people with different experiences and cultures. Acceptance is better, but it still feels a little “off” because I can accept something with resignation rather than welcome it with love and gratitude. Not sure we have a word in our language that really captures the meaning I think all of us are striving to articulate.
Jennifer, regarding your original question, thanks to the inspirational work of Traci and others at Ridge and Valley Charter School, we are teaching our humanities course this year using various cosmic lenses to better understand and perceive human society’s relationship to the patterns and features of the macrocosm. One of those lenses is differentiation, and we introduced this lens during the Indian Removal Act, Civil War, Reconstruction Era period. We began by marveling at the importance of differentiation at the inception of our universe, as captured by the images of cosmic microwave background radiation, which show tiny fluctuations in the density/temperature of space. Those differences were critical to the formation and emergence of stars, galaxies, planets, and ultimately life because they allowed gravity to go to work.
In this sense, we set the context of the value of differentiation in Creation. We then invoke the Eastern perspective of “mutual arising,” which just means that at every scale, we see the feature of on/off systems, of birth/death, light/dark, self/other, and so on. This differentiation, although illusory in the sense that it always constitutes One Whole, nevertheless generates energy and creativity through dynamic tension. Therefore, as it relates to human and particularly American history, we make a grave mistake when we try to assimilate or even eradicate such all-important differences. First of all, such attempts are futile because, as we can see at every scale, differentiation exists, so human society will always be governed by the same principle, and secondly because even if we were successful, such an undifferentiated status would stagnate creativity and the dynamic exchanges of collective learning.
Differentiation, then, as it applies to race, ethnicity, sexuality, political ideology, and so on, is something we should celebrate. I mean, sure, I can’t help but wish that Donald Trump hadn’t been “elected” president. Nevertheless, look at the passion and creativity his embarrassing and inexcusable behavior is stirring up. We would never know what we stood for if there weren’t people standing for something else. This ideological tug-of-war will always exist, and no matter how frustrating, it does in fact produce the very political/ethical tension necessary to create the values and principles that each one of us must then either protect and promote or reject and guard against. Nevertheless, we would do well to keep in mind that we will never eradicate “the other” belief system. Such a goal would be foolhardy because it ignores the immutable law of differentiation and mutual arising that holds at every scale of the universe.March 22, 2017 at 9:37 am #17952
Intolerance: I share with Kyle the deep regret that there isn’t the ‘perfect’ word in perhaps any language, but ‘we sort of know what we are talking about’, and most agree that the narrow condition pointed to by the word ‘intolerance’, is largely the result of a stunted world-view. To his suggestions I would add the sense of ‘welcome’ and ‘invitation’, openness, expectation, wonder, excitement. We (Paula and I) don’t ‘work in the classroom’, unless you think of all the many contexts in which we mutually impact each other as a giant ‘classroom’ of sorts. And it is, in some ways.
I work primarily with music, first as an expression of the sublime beauty of the ‘Natural World’ (itself a term with huge dimensions of ‘interpretation’ and understanding) and of our ‘interiority’, our integral perception of being alive. But because of the elaborate poetic narrative of the Emergent Universe Oratorio (http://samguarnaccia.com/about-emergent-universe-oratorio/), the underlying ‘story’ enveloped in the music, both poetry and story intertwine with the music to ‘amplify’ and expand the experience of language (text). But so far beyond and deeper than the metaphorical symbolic use of words, is direct experience; and beyond that is an experience of experience itself, the enveloping oceanic becoming we feel when, as a child or adult we leave the book on the desk and wander into the sunlit garden and wonder at a butterfly alighting on a flower. Our first kiss, falling in love at age 15, looking up at the Milky Way in the desert, –fill in the blank–and listening to great music have the ability to completely bypass the analytical mind and release us to our deepest self. Only the ‘malignant narcissist’ is as nearly immune to this ‘flow consciousness’ as any living being can be.
The great axial shifts in collective cultural consciousness (world view) have always happened in the ecstatic embrace of either scientific ‘discovery’….or philosophical ‘breakthrough’….or some combination of forces that engage the profound emotional element of ‘understanding’, of self concept. Never have facts alone, not even alternative ones!, generated the great transformations of consciousness necessary for our survival, much less for the thriving of humanity in the whole Earth community. At its best, music presents our huge brains, that strive continually to make sense of a messy world, with the opportunity to go beyond surface detail and experience the enchantment of deep relations. And intentional, experienced listening (unfortunately a rarity), is an experience of cosmic participation in the indescribable diversity and beauty of the bewilderingly complex tapestry of life. And it is free!….as well as liberating.
Children of course, at least those who are not born into an immediate struggle for existence, have few if any barriers to complete ‘tolerance’ of diversity, and more than tolerance, are capable of CELEBRATION of those ‘distinctions’ that are barely noticed, but rather are elements of enrichment of experience, wonder, and the future capacity for disciplining the analytical, judgmental, limiting and controlling adult obsessions…..and the capacity for and openness to the Great Story of our Deep Time unity within the Universe.March 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm #17953
Thanks, everyone for your posts. I wonder whether some would use the word ‘compassion’ – experiencing and feeling together with – to ‘trump’ ‘tolerance’. It’s true that children are usually better at accepting difference than adults who have somehow formed a concreteness that doesn’t allow entry of the other who is different. So for the original question, I have to say I’m still very much a beginner in the ways in which we use cosmic education / deep time learning to counter ‘intolerance’. I’ve noticed that adults I work with are somewhat stunned into silence on viewing the Journey of the Universe for the first time. Perhaps the Oratorio does more to engage the emotions and draw us into a compassionate understanding/appreciation of the whole. Even so, something quite analytical and technical, such as the Capra book/systems approach still leads me to ‘wonder’ – the wonder that will guide us (Swimme). How might these adults become children again, how might we loosen up that which has become hard set within us? How might our sense of wonder be nurtured as we learn our way forward. Travelling with you … and very much looking forward to further replies.March 26, 2017 at 1:03 am #17976
“Otherness” is a real phenomenon and I’d hazard a guess that it might even be a necessary phase in the development of the person prior to its transcendence. The trouble is that for human beings, it seems, is that they remain stuck in “otherness” and being at the effect of the world. That is to say that when they experience threat or pain they externalize it in blame: “She made me so angry!” We all do this. “Otherness” rather than “oneness” is the kernel of thought that allows for such things as all the “–isms” to arise: racism, sexism, nationalism, ageism…etc. etc. Though the stories of Cosmic Education definitely plant seeds for expanded consciousness on the part of the child (and the adult) who hears them, they don’t necessarily help the child (or adult) when the amygdala has been activated. We’re at our base reactions then, and a story told once or twice in our classrooms won’t necessarily kick in to bring a child (or an adult) back to their rational thinking brain which allows for expanded consciousness around oneness in the first place. To shift these tendencies in my work with children, I use the stories of Cosmic Education to be sure–but, I also think teaching mindfulness as well as using songs specifically about oneness, singing them often and practicing a sitting meditation for a few times a day, actually creates more embodied oneness as a counter to “otherness” than the Universe story at a strategy. These simple strategies paired with an emphasis on storytelling of what we hold in common via the story of the universe, as well as direct anti-bias, anti-racist curriculum (we have generational reparations to make ) could truly create a more beautiful world in the hands of children with such tools.March 26, 2017 at 2:05 pm #17979
Fascinating posts! Based on what a number of you are saying, Cosmic Education provides a context that can best cultivate compassion and understanding in an embodied way when combined with immersion in nature (Gwen), music (Sam), and experiences of mindfullness (Peter). Lisa, thanks for what you say about lower elementary and they’re readiness to be global citizens.
Kyle, are you combining Big History with immersion in nature, music and/or mindfullness at the secondary level. Peter, do you explicitly link cosmic ed with mindfullness? Di, I know you’ve have a lot of experience with intercultural communication, do you link cosmic ed (deep time perspective) with embodied ways of knowing?
I saw an African drumming program with elementary age children just a few days ago and it struck me so powerfully that hearing the story of the universe and having the children drum as part of the story is another fantastic way to embody the story, as dance would be as well. When I do storytelling, I like to have the students act out some part of the story. Thanks Peter for bringing up the importance of embodiment. It’s one thing to understand something intellectually, quite another for it to resonate powerfully through you body and to link those sensations to your thoughts. At Cosmic/Earth Literacy program at Genesis Farm (with Miriam MacGillis) where I first got my start in this work, the program combined intellectual exploration of the universe story with drama, artwork, meditation, music, walk in woods and gardening. I think that’s why people were so profoundly moved by the experience. Learning this work at a conference removed from sunlight and the outdoors is not the same thing. Jane Riddiford and Rod Sugden are doing amazing work with teaching the story inside gardens in the heart of inner city London. If you’re not familiar with their work do go to Rod Sugden’s profile page and look at the “resources” he’s added. Here are the page showing the resources he’s added. The two minute trailer of the Big Bang Summer School gives you a glimmer about how they do it. He and Jane gave a great PD program in the PD series.
https://deeptimejourney.org/people/rodsugden/resources/myresources/March 27, 2017 at 11:30 am #17984
TestMarch 28, 2017 at 11:05 am #17992
Joyce J RouseParticipant
My differentiation from you all is that you write to express yourselves so beautifully! My words on paper seldom match my efforts to express them. Like Sam G, (beautiful work you are doing!) I express much of my process with music. But here goes on my responses to above.
I, too, have struggled with the word tolerance, but words are almost always inadequate to express profound, deep concepts. And each word seems to have “baggage” for somebody…I think perhaps tolerance is the first step to acceptance, compassion and more. So think of it as part of a continum.
Last week within 24 hours I worked doing musical Cosmic Ed with Pre-K-8th grades AND a nursing home with 80 residents ages 50-105. I find that there are many similarities in the music I choose for these groups to reflect the principles of Earth Literacy and Cosmic Ed. My underlying goal is often to make and keep our world and worldviews BIG. The language of music, both folk and familiar songs from the canon of American and World music to the catalog of songs I’ve written over the years to address specific gaps in the canon, is brain food. Singing lights up more portions of the brain than any other activity according to the latest neuro research.
When I could not find songs about biodiversity I wrote and recorded them. Like all of you, we are continuing to create and co-create what the Universe is asking for in each evolving moment.
The bigger we keep our world, mind and information, the more we can tolerate the different/other.
You can hear all of my music at http://www.earthmama.org
I also recommend SongsforTeaching.com for a well cataloged selection of music resources by topic, age, and season.
Thank you to each of you for your profound creativity and sharing your insights.March 28, 2017 at 7:32 pm #18013
Thank you, Joyce. Your work is amazing! I can see ways to share this with my Everyday Philosophy group and hope I can meet the permission requirements.March 29, 2017 at 11:47 am #18018
Thanks so much for this Joyce. The power of music is such a powerful opener as Sam’s and Joyce’s work so clearly show. Thanks again Peter for bringing up the importance of mindfullness and other modes of knowing when combined with the cosmic narrative become far more transformative. People may also be interested in knowing that Joyce and Maureen Wild are leading a retreat at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in June. Here’s a link to the listing in the member events calendar.March 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm #18022
Joyce J RouseParticipant
If anyone on this list is a Pandora user: How about creating a Pandora channel of Deep Time Music?
We could land on the radar of folks who find the music of the Cosmic Story.
Most of my music is playing there, but I have not gotten the hang of creating channels yet. My Earth Mama Christmas Music station got lots of play during the holidays, but it was more by accident than planning.
Sam and others, is your music there
Yes, please join Maureen and I in Iowa in June!
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