Monday, March 28, 2016

Education, Business, and the State: Part 1

Allessandro Allori, Scylla and Charybdis, 1575, Florence

Strait of Messina, between Scylla and Charybdis

IN THINKING about education, business, and the state, we may be reminded of how Homer's Odysseus narrowly escapes death twice when passing through the Messina straits.  First Scylla, the six-headed monster, formerly a nymph, devours six of Odysseus' best men and nearly destroys his ship.  Later, Odysseus barely escapes Charybdis, the terrible whirlpool (who was also previously a nymph) on the opposite side of the straits.

Rudolf Steiner, in speaking of Odysseus, described his ship and his men as images of the various forces of the human soul struggling to avoid falling under the sway of spiritual forces of an extreme character.  In his wooden sculpture, The Representative of Humanity, Steiner portrayed Christ maintaining balance between two extreme beings:  Lucifer above, and Ahriman below.  Once, Steiner said that Charybdis, the whirlpool, was an image of Lucifer, and the swirling passions and desires.  The six-headed Scylla, chained to the rocks, was an image of Ahriman, who in Steiner's accounts seeks to chain human imagination entirely to the physical world.

In discussions today about how to reform education for children in the U.S., one side sees disaster in letting for-profit businesses run so-called public charter schools.  Another side of the discussion sees the destructive aspects of allowing government control of schools to continue.  Both sides have a point.  Is there a way past both Scylla and Charybdis?  Part 2 is here.

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