Near the top of my list of not-exactly-education sites is Maria Popova's Brain Pickings, a site that consistently provides great writing and insights about how to be fully human in the world-- which of course means it really is about education after all.
Here's a post that lifts from the work of Alan Watts (1915-1973), the writer who helped bring much Asian philosophy thought into our part of the world. In particular, you'll find his work tied closely to the idea of presence or mindfulness. It is of course a concept that has often taken root in the US, even back with the calls of Emerson and Thoreau to live deliberately and simply.
Watts wrote The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for the Age of Anxiety way back in 1951, but boy does it have some things to say to us today, particularly for those of us in education.
If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.
And yet, we are enmeshed in an educational system that wants to be able to predict the future with certainty. "If your eight year old makes the score on this standardized test, we can assure you that she's on her way to college," claim our reformy liberators.
Here's another way of understanding why the current reformster ideals are so wrong-- they are devoted to predicting and insuring a particular future for students, instead of preparing them for whatever future may come. "Score well on the test," we want to promise, "and college, a good job, all of it will just fall into place." Instead of arming students with a whole toolbox full of varied and wonderful implements, we hand them a screwdriver and say, "We guarantee that with this in your hand, nothing bad will ever happen and you'll never need anything else."
And we reduce school to a period in which students are not actually present and living their lives, but simply absently preparing for a future, forfeiting today for the promise of a guaranteed tomorrow. And so along with all the other things we don't teach our students, we don't teach them to be present in the moment, to be aware, to be alive.
Or consider this quote from Watts:
The working inhabitants of a modern city are people who live inside a machine to be batted around by its wheels. They spend their days in activities which largely boil down to counting and measuring, living in a world of rationalized abstraction which has little relation to or harmony with the great biological rhythms and processes. As a matter of fact, mental activities of this kind can now be done far more efficiently by machines than by men — so much so that in a not too distant future the human brain may be an obsolete mechanism for logical calculation.
I remind you-- Watts was writing in 1951. But now we live in times in which our policy leaders want to jam education inside the machine and reduce all teaching and learning activities to counting and measuring (and suggesting that these activities can, in fact, be managed by machines).
Popova has lifted one other great quote from Watts that, in the context of modern redformy education, hollers out to me.
If we are to continue to live for the future, and to make the chief work of the mind prediction and calculation, man must eventually become a parasitic appendage to a mass of clockwork.
Though I might suggest one revision. While it's undeniable that education is increasingly about grafting humans onto a mass of ticking machinery, maybe it's not the humans who are the parasites, but instead it's the clockwork that is the parasitic appendage.