Thought's for a leader | Teen Ink

Thought's for a leader

January 13, 2009
By moonspinners BRONZE, Friday Harbor, Washington
moonspinners BRONZE, Friday Harbor, Washington
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Graduate of New York University, Maxine Greene is an imaginative, passionate and thoughtful philosopher who believes in the arts and literature as a way to advance social justice. Her inquiries within sociology, philosophy, history and literature have led her to an understanding of wide-awakeness, moral life, and an awareness of life that so many people today seem to be deprived of. She speaks explicitly about the issue of a lost sense of moral reform and how leaders today can regain it’s value in them-selves and hopefully pass on to younger generations. “This attentiveness, this interest in things, is the direct opposite of the attitude of bland conventionality and indifference so characteristic of our time,” Miss Greene explains.
“I am also suggesting that such feelings can to a large degree be overcome through conscious endeavor on the part of individuals to keep themselves awake, to think about their condition in the world, to inquire into the forces that appear to dominate them, to interpret the experiences they are having day by day.” Greene page 44
By breaking down and clarifying Greene’s response to Thoreau’s thoughts on wide-awakeness into actual human acts and emotional responses , the teachers of today can not only utilize that what is necessary for them to fully become awake but to transfer to the rest of the world what they themselves have learned. Perhaps though there is already someone, a fictional character that is, that fits the description of one whom Greene would consider a great leader. Atticus Finch of Harper Lee’s “to kill a mockingbird” is a lawyer, a neighbor, a friend, and above all else a father. His love for his children and his impeccable understanding of what is ethically right in this world is unusual in the in the likes of today but somehow still seems to inspire ethical choices and decision making all around.
A leader, Greene says, must somehow set aside the wants and needs of his/her own human nature and speculate on the bigger picture, speculate on other peoples wants and needs. “They concern justice and equality, respect for the dignity of persons and regard for their points of view,” she says. Atticus tells his daughter, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Which he later exemplifies when the finch children invite over a classmate that is of a very poor family. “Atticus greeted Walter and began a discussion about crops neither Jem nor I could follow,” explains Mr. finch’s youngest daughter Scout, “ he and Atticus talked together like two men.” That’s because Atticus is aware of what is happening in his town and with the people rather than staying indulged in his own desires. “To what extent are they in touch with the actualities of their own experiences, their own biographies, and the ways in which these affect the tone of their encounters with the young?” questions Greene. “It is far too easy for teachers, like other people, to play their roles and do their jobs without serious consideration of the good and the right.” Because as a leader, holding a firm belief in standing up for what is ethically right is just as important, rather than just accepting evil in the world as a natural part of the way things work today, just accepting the issue, but just being okay with it doesn’t necessarily make it right. In the book Jem is interested in learning how to shoot but Atticus warns him,
“I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up peoples gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Lee Page 90
Atticus used to shoot guns but as Scout describes, “I think maybe he put his gun down when he realized that God had given him an unfair advantage over most living things. I guess he wouldn’t shoot until he had to.” That knowledge of what is right or wrong also comes through possessing a deep understanding of who they are themselves. Greene says, “I want to highlight the fact that the roots of moral choosing lie at the core of a persons conception of herself or himself and the equally important face that choosing involves action as well as thought.” Usually people are acting up around the town but are really themselves at home due to a lack of understanding who they are. But not Atticus. “If they hear me saying downtown something different happened- Heck, I won’t have them anymore. I can’t live one way in town and another way in my home” He explains.
For, “To be moral involves taking a position towards that matrix, thinking critically about what is taken for granted.” Greene Page 49
And not only should leaders challenge themselves but challenge others as well, which in the end leads them to critically thinking for themselves rather than living life in a trance because of their useless empty mind that simply does what it is told or “to be more than a doll in a dolls house, “says Greene. Scout, when explaining her father, says “ He played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.” And when the Finch children begin to run back and forth from their neighbor Boo Radleys house, Atticus confronts them,
“What Mr. Radley did was his own buisness. If he wanted to come out, he would. If he wanted to stay in his own house he had the right to stay in free from the attentions of inquisitive children, which was a mild term for the likes of us. How would we like it if Atticus barged in on us without knocking, when we are in our rooms at night? We were in effect, doing the same thing to Mr. Radley. What Mr. Radley did might seem peculiar to us, but it did not seem peculiar to him. Furthermore, had it not occurred to us that the civil way to communicate with another being was by the front door instead of the side window?” Lee page 49
In the book Atticus defends a black man who was falsely accused of raping a young white girl. The other children in Jem and Scout’s class are prejeduce towards what Mr. Finch is doing, so Atticus, throughout the entire books helps Scout and Jem understand what is going on. “This time we aren’t fighting the yankees, we’re fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they’re still our friends and this is still our home.” When teaching younger generations the key is to “not tell them what to do- but to help them attain some kind of clarity about how to choose, how to decide what to do, “ miss Greene explains.
Maxine Greene truly believes that the leaders or teachers of the modern world should be learned men and women who understand and will take action in the principles of justice and of care, and truth-telling. “I believe, you see, that the young are most likely to be stirred to learn when they are challenged by teachers who themselves are learning, who are breaking with what they have too easily taken for granted, who are creating their own moral lives.” And according to both Greene and Lee, Atticus Finch is a great leader.

The author's comments:
I was given an assignment, by my English teacher, to take what Maxine Greene says about good leaders in her article of "Wide-awakeness and the moral life" and compare that to Harper Lee's famed character Atticus Finch of "To kill a mockingbird".

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This article has 1 comment.

daisy said...
on Feb. 26 2009 at 7:09 pm
this was an outstanding article with appropriate arguments and supportative information. Good Job Kim.