Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Education Needs is a Darth Vader Figure

I was a HUGE Star Wars fan growing up. Of course I grew up in the generation that saw the original trilogy in the theaters. Jedi vs. Sith, good vs. evil, empire vs. rebellion; it was all about dualistic reasoning. This film series was a perfect metaphor for how most people see may aspects of their world. Lucas left us in the 1980s believing that good defeated evil and that things were going to be restored to the way things were before the Sith took charge of the galaxy. We see near the end of Return to Jedi Darth Vader renounce the dark side by defeating the Emperor just before he himself died thus leaving the future of the force in the hands of Luke Skywalker, a Jedi. We all interpreted this as a sort of repentance on the part of Anakin Skywalker and there was little in these three films to give us much reason to see it any differently.

When the first of the prequels came out I was in college. In that film we see a young Anakin Skywalker who the Jedi council believes may be the one prophesied to bring balance to the force. They mistakenly believe that this person in the prophecy will kill the Sith, eliminate evil, and reinforce their worldview. We all know this is not the case. Anakin ends up, in the third film, turning to the dark side and killing all but two of the jedi. And those who hold fast to a dualistic way of thinking will miss the point and decry that Luke Skywalker was the real one from the prophecy.

If we interpret the Jedi as representing an archetypal dualistic worldview we can also interpret the Sith, who we really never come to know much about until the 3rd film in the prequel, as representing a pluralistic one. However, while the Jedi purportedly use their dualistic view of the force for the good of others, the Sith use their pluralistic understanding for selfish gain. In the end, to bring balance to the force required a neutralizing of these ideas. Using your powers for the good of others while operating from a dualistic mindset only is good for others who view the world in this narrow way. Anyone in the gray areas becomes a victim of the good the Jedi do for others. On the other hand, drawing power from a pluralistic understanding for selfish means is also bad. What brought balance to the force was an elimination of dualistic thinking and the use of pluralistic thinking for the good of others. So, when Anakin killed all the Jedi he fulfilled the first part of this prophecy and when Darth Vader killed the Emperor he fulfilled the second part.

It occurred to me today that this story is the perfect analogy for both what our current education system is and what is needed to fix it. We operate under a dualistic world view. Our schools' Jedi (teachers, administrators, honor students, etc.) operate largely under the false belief that they are doing good for the world by doing good by the system. Teacher pay is one indication that they do this for unselfish reasons. But, as many progressive educators, John Dewey, Seymour Papert, Alfie Kohn, John Taylor Gatto, and many more have pointed out, our "good deeds" hurt far more people than we know.

Pluralism, on the other hand, is prevalent in many charter schools. Many of these are corporately funded and presumably, like the Sith, are drawing upon the power of pluralistic knowledge for selfish reasons. Corporations have a primary responsibility to make money for their stockholders, they operate from selfish motifs. Therefore, a corporately run school draws upon the power of pluralism for selfish means.

What education needs is someone like Darth Vader.


Carl Anderson said...

I would like to make an amendment to this post but do not want to alter the original piece. So, I will do it as a comment. This "Darth Vader figure" does not need to be a single individual or an individual at all. I am thinking we all need to will him into existence within ourselves. If we view the characters in the Star Wars saga as representing parts of our internal selves (or potential parts of our internal psyche) this analogy fits closer to what needs to happen. Darth Vader then represents the part of ourselves that questions conventional wisdom and then breaks that conventional wisdom for us allowing for personal growth beyond primitive dualistic conventions.

This interpretation of the film series seems to fit well with other characters as well. Chewbacca could easily represent the part of ourselves that interacts with the world kinesthetically. Han Solo could represent the bricolear learner within us who approaches problems by trial and error. Jabba represents our greed. The Emperor represents the part of us that desires to have control of our own world. C3P0 represents the part of ourselves that views the world only through logic reasoning. R2D2 represents bravery. Luke represents our own naivety........

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Great analogy Carl. I haven't ever seen the trilogy but was able to follow along with your commentary and the clips.