David Brooks: ‘The New Humanism’

I caught this David Brooks column (click for the real thing) in the St. Paul Pioneer Press this morning (I’m visiting family) entitled The New Humanism. Which I am enthused to share. I have enjoyed watching David Brooks evolve in the last few years from being an apologist for the Republican Party to a thoughtful, reasonable voice. Watching him and Mark Shields debate on the Newshour on Fridays is even more enjoyable lately with Brooks’ continued admiration for Obama. Anyhows, his latest column in the New York Times contributes wonderfully to the needed dialogue concerning how we mistakenly separate ‘reason’ (rational mind) vs. ’emotion’, which he says is ‘suspect’. This colors our business acumen, our family values, our political discourse.

He mentions the failures we have endured in our educational system of late and suggests:

these failures spring from a single failure: reliance on an overly simplistic view of human nature. We have a prevailing view in our society — not only in the policy world, but in many spheres — that we are divided creatures. Reason, which is trustworthy, is separate from the emotions, which are suspect. Society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the passions.This has created a distortion in our culture. We emphasize things that are rational and conscious and are inarticulate about the processes down below. We are really good at talking about material things but bad at talking about emotion.When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say. Many of our public policies are proposed by experts who are comfortable only with correlations that can be measured, appropriated and quantified, and ignore everything else.Yet while we are trapped within this amputated view of human nature, a richer and deeper view is coming back into view. It is being brought to us by researchers across an array of diverse fields: neuroscience, psychology, sociology, behavioral economics and so on.

This column finishes with a glossary of words, a worthy addition to the dialogue we ‘Fellows’ enjoyed as we participated in the Leading by Design coursework in 2010 (you know who you are):

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one’s own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you and thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn’t a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.

This is just the latest David Brooks column stressing the need for the Humanities in our educational system. Here is an earlier column, History for Dollars, from June of last year making the argument for the Humanities as an educational discipline, ESPECIALLY in hard times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/08/opinion/08brooks.

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