Sunday, November 19, 2006

Created Equal, Schooled into Uniform Nothingness

James Hillman explains the concept of "All men are created equal" better than anything I've read before.

From The Soul's Code by James Hillman:

In our nation the distinction between truth and opinion has solidified into the wall between church and state, between revealed truth and polls of popular opinion. Yet the Declaration of Independence asserts that the American democratic state is founded upon the transcendent "Truth": "All Men are created equal."

What is the basis of this claim? Inequalities are there before the first breath. Any nurse in the birthing section of a hospital can confirm that inequality exists from the beginning. Infants differ from one another. Genetic studies show innate differences of skills, temperaments, intensities. as for the circumstances into which we descend, what could be more unequal than our environments? Some are disadvantaged, others privileged by nurture and nature both - and from the beginning.

Since neither nurture nor nature gives equality, where do we even get the idea? It cannot be induced from the facts of life; nor can equality be reduced to a factor common to all human beings, such as erect posture, symbolic language, or manipulation of fire, because individual differences elaborate the common factor in billions of ways. Equality can only be deduced from uniqueness, from what the Scholastic philosophers called the "principle of individuality." I am imagining this uniqueness as the haeccitas (Medieval Latin for "thisness") in the genius as the formative factor given with each person's birth so that he or she is this one and not some other one, anyone, or no one.

So equality must be axiomatic, a given; as the Declaration of Independence says, that we are equal is a truth self-evident. we are equal by the logic of eachness. Each by definition is distinct from every other each and therefore equal as such. we are equal because each brings a specific calling into the world, and we are unequal in every other respect - unfairly, unjustly, utterly unequal, except in the fact of each's unique genius. Democracy rests, therefore, upon the foundation of an acorn.

the acorn pushes beyond the edge; it's principal passion is realization. the calling demands untrammeled freedom of pursuit, a freedom "live on arrival" and this freedom cannot be guaranteed by society. (If the opportunities for freedom are decreed by society, then society has the superior power, and freedom becomes subject to society's authority.) As democratic equality can find no other logical ground but the uniqueness of each individual's calling, so freedom is founded upon the full independence of calling. When the writers of the Declaration of Independence stated that all are born equal, they saw that the proposition necessarily entailed a companion: All are born free. It is the fact of calling that makes us equal, and the act of calling that demands we be free. The principle guarantor of both is the invisible individual genius.

I cannot help but think that schools increasingly violate the sacred trust of nurturing our offspring to recognize and follow their individual spirits. NCLB is the political poison that has transformed schools from places of learning into factories of unholy conformity.

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