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From 911 to 9-11: An Alarm for Learning

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Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 13:25:23 -0400
From: Ferdi Serim <>
Subject: [sept11info] From 911 to 9-11: an Alarm for Learning

From 911 to 9-11: an Alarm for Learning
by Ferdi Serim

It used to mean emergency. Come to my aid. Now the alchemy of terror has transformed these digits into a different kind of math, one that shows what the life of one person, given by one on one side of the equation, can take from many thousands on the other.

The force of the attack didn't bring down the buildings. It was the fires...the explosive potential of jetfuel as a metaphor for political passion....the heat of those fires melted the connections between the structural steel of the floors and the skin that kept it up. We must now make sure that the fires of our passion, our pain, our anger don't cause a meltdown of our society.

The terrorists' motivation is impossible to know. Perhaps they would smile, thinking the catastrophic collapse, a chain reaction of failures. Were they informed by the professional knowledge of a structural engineer who could guide the heavy planes to the point of maximum destruction (physical, emotional, spiritual)? Did learning contribute? Certainly skill was needed. And organization. All virtues we would hope to instill in our students...

Which reinforces why purpose must guide our efforts. This purpose can't be antiseptic in it's dissociation from ethical considerations. Certainly the applications of skills must be so guided.

But technology comes with no such built in guidance systems. There is no moral GPS that lets us know where we are, no pre-printed map that is reliable for all cities in all countries in all cultures. We have learned that any tool can become a technology for destruction or is not the technology but rather the intent that makes this decision. How will we use our power?

And people can be re-programmed. Anger can turn caring people into ruthless killers, who don't care at all who suffers as they make their political points. It can turn activists into killers. How will we use our power?

At this moment, we must turn activists into healers. All it takes is learning. Learning about the difference between revenge and justice. Learning about the differences between bigotry and religion. Learning about the differences between how we live and what it takes for a sustainable world. Learning about the people in this world, and how interdependent we all are upon one another. Please don't confuse or limit my use of the word learning with schooling. What is needed goes far beyond schooling. It means applying what we learn to improve real life.

In the moments and days immediately following the disaster, the true heroes worked with their hands, placing themselves in harms way racing to find and rescue the victims. Their courage inspired so many of us to respond in any ways we could that chronic shortages in bloodbanks nationwide were eliminated in a single day. In the days and months that follow, the heroes will be those who work with the minds and hearts of those affected by these events. That includes everyone. Our roles, as educators, as parents, as policy-makers, as leaders...all must combine our limited personal powers into a massive force to bring the light of learning to drive back the shadows of fear and hate, racing to rescue the victims of ignorance and bigotry.

Those with responsibility for maintaining our security tell us "We are going to change the rules of engagement, and change the way things have done, now doing them as they've never done before." However, even those in the military are thinking in a systems way, realizing that the underlying causes of hatred and anger, pent up over generations, must finally be addressed, if we are to truly arrive at a more secure world. Doing so requires us to reprogram ourselves. Nothing in our history prepares us to execute such a role. This is why learning is key...

Strange Fruit - time release terrorism

With weapons of rope, fires of torches, and trees as technology, racists in the south systematically terrorized thousands of men and women in post Civil War times. Acts like these would have been considered war crimes, had a state of war existed...but neither an identifiable target, nor the will to bring such a target to justice existed then... only the wounded hearts of the perpetrators, passed generation to generation persisted. Many more thousands died in one day in NY than died in the years from post-reconstruction Southern USA until now. But there is practically no contemporary society or culture on the planet that has not indulged in such behavior, either on its own people or its neighbors. How will we use our power to transcend this legacy?

Shadows still cloak those who did this

We can't understand how they could be driven to do this. None of us would ever do such a thing. Very few are concerned with the forces that could lead someone like us to become someone like them. We don't take a clue when we find that suddenly we want to eradicate all those who have undergone that change. Perhaps there is plenty of future in which to organize ourselves in new ways, ways that minimize or reduce the forces that so deaden people to the consequences of their actions that they can make themesleves follow such a path of behavior. But the length of that future depends on our effectiveness in expanding the circles of learning until they embrace the entire world.

As I was writing this, a friend emailed me these thoughts, which I share with you on closing:

When I despair, I remember that all through history
the way of truth and love has always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers
and for a time they seem invincible but in the end,
they always fall --
think of it, ALWAYS.
*Mahatma Gandhi

Ferdi Serim phone/fax: 505 466-1901; cell: 505 690-6039

Online Internet Institute, Director
Santa Fe, NM 87505

ECP Ring Leader <>

Author: From Computers to Community: Unlocking the Potential of the Wired Classroom
co-author: NetLearning: Why Teachers Use the Internet

"We are more than the sum of our knowledge,
we are the products of our imagination." - Ferdi

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