Humanity 101

Humanity is a crazy race, building irrigation systems to help grow food to feed millions while building methods to annihilate those poor souls in seconds. Maybe the greatest irony of education is the stretches of intelligence, research, and application it takes for the human mind to conceive, create, and execute weapons which can evaporate entire cities. The mechanics to build the means by which to destroy someone else wouldn’t cross the mind of an uneducated person.

Only educated people can conceive of and carry out a holocaust.

It feels tragically like no one wants to save the world anymore.

Let’s start simply: there needs to be a new requisite in schools everywhere: Humanity 101. The course could cover the benefits of helping other people, the rewards of sharing not just gains but losses as well. There could be a lesson on compassion and one on being a good Samaritan. A sociologist might talk in one session about how what happens in one section of the globe really does have an impact on the rest, and a psychologist can show the class how to balance the beauty of nature with the evil things people say and do.

A theologian could explain why there are, or at least needs to be, some absolute morals. That person might explain why the belief in postmortem consequences is what can keep evil in check, keep the horrible potential of humanity at bay. Without preaching about salvation in heaven, he or she can certainly drop in a few lectures about earthly responsibility to each other, and if the fear of God is necessary to get it done, so be it; not unlike threatening toddlers who act up with the possibility of Santa skipping their house as a result.

The potential of a little supernatural backlash is just what this world could use right now. Honestly, it seems like no one wants to save the world anymore. I fear for the absence in education of something other than the notion of “career.”

We could talk about foods of other lands. Truly, we just might have as good a chance at preventing war by knowing what our neighbors like on their pizza as understanding the treaties that keep us apart.

At a department meeting once some years ago, I raised the idea with everyone about a class like this–one section, I said. We could discuss world holiday traditions and how to say hi in twenty-five languages. We could show pictures of babies and then pictures of those same babies but older, as soldiers with guns, and with each one tell his or her name, what they do for a living when not killing people, what their favorite pizza topping is and what books do they read to their daughters and sons.

They laughed. The department chair said I needed serious help. She said I really didn’t fit in.

I guess. Whatever.

Humanity 101 could meet each week at a different person’s home, and the first fifteen minutes could be a tour of wall hangings and books and movies, and we’d learn about that person and I’d say, “We should do this 7.3 billion times!” and everyone would laugh. “How else to avoid war? How do you suggest we avoid genocide?”

I know how to quiet a room.

It just seems that maybe to save the world we need to work first on understanding it.

Maybe to save ourselves we need to work first on understanding ourselves.

I don’t know, but after thirty-plus years of leading Humanities courses I know this: We are teaching the wrong material. We are learning the wrong lessons.

2 thoughts on “Humanity 101

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s