Even though modern education can easily stuff our minds to the brim with intricate servings of "thinking critically," we never seem to apply that knowledge to ourselves. To top it off, most of the education we learn here in the West is heavily euro-centric, taking years to update and embrace new modes of thought. So, what if education were to begin to assist students in self-knowledge, and explore different worldviews that radically contrast, perhaps at surface level, traditional western values? What if east and west met? And then, what if east, west, north and south all found a congregation in the classroom, providing a mirror of both self-reflection and knowledge in the classroom? Man, we'd have one bad-ass educational system. Don't you think? This "top 4" is in no particular order, and I suspect it's the beginning of a long list of often-neglected writers would stir hours of conversation and thought in universities and high-schools across the world. In particular, the U.S. is in desperate need of new and dynamic education.
1. Alan Watts:
Why? Alan Watts is one of the few classical, yet easily accessible writers of eastern philosophy. Considering himself primarily an entertainer, his way with words, as well as book titles: "The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are" provide both an intellectually stimulating and interesting read. He often gives readers an easy way into understanding the concept of the self, and how it is truly embedded into the world. We blossom out from it, not descend into it, he might say. This would provide students both younger and older, a freshly alternative view of the universe and their place in it. The often euro-centric classes would be shattered by a playful, creative and intelligent author. Watts is also the author of a huge collection of books, documentaries, lectures and essays. The possibilities here are endlessly fruitful.
2. Daniel Quinn:
Why? While Watts would help us ask big questions about who we are, Quinn will wittingly pose the deep, societal questions about aspects of civilization we take for granted. His work, particularly the underground classic "Ishmael," would force us to question the fundamental belief of civilization as a myth. Why are we? Why do we live like this way? Did human beings ever live another way? Aside from generating discussion, it would stir the cultural sediment and perhaps inspire a student or two to take action and openly explore alternate modes of living and subsistence. Quinn explores the lifestyles and culture of tribal societies vs. civilization. Tribal societies were, and still are, capable of a balanced and long life within nature, while civilization is always looming in the face of disaster, collapse. Quinn poses this theory: That perhaps our civilization was flawed from the very beginning, 10,ooo years ago. Check out his site.
3. Jiddu Krishnamurti:
Author, philosopher, teacher and mystic. Why the pick? Krishnamurti is a system-buster, plain and simple. Systems are practical, but having a system buster is in itself healthy for a check-and-balance lifestyle, where nothing gets out of hand, and culture, let alone learning does not become like stagnant water. He raises the big, awkward questions: Why do we have religions? Are they escapes? What are ideologies but security fences to dwell within? He forces us, once again to question ourselves. It's not just a matter of thinking critically "out there," but what about "in here," in you and me? Self knowledge extends to world-knowledge. If we accept our insecurities and are in a constant process of self knowledge, then the lifestyles we will lead will reflect that. To Krishnamurti, the world's conflict is in fact an extension humanity's inner-conflict. In the library of books, essays and lectures he gave, the one resounding teaching was that of an inner revolution.
4. Ken Wilber
Why? Well, he's been around long enough at this point to have both introductory books and in-depth and heavily detailed explanations of integral theory. He, like his predecessor Alan Watts, is deeply concerned with exploring the relations between east and west. What you will find is his ability to tie to the two together, finding east and west and west in east. Not only that, the cultivation and development of the integral theory provides a method and a philosophy that will help students see a "bigger picture." That is, see underlying patterns in seemingly different theories: psychology and art, sociology and quantum physics (Weird, eh? I'm sure there's something...), religion and science. The concepts and methods involved stimulate the analytical side, as well as the creative and explorative side of our minds. His works will raise deep questions, and ask students to ponder a world not only of horizons but of heights and depths. It explores consciousness in ways that are not usually emphasized. It takes the huge array of theories about everything, and makes a coherent "map" of them. Whether or not this map is effective will be up to the students to discern, but it is the vast library of material, of the general integral philosophy, following in the footsteps of the perennial philosophy, that will tickle the students minds and spirits. Not to mention, he is a fellow, at least part-time, blogger.
That's it for now. These list-blogs are fun to make, so anyone who reads this site should expect some more...