Philanthropy and Our Better Natures

Of the limiting materialistic views is the belief that humans are motivated largely by animal instincts and self-interest. It is true that we have these tendencies, but we also have higher natures, that, if properly developed, lead to altruism, cooperation and other noble character traits and virtues. Whereas politics and business focus on power and profits where short-term gains and interests are emphasized through competition, education focuses on learning and character development emphasizing community interests, long-term benefits and cooperation.

The values and behaviors of politicians and financiers have kept them from long-term sustainable solutions that serve the best interests of humanity. These attitudes do not even serve their own best interest, though they may appear to in the short term.  The select few who obtain power and financial resources appear to benefit, but their limited gains are outweighed by the concomitant suffering and social unrest that results.  The rules by which they play reduce humans and human values to economic goods. I believe their reforms based on materialistic worldviews encourage the worst parts of human nature, while discouraging the best, and will do harm to teacher education

Philanthropy represents the better parts of our nature. It is a desire to improve and benefit others, to act charitably, serve the general good and to love all humanity. Political leaders should also be philanthropists in their desire to secure the material, social and spiritual welfare of humanity. Teaching and teacher education is also a philanthropic endeavor. If teachers are not motivated by a love for and desire to benefit their students, they will be limited in their ability to help those students develop the skills, knowledge, attitudes and insights needed in life. This spirit of philanthropy is needed in education; however, it is being eroded by the political passions and economic policies that appear to love power and money more than the ideals and ethics of educators.

The desire and effort to improve the world through charitable contributions and activities is a noble and high calling. I think we need more of it, not only in education, but also in all sectors of society. People motivated by philanthropy have done tremendous good in the world, whether it is a small act of kindness or eliminating hunger and disease. As the powerful and wealthy in society give voluntarily of their talents and resources to benefit the greater good, both they and the recipients will benefit in multiple ways. However, philanthropists and politicians who hypocritically, arrogantly and paternalistically force their agendas on others will accomplish little. Ethics and values cannot be ignored. The true spirit of philanthropy, cooperation and humility is needed to enlist the minds, hearts and wills in progress.

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About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is recently retired as a head and professor of the School of Education at Northern Michigan University.
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