This is a very interesting keynote speech given by Dr. Staughton Lynd at the Rouge Forum Conference, Eastern Michigan University in May of this year. Dr. Lynd is a lawyer, educator, historian, and peace activist who sued the Pentagon in 2004 for its so-called Stop-Loss policies. Dr. Lynd has been advocating for peace, workers' rights, and better education in Amereica since the early 60s.WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Greetings, fellow teachers.
What I plan to do in the next little while is to tell you about my experience in the Mississippi Freedom Schools in Summer 1964 and to offer my thoughts about how that experience might relate to the question, What is to be done?
In my remarks, I shall try to convince you of three things:
I. Everything we know about learning instructs that people do not learn by reading Left wing newspapers, nor by attending lectures like this one at which some learned person offers correct theory. People learn by experience. And that is especially true if the learning we have in mind is glimpsing the hope that Another World Is Possible. People must touch and taste an alternative way of doing things, they must however briefly live inside that hope, in order to come to believe that an alternative might really come true.
II. Capitalist society in the United States offers very few opportunities to experience another world, another way of doing things. During the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe it was possible to create the institutions of a new society in the interstices of feudal society: thus there came into existence free cities, guilds, Protestant congregations, banks and corporations, new styles of painting and making music. By the time an emerging bourgeoisie created parliaments, and sought to take over state power, a network of new institutions had come into being within the shell of the old. This does not seem to be possible within capitalism as the sad history of trade unions teaches us.
III. How then, are we to help young people to imagine what a new society might be like? As educators we know that we can't do it just by talking, it has to happen through experience. As organizers we know that it is very difficult to provide such experiences in these United States. The answer, therefore, is . . . but wait, this talk has to have some surprises. I'll get to that.
If we calculate 7 hours to the school day, 18 days to the school month, 10 months to the school year, and 12.5 years in school, that comes to 15,750 hours in which a young person who graduates from high school has been in the presence of another human being called a teacher.