Sunday, June 08, 2008

Eagerness For Umbrage

One of the blogs I read regularly was ranting yesterday about a “Professor” of education in England who was apparently involved in recommending curricula changes for the national school system. This purported authority was suggesting an abandonment of the traditional core material such as history, geography, science, math, reading, etc. in favor of a more student-centered approach in which through some sort of a Zen process the middle-school student establishes self-goals and then strives to attain them. The argument was that the traditional courses were generated by a middle-class standard focusing on wealth creation and success in life which was imposed by some sort of oppressive capitalist class structure.

Absurd, you might suggest. And, you would be correct. Yet, I followed the link to the Daily Mail, a Brit news-rag, and there it was for all to see. Needless to say the blogger was incensed by this item and attributed the end of civilization as we know it to this sort of thing.

Yet, it occurred to me that the fault wasn’t with the mis-guided Prof, but with the blogger who failed to recognize the total improbability of such extremist policy being anything more than tabloid fodder. It simply isn’t going to happen, therefore why waste ire upon it?

But, it is symptomatic of what we have become culturally. We are flooded each morning by a rash of emails informing us of the latest outrage and encouraging us to boycott this or that company and forward to everyone on the planet so that we may drive the infidels into bankruptcy through the power of our moral indignation. A regular check of usually reveals the falsity of the basic accusation. How many folks do you know who spend their total waking hours being angry about something? The high point of their existence is finding a new justification for their outrage. Frankly, it’s depressing.

Consider a simple journey on an airplane. The airline doesn’t benefit from inconveniencing you. I know it may occasionally seem that way. They don’t make money by running late. They don’t preplan bad weather. They don’t schedule equipment breakages. They certainly don’t plot to lose your luggage. And, despite all appearances, TSA is actually improving their training, efficiency and common sense. But, when stuff happens you will find the usual suspects outnumbering the folks with patience and common sense to rant, rave, rile and defile whoever appears before them with an airline ID around their neck. Too bad. It’s misdirected, ill-bred and totally ineffective.

Or, what about road rage? Start out with the presumption that you should plan your trip to get where you are going when you need to be there. If you start late, it is no one else’s problem but yours. Then add the recognition that it isn’t your job to control someone else’s speed or driving. Keep right, except to pass. It’s not only courteous; it’s the law in most states. Next thing you know you won’t be all tense, hypertensive and angry when you reach your destination.

I know that things won’t change. But possibly awareness of the humor in life and the benefits of an optimistic versus a pessimistic perspective on society could certainly make this a lot more pleasant place. There are reasons to be angry, but they are few and far between for most of us. And, I don’t need to go looking for more of them.

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