We cage many things to protect them from the kind of behaviour that should be caged. We cage trees, reserves, art works, our homes and our land. We even cage our children for large periods of their youth. We have legalized the schooling cage even though it labels and places people and subjects in boxes that are too small.
The schooling cage often produces gifted underachievers, and low self esteem. It produces the measuring of worth against grades achieved in a limited range of subjects and against what others do. We call this cage 'education'. But because it is compulsory, it takes it out of the realm of what philosophy teaches us is the freedom implied and necessary for something to be considered 'education'. School is the cage where our children learn the values and cultures of others, often resulting in the rejection of family values for those of peer and 'others'. In this cage the importance of group cohesiveness is valued more than individual integrity; conformity is valued more than uniqueness; blind obedience and trust rather than questioning authority figures and theories, which are sometimes portrayed as truisms, thus necessitating revisions of our science books. The value of achieving similar learning and being ranked is valued more than finding, nurturing and honouring the skills, abilities and potential of each person. Academic study is given more status than what we call 'technological' skills. It is valued more than socializing and enjoying each others company with a range of ages. Our values are reflected in the time we give to each subject or classroom management. We reward written skills more than oral and the presentation of ideas rather than the important contribution of the idea itself. We are often too busy to do anything but worry about the discrepancies between what we think we value and what our actions show we value.
We insist on Secularism because some believe that knowledge can be taught outside a value system, as if some learnings are value free, truths that are outside of the cultural, gender and language constructs that make it subjective. 'Secular' schooling is no more free of religion than 'Religious' education. It has consequences for political, social, religious and every other area of life. Do we think that without knowledge of our religious heritage (and we do have one!), we can study our past? Art History, Culture and the other subjects we view as of 'educational' value need religious literacy. This cage could be called the propaganda cage because it involves knowing the world through other peoples world view and seeks to communicate only one world view -what is thought to be a non religious one.
We build our 'city walls' everywhere, caging the land and limiting access even to public places in order to protect them from the feral behaviour of animals and people. Our fences enclose smaller and smaller spaces and our ignorance and greed builds houses end to end. It initiates wars and genocides in order to protect one way of living -our own. The denser the population, the greater the need for controls, which grow in number and complexity along with the building of administrative monitoring monsters -more and more rules and the pace of life increases adding it's burdens of stress. The coast and the country are rapidly being snapped up by city dwellers wanting weekends and sometimes lives away from the "rat race" that gave them the resources to purchase their relaxation environments.
What should we cage? Should we cage behaviour that is aggressive and assaultive? We give criminal records for a one off slap, ruining someone's employability for life: a costly impulsive act set in concrete, but protect assaulting magpies. We prefer to cage smaller more docile birds. We have caged outspoken female voices with cultural wires and continue to slash the soul of would be tall poppies. We die for peace in more ways than one, preferring comfort to confrontation. We die slowly from fear because our cages have conformed us like the roads we build driving the traffic. With only one life to live, and that very short, what should we cage?
My heart looks beyond, into the distance, past the cages we have made. I look into the heavens and see an open door ...