Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures. Previous posts here.)
While the Warrior Poet watches the Rangers in the World Series, I am keeping him company. Well, sort of. We are in the same room, but I am working on my ANI chart for the question, "Should the Supreme Court have ordered the dissolution of the Standard Oil Trust?"
I have been working on this ANI chart for several days now. On the one hand, I think it is terrific. It makes me slow down. I have a sense of leisure about developing my opinion since I need thirty items each for affirmative, negative and interesting. (I might as well wait until I have all of them before deciding.) I need that time and additional information to correct my faulty notions about the issue, too.
On the other hand, it is torture. It forces me to look at all sides of the issue! Besides being time-consuming, looking at all sides of an issue means I cannot get comfortable with a straightforward answer.
If I had chosen an issue from an organizing story, in which good and evil are presented in black and white, it would be easier. Perhaps this is what my middle schooler needs as she learns the concepts in LTW. But my issue this go-round is one of the first debates between big business and government in the U.S. And it just is not that simple. My middle schooler's issue this time is "whether Mr. Elton should have married Harriet Smith." Much simpler than mine, but not quite an organizing story issue!
I learned about organizing stories in a book on learning differences. Interestingly, I cannot find any info on it by googling. Organizing stories are fairy tales, parables, etc., that help us "organize" our ideas about good moral character. Opposite are the more complex, mixed-bag stories in which people aren't only good or only evil. In organizing stories, good always wins. Children need organizing stories in their young lives. They realize early on that "something is everywhere and always amiss." They need to know that dragons can and will be slain. And I am beginning to think issues from those types of stories are the simplest to debate when beginning to learn the persuasive essay! Get all the messy issues out of the way while learning the process! But I don't know. It is wonderful the way these messy issues make us think.
Some folks believe that an issue like the dismantling of the Standard Oil Trust does contain characters stolidly good or certainly evil. That is not what I found, though. John D. Rockefeller and his cronies were complicated guys. People representing the U.S. government, whether politicians or statesmen, had to grapple with their own interests as well as governing principles. The world was exploding with new processes and unprecedented success in many areas. Failure flew in the face of such possibilities. And people tried to fix things.
Today the world is exploding with children who think they can fix things. Are these kids that did not have the benefit of organizing stories or never moved beyond them? I wonder. Probably the reason is something altogether different. But they do seem to lack a sense of reality.
Now I am rambling! I will stop.
Updated 10/28: That last paragraph about lacking a sense of reality has bothered me ever since I published this post. You mean we cannot fix things? You mean we have to move beyond the idea that dragons can and will be slain? That's not what I meant. I was trying to make sense of my mind's intuitive leaps: Katie, have you considered this? Have you considered that? etc. I need to be cautious about hitting 'publish' in the midst of ruminating!
We do not need to give up the idea that dragons can and will be slain. They can be. They will be. But we need to understand that human beings are fallible-- more than that, they can be stupid, and greedy, and even evil (in some areas) at the same time that they are kind and generous and good (in other areas). People are weird. They have blind spots. NO ONE is going to behave righteously every time. Sad, but true. It is just not going to happen. That is reality here on earth.
The broader reality is that the good is coming, and it will not be ushered in by earthly governments, or by pure capitalism, or by parents or teachers or students or bosses or workers getting everything "right".
Should we try to get everything right? Yes, we should. We won't make it, but we will get closer than if we don't try. Should we be surprised when others do not get it right? No, we shouldn't. People are unrighteous. Should we work toward improving the likelihood that people will do right? Yes. (I'm sure I don't have to point out that we as individuals do not get it right either. We all already know that about ourselves. Right?)
As a nation we need to understand that people sin. This is wisdom. We also need to learn how our systems work. Unfortunately, a lot of what gets passed off as teaching is merely talking points for one agenda or another. When we learn to value mercy and truth more than we value our own 'side', we will be able to educate our children. Perhaps then our children will be able to articulate what they think is right and wrong about the world, and act effectively in the direction of right, instead of flailing around in anger. But only if they first understand that all have sinned, and do sin, and will sin.
Updated 10/27 to add a great article that illustrates the impact of reality on idealogy.