Tuesday, August 16, 2011

There Is Nothing New Under The Sun: A Minor Musing About Inservice Sessions

The first thing that I can confidently say about every inservice session I've sat through over the past 5 or so years is that the presenters either cut and paste or slightly modify the ideas of  three thinkers:
  • Immanuel Kant who wrote that "we should never act in such a way that we treat Humanity, whether in ourselves or in others, as a means only but always as an end in itself."
  • Aristotle who asserted,  "It is neither 'by nature nor contrary to nature' that virtues arise in us; rather we are adapted by nature to receive them, and they are made perfect by habit.
  • Confucius who formulated the golden rule as "What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."
Second, nearly every session contains injunctions "to get out of one's comfort zone."  That's not really a new idea.  I'm pretty sure that The Odyssey was illustrating that concept with plot elements like the lotus-eaters who gave up free will to eat the lotus and the Laestrygonians who destroyed ships captained by men who believed they were safe because they had anchored their ships inside a harbor.

In The Spoon River Anthlogy, Edgar Lee Masters created a speaker named George Gray who explained better and more succinctly than most presenters the need to "leave a comfort zone."
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me --
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire --
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
Finally, yesterday's presenters reminded me to tell my debaters not to overpromise in their cases or analysis.  They said that they had material that "will change your life."  The speakers entertained; they reminded me of a few things, and they offered a few tricks of the trade that may or may not work.  The setting was a high school theater not a road to Damascus, and no bright light fell from heavan.  Of course that might have happened because some people are hoarding incandescant light bulbs, but that's a post for another day.

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