By Dada Maheshvarananda
Prout advocates economic and political democracy based on local and cooperative planning.
Neohumanist Education Perspective
Learning is reconceived from an individual act to one of reciprocity, cooperation, and mutuality. Students work together to identify local problems and work on collaborative projects towards their solution. The study of history and economics is not doctrinaire, but looks objectively at systems and their impacts, as well as viable alternatives. School and community attain new levels of partnership and cooperation.
Despite our wondrous scientific and technological advances, humanity has still not learned how to live at peace with one another and to equitably share the planet’s resources. The first priority of every country’s economy must be to guarantee the minimum necessities of life to everyone: food, clothing, housing, education, and medical care. This birthright transcends citizenship—meaning that every human being, whether native or visitor, must be guaranteed these necessities. This guarantee is crucial to establishing real democracy, for as long as fear and insecurity about their survival plague people, they are easy targets of manipulation and disinformation.
Capitalism promotes the myth that anyone can become rich. It can be logically inferred from this myth that anyone who is not rich is so because of their fault. Though we sometimes hear amazing stories of a smart person who worked hard and became rich, for every happy example there are millions of other smart, hard-working people who never get that opportunity. Today’s education trains students for this individualistic and competitive society, telling in effect, “First get an education; then get a job; make as much money as you can; and buy as much as you can.” Schools rarely convey a message of responsibility towards others in our human family. This selfish, materialistic attitude is expressed as, “I win, you lose,” or more correctly, “I win, and it doesn’t matter to me what happens to anyone else.” This individualistic outlook is destroying human relations, communities and the planet itself.
Democracy requires a continual process of political education in ethics, logic and civics to raise the consciousness of all voters.
Ethics is needed to understand the moral implications of new developments. Logic is needed to understand confusing and sentimental arguments made by politicians. Civics is needed to understand the rights, duties and powers of citizens to choose and oversee their government. The media’s role will be to explain the campaign issues in a clear and balanced way. In this way, voters will be better equipped to decide who are the most worthy candidates.
Economic democracy is where workers own and manage their own enterprises as cooperatives. This requires higher levels of resourcefulness, social skills, and discipline among everyone than in private enterprises. Learning for political and economic democracy needs to be reconceived from individual testing and achievement to collective cooperation. Students need to practice democracy as they study their community, identify needs, and collaborate with others in projects and service. Learning how to interview and listen to people of different cultures, ages, and generations, how to share knowledge gained with others, and how to lend a hand and work together as partners are vital to co-creating our shared future.
Ongoing movements started by other young people, such as environmental causes and campaigns against bullying, racism, or violence are unforgettable demonstrations that we are all active participants in our world and need to join in and do our part. Ending the artificial separation between the classroom and the world will enable and empower students. History, society, and economics are not closed narratives but systems that impact people very differently. We need to see them from different perspectives and consider viable alternatives.