This month, on October 5, to be exact, is World Teachers’ Day. A teacher used to be, and in some countries still is, a venerable occupation. A teacher was not simply someone who taught you math or English, but someone who taught you the wisdom of life and was a role model to follow. Judging by what is happening today, it seems we are in desperate need of good teachers. For all our knowledge, we feel lost. Unless we learn where we really are, what we are doing here, why we are here, and how to direct ourselves toward a better place, we will lapse into another world war.
To emerge from the slump, we must stop focusing solely on knowledge. Acquiring information does not create happy people. Where has the information about nuclear fusion gotten us, for example? We’ve got nuclear weapons that can annihilate humanity in minutes. We’ve got so much knowledge in every realm of life, but where is it all leading? We’re heading toward dire states.
Instead of teaching us what they should, our poor teachers regurgitate what the government instructs them to teach. They are forced to lie to the students, but the students know better. By age 9 or 10, most children know that none of what they are hearing is true. They stop believing their teachers, stop paying attention, while the teachers, who must make a living, keep repeating the same stories. There are no other motivations here but money and power; these are the rulers of the Earth, and no regime or government is free from their grip.
A change will come only when we realize that this is not the way to live, and resolve to change our motivation. But the change will happen either because we reflect on where we are going and stop ourselves before we get there, or because we did not stop ourselves in time and realize our mistake after the bombs have gone off.
To make the necessary changes in time, we cannot leave it only to teachers and excuse ourselves from the task. We have to reconstruct the entire system, the basis of our civilization. The fact that we are self-absorbed and narcissistic is no secret. But this is not the problem. The problem is that we agree to stay this way. We’ve known for decades that humanity is on a path of self-destruction due to its own self-absorption. Yet, we have done nothing to change course.
Now we must become our own teachers, and not just on World Teachers’ Day, but every day and every moment of our lives. Moreover, the world we live in has become so intertwined that it is not enough to implement the changes one country at a time. While some countries engage in reforms, others will maintain their abusive attitude and will ruin the progress for everyone. Therefore, the initiative to create a positive tomorrow must incorporate the entire world. However implausible this may sound, we must remember that the only other option to this route is war, a nuclear war.
Accordingly, the education system must adjust its values, curricula, and goals toward bettering humanity. By bettering, I am not referring to cutting CO2 emissions or limiting the use of fossil fuels and plastics. I am referring to something much deeper than that: Bettering ourselves means making ourselves better people. To do that, we must learn to be positive and caring toward each other.
Only when we learn to care for one another will we begin to care for the environment. When we care about other people, we will want them to live in a friendly environment, one that can support them and where they can be happy. When we stop wanting to exploit other people or overpower them, we will stop exploiting the environment in order to achieve our selfish goals. As a result, we will reduce consumption to a sustainable level that will allow nature to rejuvenate and restore its lost balance.
We have no time to waste. We must be our own teachers now, to teach ourselves to be human, meaning humane. Even if we do not know how to do it or where to begin, we needn’t worry; our intention to do good, to connect with other people, will be our guide. If we let care for others be our teacher, we will need no other teaching.
Teacher Emma Rossi works with student Sara Montano in her first grade class at the Sokolowski School, where students and teachers are required to wear masks because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S., September 15, 2021. REUTERS/Brian Snyder