Home > Uncategorized > We Are Reinforcing Closed Mindedness in Schools… and Reaping a Whirlwind of Intolerance

We Are Reinforcing Closed Mindedness in Schools… and Reaping a Whirlwind of Intolerance

David Brooks’ column today offers a frighteningly accurate description of where our culture seems to be headed… and suggests that fear and free-floating anxiety is the corrosive force that is leading us:

Fear is an emotion directed at a specific threat, but anxiety is an unfocused corrosive uneasiness. In the age of small terror this anxiety induces a sense that the basic systems of authority are not working, that those in charge are not keeping people safe.

People are more likely to have a background sense that life is nastier and more precarious — red in tooth and claw. They pull in the tribal walls and distrust the outsider. This anxiety makes everybody a little less humane.

Uncharacteristically Mr. Brooks finds himself defending “philosophic Enlightenment liberalism”:

In country after country this anxiety is challenging the liberal order. I mean philosophic Enlightenment liberalism, not partisan liberalism. It’s the basic belief in open society, free speech, egalitarianism and meliorism (gradual progress). It’s a belief that through reasoned conversation values cohere and fanaticism recedes. It’s the belief that people of all creeds merit tolerance and respect.

He suggests that we embrace pluralism as a value and advocate for that value with strong moral force. He concludes his essay with this:

The anxiety caused by small terror can produce nasty mental habits. Mental resilience becomes as important as physical resilience. That means remaking the case for open society, open cultures and a basic commitment to moral pluralism. Openness is worth the occasional horror fanatics cause.

Like Mr. Brooks, I am distressed to see the traditional liberal order unravelling… but I see us unwittingly contributing to the unravelling by the way we are responding to the random acts of violence that create the free floating anxiety he depicts in the column. I shared my thoughts on this in the comment section:

We are reaping a decade of schooling that features school shooter drills, lock-downs, surveillance cameras, and “good guys with guns” protecting entry ways to schools. The adults who sought that environment for their children and those children who lived through this protected environment and are are now emerging as adults all “…have a background sense that life is nastier and more precarious — red in tooth and claw. They pull in the tribal walls and distrust the outsider” and their anxiety makes them “…a little less humane.”

Why is this the case? I believe it is because we favor raw power over the “…belief that people of all creeds merit tolerance and respect.” When we advocate arming teachers to protect ourselves against “shooters”, advocate carpet bombing civilians to protect ourselves against distance jihadists, and refuse to provide a safe haven for immigrants who are fleeing the ravages of war we are showing the darkest side of our country.

If “openness is worth the occasional horror fanatics cause” we might want to look closely at how we are raising children in a closed bubble and how we are treating those who are living under the rule of the fanatics who want to see a closed culture.

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