The traditional university setting lacks “soul” precisely because it stamps out creativity, the gateway to self-knowledge. By “soul” I do not refer to the theological sense of the word, but to the precious gift and fount for wisdom, that my people brought with them from Africa in chains. Their veneration of creative expression emanated from an understanding that creativity is a manifestation of the divine within each of us. It was accessed through the cultivation of a whole-body wisdom, which honored the body’s capacity to process emotions into insight and creative expression. As an African-American educator, I could also not help but recognize a certain irony in our formal education system. Black children who resisted the soul-deadening acculturating processes to which we subject them in the name of “education” were all too often labeled and dismissed as either cognitively-challenged or culturally deprived
But surely, if developing skills of self-knowledge are so meaningful and empowering, then why is this form of education so overlooked in America’s exceedingly competitive, standards-driven, multi-trillion dollar educational system? It is quite simply that most of us will not become any richer through the attainment of greater self-knowledge. Nor will we necessarily gain a competitive advantage in our corporate or academic lives. Quite to the contrary, this particular mode of knowledge has inherent dangers to the “American Dream” as we now perceive it. The more able we become to validate ourselves internally, the less dependent we become on the reward structures set in place by our consumer-driven society.