Hanna Arendt, two ideas

The month of October is almost over and I have posted nothing. That this not happen, that I allow a month a pass, I’ll share with you a couple of ideas that I take from Hanna Arendt’s Crisis in Education.

First this: “… the essence of education is natality, the fact that human beings are born into the world.”

If nothing else this statement does have a certain beauty of its own, our being born into the world. But what does it mean —that the essence of education is natality, and being born into the world? Of course we’re born into the world.

Perhaps it means that when we look at the child the world into which the child is born should determine the child’s education? Or that when we look at the child we can’t ignore that his education has to be all about that world?

Is it that the schools are not paying enough attention to the world? And if not doing what instead?

Second there is this: “In America education plays a different and, politically, incomparably more important role than in other countries. …the explanation lies in the fact that America has always been a land of immigrants.”

Now at one time or the other every place on the surface of this earth has been a “land of immigrants.” The movement of peoples out of Africa and into other lands is, or at least was for nearly all of the 100,000 or so years of homo sapiens’ time on the earth, what history, our history anyway, is most about.

If America is exceptional in this regard it has to be because of the speed, the rapidity with which this movement has taken place during the most recent centuries. And it’s still going on.

I note daily that there are politicians who would, perhaps to protect what they see as their native interests, no longer have us be a land of immigrants. Apparently in their eyes those who continue to come here are no longer the same as the millions who came before them.

Whereas for Arendt the education of successive waves of immigrants into our world should be what most characterizes our schools these politicians would now, in flagrant denial of our history, and perhaps greatness, deny the newcomers, the most recent wave of immigrants, the right to attend our schools.

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