Touched by a life changing event in the winter of 1969 Leo Buscaglia decided to start an experimental class at the University where he taught. He wanted to explore the most essential elements of existence and called his course simple: Love Class. In the following years the classes became one of the most popular. In 1972, Buscaglia published the most universal and important ideas in Love: What Life Is All About.
Buscaglia looks at the nursery of social beliefs — the education system. He stated that education should be the process of helping everyone to discover his uniqueness. Education should teach people how to develop that uniqueness, and then to show them how to share it. Eventually that is the only reason for having anything.
This might sound obvious but it still is a challenge in education, even today, with its model of industrialized conformity. Buscaglia’s most important point is that such industrialized conformity transcends the education system and bleeds into our everyday lives, at all layers and levels of society. The product of this approach is a narrow definition of intelligence and ability. This results in a narrow field of belonging and sees everyone outside of it as a misfit.
standardization creates average
To drive the point home, Buscaglia offers an illustrative tale titled The Animal School — a story he loves ‘because it’s so wild, yet so true’. The animals got together in the forest one day and decided to start a school. There was a rabbit, a bird, a squirrel, a fish and an eel, and they formed a Board of Education. The rabbit insisted that running be in the curriculum. The bird insisted that flying be in the curriculum. The fish insisted that swimming be in the curriculum, and the squirrel insisted that perpendicular tree climbing be in the curriculum. They put all of these things together and wrote a Curriculum Guide. Then they insisted that all of the animals take all of the subjects. Although the rabbit was getting an A in running perpendicular tree climbing was a real problem for him; he kept falling over backwards. Pretty soon he got to be sort of brain damaged, and he couldn’t run any more. He found that instead of making an A in running, he was making a C and, of course, he always made an F in perpendicular tree climbing. The bird was really beautiful at flying, but when it came to burrowing in the ground, he couldn’t do so well. He kept breaking his beak and wings. Pretty soon he was making a C in flying as well as an F in burrowing, and he had a hell of a time with perpendicular tree climbing. The moral of the story is that the animal who was valedictorian of the class was a mentally retarded eel who did everything in a halfway fashion. But the educators were all happy because everybody was taking all of the subjects, and it was called a broad-based education.
How many kids have not been educated just because someone pinned a label on them somewhere along the line? Labelling pushes people away from each other. Black woman. What is a black woman? I have never known two alike. Does she love? Does she care? What about her kids? Has she cried? Is she lonely? Is she beautiful? Is she happy? Is she giving something to someone? These are the important things. Not the fact that she is a black woman. The same counts for children. Less able, stupid, emotionally disturbed. I have never known a stupid child. Never! I have only known children and never two alike. There are too many beautiful things about each human being to give him a label and put him aside. A loving person will stand for that.
Buscaglia ends with a reminder of how our disembodied illusion of separateness contributes to our inability to inhabit our own selves. We are constantly moving away from ourselves and others. He wants to go back to the old-fashioned thing of touching people. His hand always goes out because when he touches somebody, he knows they are alive. We really need that affirmation.
We don’t need to be afraid to touch, to feel, to show emotion. The easiest thing in the world to be is what you are, what you feel. The hardest thing to be is what other people want you to be, but that’s the world we are living in. Are you really you or are you what people have told you you are? And are you interested in really knowing who you are because if you are, it is the happiest trip of your life. Give learning back to life and create possibilities to become your best and true self.