I understand Thanksgiving to be about being thankful. Somehow many of us manage every year to bring about a sense of happiness and thankfulness through good food and camaraderie with friends and family. We do this in the face of actually feeling less thankful as the years go by; less thankful about the direction in which our world is going. Every year, many of us find ourselves engaging in more drudgery for progressively diminishing returns. Our hopes become dreams, and our dreams are either indefinitely put on hold, or lost, or turned into nightmares. If we own our home, its price is diminishing or we even face foreclosure, and for some of us who hoped to switch from the rat race (or kicking water) to something more productive in later life, retirement becomes an ever more elusive proposition. If we have children, we see their childhood being destroyed at an ever earlier age, and we don’t want them to be sucked into the same black hole into which we are sinking.
Perhaps I am only describing myself here, but I suspect that there are many who feel similarly. Sometimes the specter of midlife crisis is raised in such discussions, the term referring to a dip in happiness during our late 40s, a time when we generally feel less satisfied with our lives than we do in our younger and older years. Interestingly, primate researchers recently reported having found an equivalent to human midlife crisis in our closest relatives, the great apes. In a study involving more than 500 orangutans and chimpanzees they found a dip in their happiness in mid-life. The researchers suggest that the middle-aged blues may be a result of biology, not culture, and it might have evolved to make us push for change at a time in our lives when we are usually the most powerful.
It is an interesting thought, for sure. While I, personally, find my life to have been one long crisis since about my mid-twenties, with few short interruptions, I do think the average person in our age does have justification for dissatisfaction stemming from adverse changes to our society, our workplaces, our finances, our political process, and our schools, to name the things which affect us most noticeably. For those willing to speculate more in the abstract, I could throw in a lacking ability to run our lives the way we want, stagnation on solving mankind’s greatest challenges, or the growing signs of global warming and its negative effects. Human lives are more complex than those of our hairy cousins. We do have culture, upheavals to economy and society, and so forth.
Nevertheless, the study on primates does serve as a reminder that we have some degree of power to affect change. It is this, I believe, that we can be thankful for. We who visit this site are involved in making such a change. We have decided not to always run with the herd, along paths chosen by billionaires, ballot bandits, and bureaucrats. We see one of the roots for many of today’s wrongs in bad education which stunts growth and shapes warped adults. A.S. Neil, the father of the “free school” movement, famously said, “I would rather Summerhill produced a happy street sweeper than a neurotic prime minister.” (Summerhill, in many ways, can be regarded as the forerunner of Sudbury Valley School on whose model Jefferson Sudbury School is based)
Many of us who come here have children who remind us every day how bad their schools are — or else they did until we pulled them out and undertook the task of homeschooling them. This applies whether we are looking at public or private schools, standard or alternative schools. We are looking to make a change in this area. We are not alone. Together we can make a better school for our children, and maybe – just maybe – create a movement for better education everywhere. This is something to be thankful for.