Friday, February 18, 2005

FLOW as a Revival of the Feminine

In order to create better ways of living, we need to find a way to allow distinctively feminine understandings to prevail. In the world in which we have created, a world based on legal restrictions and technological devices, we are controlled by abstract rules and useful gadgets. But the distinctively feminine contribution to life will only flourish when females and males alike are allowed to create better schools, better communities, better relationships, better social norms, and better cultures.

Maria Montessori was an unrecognized genius. She created a mode of education in which children learn spontaneously, happily, in a nurturing environment. Every educated adult should observe classes at a good Montessori school. Her pedagogy is nicely summed up in her quotation: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’”

Children spontaneously teach themselves in a great Montessori classroom. I was once giving an internet executive a tour of a Montessori middle school classroom and he exclaimed, as he observed the students busily working away without apparent guidance “How do you get them to do this? This is exactly what I want my employees to be doing!” This brilliantly designed environment, resulting in initiative and independence, is precisely why Ayn Rand was an advocate of Montessori education as the best education for free human beings.

But Maria Montessori’s work was undermined by the public school system, by education professors, and by militaristic nationalism that preferred conformist indoctrination to liberating education. Montessori education has been crippled for a hundred years by these hostile forces. We now see Montessori pre-schools spreading rapidly (in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, hardly a hippy haven, there are more than 100). In a free education market, liberating Montessori K-12 schools, of the kind that I would like to create, would steadily gain market share.

In the absence of government controls and restrictions, more female geniuses like Montessori would have created more and better ways to learn and to live together. Females are often better than males at constructing humane ways of living and interacting. They are often better at creating environments that nourish the spirit. They have a greater commitment to beauty, to community, to raising children, and to love.

There was most certainly a social prejudice to be overcome: European culture in the early 20th century was aggressively patriarchal. Maria Montessori was the first female medical doctor in Italy, and I’m sure she faced abundant bigotry. Unfortunately, as the battle for female social equality gradually gained ground in the 1960s and 1970s, so called “progressive” thinkers were simultaneously committed to massive government intrusion in our lives.

Just as our society was becoming wealthy enough to allow for more and more entrepreneurial efforts in education and community building, the 60s radicals imposed harsh legislation dictating how life should be lived. They created a confrontational judicial system that encourages lawsuits, they created a vast regulatory apparatus that reduces flexibility in employment, they created a federal bureaucracy devoted to dictating how children with learning disabilities should be taught, they created a welfare system that systematically destroyed black families, and they created a mind-set attached to the notion that academic researchers advising bureaucrats could make our lives better.

I have met many talented women who went into business, law, social work, psychotherapy, and other fields aspiring to do good, aspiring to fulfill their desire to nurture and help others. Surprisingly, in my experience those who went into business are often the most fulfilled in this respect. Many of those who have gone in to law to help women and children have found themselves devoting their time to bitter divorces and dealing with the ugliness of the state child protective services. Those in social work often find that their public agencies can do very little to help their clients; they manage to provide stop-gap measures for some, but there is often little sense of real progress in improving lives. Those in psychotherapy in private practice may find their work rewarding, but those who work for institutions often find themselves to be slaves of a bureaucratic system that systematically prevents them from providing their clients with what they truly need.

Our deepest problems have to do with culture. Culture, in turn, is based on those day-to-day habits and attitudes that shape our lives. It was necessary to destroy patriarchy, and yes, there is still work to be done. But after the destruction had taken place, there should have been an opportunity to create a better alternative. By means of deliberately designed schools, communities, health care systems, insurance companies, and other alternatives, a multitude of new micro-cultures could have been created that successfully resulted in more egalitarian male-female relationships while also creating responsible norms of sexuality and civility. Instead, the 60s succeeded in destroying previous standards of sexuality and civility without replacing them with anything in particular.

As a result, we now live in a world in which the most popular computer game which rewards teenage boys for raping and killing a prostitute; in which rap artists rhapsodize about violating and killing women; in which Mary Pipher reminds us that American teen culture is a “girl-destroying place.” Uncivilized, or inadequately civilized, males are a terrible threat to women and children.

I interpret the rise of social conservatism as a reaction to the irresponsible destruction of social norms in the 60s. Had institutions been created that had allowed for the creation of responsible new social norms, that were more sexually egalitarian and open without being irresponsible, the current reaction would not exist. If, instead of writing essays on the masturbatory aspects of Emily Dickinson and how all heterosexual sex is rape, more feminists had worked as entrepreneurs, creating better schools, communities, and health care modalities, our lives would be vastly better today.

We need to re-feminize our culture by allowing more feminine entrepreneurship in the creation of schools, communities, and health care.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

D'accordo. Montessori herself, had she gone into business (with the benefit of modern IP protection) instead of politics (working for Mussolini for 11 years to try to force her ideas on society, top down), might have created an organization that lasted and evolved instead of the stuck-in-1952 curriculum currently being used in most Montessori pre-schools.

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