Professor Emeritus, Teachers College, Columbia University
Maxine Greene has been at the forefront of educational philosophy for well over half a century as a teacher, lecturer, and author. She is the Founder and Director of the Center for Social Imagination, the Arts, and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where she has been on the faculty since 1965 and is now Professor Emeritus. In 1984, she was elected to the National Academy of Education and has received Educator of the Year Awards from Columbia University and Ohio State University.
Oannes with FGCU President, Wilson G. Bradshaw at the Center's 2007 Fundraising Celebration on Sanibel Island.
-- Rosie Emery
-- Alison Hawthorne Deming, Center Advisor
-- Tom Bevins, Center Faculty Associate
Oannes said, ‘Traditional peoples – and we were all at one time traditional peoples – had a connection to nature, but many people have lost that connection, that sense of reverence, that inadazewin, has also been lost or dissipated…while all cultures have been pretty much contaminated…indigenous peoples are somewhat less contaminated than the so-called Eurocentric cultures. And I think if we’re going to protect the planet and make sure that there is justice and equality - not just for human beings but for all life – we’re going to have to somehow bring in this concept of reverence, and I think there are still enough wisdom-keepers there that this philosophy can be understood…’
Earlier the day of the board meeting, a student had asked: How do we reach people and get them to think about the planet and to think about the future? In his answer, Oannes spoke of the ethic of the seventh generation, to think of how our thoughts and actions will affect the next seven generations. Within that philosophy, reverence is that basic spiritual connection that reminds each person growing up to have reverence for all life. ‘When you have that sense of sacredness, of spirit, both on a personal level and on a community level, then there is a whole different mindset of how we live and relate to each other and how we live and relate to Mother Earth.’ To restore a sense of reverence for all living things, we must ask two questions: how do we develop a sacred space first in our heart and then in our mind, and how do we project that sacred space out to the world?
Oannes re-activated our collective conscience through honest and respectful reflections. He reminded us that diversity is essential to cultivating that sacred space: ‘…the curriculum and the faculty of all institutions of higher education need to be much more culturally diverse…I’m at the point where I really don’t need to be politically correct anymore because of my health and all that…I’ve been with FGCU as a community friend since its beginning, since its actual conception, and yet I still look around and without being disrespectful I will say it is still pretty much a white institution, especially the curriculum. Until that changes, there’s not really going to be much change.’
Oannes expressed a final hope that we will share this concept of reverence with our students: ‘I want to just again bring up this understanding of inadazewin, this concept of reverence for each other, reverence for Mother Earth, and I hope that we as a Center and all of you…can help develop that, especially in the students, to help make that planetary citizenship also a spiritual one, and with that I say thank you.’ He said he had stopped trying to change the world through institutions, but placed his faith in young people. Oannes respected and guided all young people, especially those resilient and courageous enough to speak up for freedom, justice and equality.
Oannes was a wisdom-keeper. Let us honor his great spirit by diversifying our community and our teachings. Let us adopt the seven generations principle in our own lives and in the activities of the Center and the University. Let us honor him by holding a prayer feather as we speak – remembering to speak not only for ourselves but for our ancestors and descendants, for all of Earth’s creatures, and remembering to speak ‘with truth, sincerity, respect, without judgment’ always. Let the next five years at the Center – and at FGCU - be the time to create and preserve sacred space first in our hearts then in our minds, and to project this sacred space out to the world.”
-- Anne Hartley, Center Assistant Director
-- Jake Scott, Center Advisor
-- Emily S. Porter
-- Armand Ball, Center Advisor