By Dr. Denise R. Ames
This is a momentous time that we are currently experiencing. Who can be trusted for wise council? Where are the elders? Elders have something to add to the conversation about what is going on today. I am one elder who feels I have something to say. The following are 12 Insights that I have learned and want to share with you.
In the last blog, I wrote about the importance of looking at the big picture in determining what type of change a society should undergo and to not dwell on less significant matters. In this blog, I will continue this concept and advocate for reform as the best way to have both continuity and change.
One of five themes in my teaching and writing about world history is continuity and change. When spanning the big picture of our human history, the formation and collapse of societies have provided powerful lessons to reflect upon. One of these lessons is that in order for societies to thrive and continue they need to balance continuity and change.
Too much continuity results in a stagnant society that is unable to flourish or accommodate the needs of their citizens. I would argue that the American South prior to the Civil War was an example of a society attempting to stave off change and hold on to the status quo, even though it resulted in a civil war. Changing attitudes and economic conditions in the northern states shored up the idea of free labor, and new moral sentiments saw black people as humans and entitled to the rights and dignity afforded to all humanity.
In this case, change won out over continuity in a blood-soaked battle-field that opened up festering wounds that have taken decades to somewhat heal. But the U.S. has done a reasonably good job (especially when looking at real world history examples and not utopian ideals) of balancing continuity and change.
The notion of progress, deeply embedded into American consciousness, has worked well within a framework of Liberalism (the Enlightenment variety). The concepts of freedom of press, speech, assembly, and debate are firmly entrenched ideals that Americans share. In the preamble to our constitution is the quote that we are charged with forming a “more perfect union.” This quote implies that the progress of the American experience is never complete and we must continue the call to make the U.S. a more equal, prosperous, and freedom-loving country.
Also embedded in this quote is a notion of reform. This means that the U.S. should continue to change and evolve, but not at such a rapid rate that it creates disorder and threatens the stability of the country. The founding fathers where familiar with the atrocities of the French Revolution beginning in 1789, when the initial call for the installation of a Liberal form of government was hijacked by revolutionaries who brought on war, executions, and chaos.
Because of these unsettling events in France, the founding fathers were mindful about creating a nation with a delicate balance between change and continuity. Their creation of a system of checks and balances, three branches of government, and power disbursed between federal, state, and local governments was an ingenious strategy to insure this balance. An education system later evolved to inculcate citizens in allegiance to a Liberal form of government and loyalty to its cause.
In the history of our country many successful political reforms have been implemented—ranging from increasing those who could votes to include all males over 21 regardless of property-owning status, all black males, women, and those 18 years and older. Also, economic reforms, educational reforms, banking reforms, police reforms, and the list goes on.
Rejecting reform and going along with an impulsive implementation of untried policies goes against our centuries-long agreement that reforms are the best way to make crucial changes without losing the counter-balance of continuity. Defunding the police is much different than implementing police reforms. It also has a much higher chance of failure and widening the already wide chasm that is dividing our country. Hopefully, calm and reflection will prevail and our love-affair with reform will continue and not end in a messy divorce.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences— teaching, scholarly research, personal reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units, and conducted professional development workshops for the non-profit and its clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing her new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, and Reflection Nexus. Turn encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, learn from the past, and understand the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five colliding worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released! $14.95
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books