FLOTILLA OF FRATERNITY
Economics – Class 7 – Main Lesson
This can also be used with the business class in 6th grade…
The Secretary-to-the-Prime-Minister sat at the side of the classroom watching the group of curious Class 7 children stroll in. His face was stern, judgmental even; after all, he has been sent to the Steiner school to assess if they had the right to continued government funding – indeed to see if they had a right to exist at all! There have been some troubling cases of scandal in ‘alternative’ schools of late; the main charge being that the children didn’t actually learn anything with the schools’ highly suspect ‘learn only what you like policies.
“So what are you teaching and how do you teach it?” said Secretary.
“Well,” began Fiduciary slowly “we teach the main academic program in the morning main lessons of about 2 hours duration. Here we present the same subject, although enriched with many corollary activities, for about 3 weeks. The main lesson I’d like you to see today is Economics. This, with 13-year-olds, is to be considered introductory only; to be followed in high school with continual enlargement of the subject. After all, we don’t really expect children to be able to make their fortune on the stock exchange after a mere 30 hours of teaching – but some of the smarties probably could – ha, ha…!”
Fiduciary’s good humor was wasted on the hatchet-faced Secretary “Maths eh? I hope they’ll be doing lots of sums and things; the Prime Minister was firm on this skills-development issue. We in government are sick of ‘Mickey Mouse’ education, and the scorn it brings us!”
“Skills? Oh yes. We see this as an equal partner with content, representing body and spirit as they do. There is also a time factor here; content is qualitative, while skill development is quantitative. With content, it matters more how good it is; but skills advance more in relation to the time spent on them.
In fact many of the skills, not so much the content, developed in maths lessons right through primary are revisited and honed in this, the last maths main in their whole Elementary school 7-year journey. They’ll be dealing with interest calculation; percentages; statistics; graphs; fractions; decimals and more. I wrote a series of small verses on many of these number processes.”
“Sounds suspiciously close to ‘Mickey Mouse’ to me – with this poem-number method, do they actually learn, say, to calculate interest?”
“Oh yes,” exclaimed Fiduciary with enthusiasm “they learn it all right; these verses really help with the dozens of interest calculation and other sums they will be confronted with over the 3 weeks. This work element is the Body of the lesson – the presentation is the Soul – and the actual content is the Spirit. Every lesson in almost every subject is supported by this body-soul-spirit educational tripod.”
“Spirit? What’s spirit got to do with mathematics?” said Secretary narrowing his pale grey eyes.
“Er, did I say spirit?! I must have meant ‘spirited’! But we do try to realize the spirit in every lesson; to find its deep origins. For instance maths is the 2nd of 4 main lesson streams, appealing to the Sentient of Astral Body. This has its creation home in Taurus; the Bull is a timeless symbol, with its 4-fold metabolism, of astrality. In the 12 Philosophic Viewpoints given by Rudolf Steiner, Rationalism (of which Einstein was one of its greatest exponents) is ascribed to and inspired by Taurus. Every time a mathematical idea lights up a child’s soul, there is a spark of Taurean ‘spirit’ behind it.”
“I think I can add something there,” interjected Secretary, warming to the higher tone of the discourse “the Roman version of Taurus was Mithras – the Bull conqueror. He was a kind of equivalent of Theseus and his Minotaur in Greece – but then its ‘origins’ go back to Ancient Persia. Here humankind had to come to terms with a harder existence than the former India. The Persians had the evolutionary task of incarnating, as a cultural organ, the astral body.
In fact they were the first to have clear-day number consciousness; much of this was devoted to commerce, another life skill invented by the Persians. So it’s no wonder those great traders and empire builders, the Romans, had recourse to that ancient numerology.
Ah, these Mithraic Mysteries form the basis, even today, of the Law of Contract, with its ethical certitude – that which underpins your whole Economics teaching – I hope! Mithras was a Sun Hero, a high Ego; it is this higher-self element which masters and rampant astrality – conquers the Bull! Every child is a young Mithras; it is the teacher’s task to nurture this still-small Sun, so that they can wrestle with their own little bulls – ha, ha…!”
“Ha, ha…um, I hadn’t thought of it that way. But I have been diligent in weaving the golden thread – to use a Theseus metaphor – of morality through the tapestry of the lesson. The whole fabric of economic life would unravel without the warp and woof of honorable conduct. I understand that the handshake – my word is my bond – was born from the caves of the Mithras cult?”
“Yes, we have a special handsh…er, anyway, how do you see Economics as part of the social order?”
“Well, as the ‘body’ really; Rudolf Steiner provided lots of spiritual background in this 3-fold Commonwealth work. I read up on this as a preparation for my Economics 3 weeks. The 3-fold aspect – or body, soul and spirit – has as well as Economic -body, the legal or Rights sphere, of the soul – the Cultural, spirit!
They’re the same kinds of concepts taught by the Age of Reason, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, Spirit, Soul, Body? Commerce generally is the realm of Fraternity – the Brother/Sisterhood of Man; in money we are all mutually inter-dependent – if not reimbursed equally! Yet another piece of this 3-fold jigsaw is that of the ‘lives’!”
“The lives” That’s a clumsy expression. Our government’s cracking down on incompetent teaching – please explain ‘lives’!”
“Oh? Ah, it’s a will, feeling thinking troika this time; that of the first, the will-body, is commonly known as the Standard of Living. This is of course the first goal of the will sphere – standard of living can range from survival to opulence; but the main aim is to keep the community comfortable and physically secure.
Economic stability is also necessary for the second, that of the feeling ‘life; – this is the Quality of Life. Take Howard Hughes, one of the richest men on earth. He died in absolutely wretched conditions, his life desolate of all the things that matter, like friends, family, converse with nature, culture, and so on. He had a high standard of living coupled with a bankrupt quality of life. Another person may live on a subsistence income – like teachers!! – but have plenitude, a soul-surfeit, in the quality of life department.
The third sphere, that of thinking, is even less dependent on the Economic zone, it is the Meaning of Life; only thinkers bother themselves with this arcane consideration. Here we nurture our life goals, our spiritual, moral and religious path.”
“Hmmm, I can see that it would be a benefit to induct 13-year-olds with these fundamental ‘life’ concepts, orientating them to the three levels of functioning being as they do. But what about the nitty gritty, how do you relate them, say, to their country?”
“this clue came from reading the economics columns in newspapers and finance journals; I noticed that they always characterized economic life by the decades. The children could certainly understand this simplification; for instance the 1940s (as far back as I go, the childhood of many of their parents) was a Military Economy – keep the home fires burning as they say.”
“When economic life flags, the powers-that-be (your lot!) often get involved in a war – even a small one. This creates a slipstream of commercial activity in the supply of munitions, food, uniforms, reconstruction and so on.
The 1950s in Oz was the decade we all rode home on the sheep’s back, with the prosperity of a Rural Economy. This is the period when the grazers acquired much of their wealth – and patrician status!
A different tone infected the 1960s, that of an Industrial Economy, where the country’s large manufacturing base was established; one built upon mineral wealth. Companies and shrewd investors were the beneficiaries of this decade of frenetic financial activity.
With the ‘70s it was different yet again, a decade based more on human values – the Social Economy. Here welfare for the underprivileged and worthy (mostly!) in its manifold forms, stimulated economic growth. This was in the form of new school and film grants, increased pensions, childcare, Aboriginal welfare – and a thousand others. This was maintained, but barely built upon, in the next decade, the 1980s.
This has been characterized as the decade of greed, which it certainly was, but a more charitable appellation might be the Creative Economy. Here new and innovative enterprises in a whole range of industries created an optimistic – or ‘boom’ – economic climate; many alas corrupt.
But the creative canoe, light, mobile but unstable, sank in the 1990s, where a reluctant return to the fundamental Mithraic values of fir distribution of wealthy, equity, responsibility in the form of social and ecological considerations, accountability, and a high standard of business ethic returned to the economic stage.”
“Hmmm – you presented this grand vision of decadiene economic development to the children eh? A little academic isn’t it?”
“Well, like the canoe image, I couched the whole thing in often humorous pictures; with the 5 decades I created a different individuality of each. The 1940s was a little tin military general, marching about demanding financial support for his aggressive adventures. The second was a wealthy grazer, one who rode around on the back of a Golden Fleece-type Merion ram. The 1960s was a robotic factory over; in his boom mentality he made so many models of the basic family car he was manufacturing, that in the end no two were the same!
The ‘70s was represented by a kind of Mother Teresa figure, extracting wealth from the increasingly rich and giving it to the increasingly poor. She overdid it a bit sometimes; such as when she made cultural grants available to a group who wanted to revive the glories of the Roman gladiatorial arena.”
With this example of ‘welfare’, Fiduciary had probably slipped into what Secretary would call ‘Mickey Mouse’ education, his frown certainly suggested it! The schoolteacher continued uncertainly “Couch – the, er, 1980s was a high-flying, high-risk trapeze artist; he could build a business out of thin air…”
“Enough! Terese artist, Mother Trapeze!! Whatever!! What has this all to do with solid maths – I suppose the 1990s was the personification of some kind of Mithraic principle…”
“Well yes actually….er, but there were loads of economic facts woven through these fun-filled little tales, such as the effect on an economy of counterfeit money. We also studied import-export dynamics, balance of payments, tax, banking, the black market and so forth…oh, it’s time for the lesson, let’s start.”
Secretary’s gloom lifted a little as the children wandered up to proudly show him their colorful main lesson books. He warmed even further when he saw that they actually understood the opaline intelligence in the images. Fiduciary had chosen a maritime theme for the lesson; again due to his reading of economic literature, which so often employed ship or sea metaphors to describe money and its movements – ‘liquid assets’!
The story was about 12 ships, each representing a separate economic element; the first 3 were (according to Marx anyway) the most important, Labor, Commodity and Capital. These were represented by a toiling tugboat, a groaning freighter and a sleek luxury yacht – in the same order. All the boats were presented in an initial introduction; then each enjoyed the focus of their own day.
So all elements of Labor, as a vital aspect in the great economic equation, were studied on Tugboat Day. Various hypotheses were presented, such as: what happens to the wider economy, and by extension the whole social context, if there is too great a ‘pool’ of labor? Or perhaps an undersupply? Class discussions of these implications become very intense indeed – and highly revealing.
The same process occurred next day with the Commodity Freighter; what are the effects of ‘lakes of wine’ and ‘mountains of butt’? Or even of a products shortage, as in some ex-Communist countries? Capital Yacht also came under this mind-challenging scrutiny.
Then there was the fat Inflation Raft; an inflatable rubber life raft which, when overblown, couldn’t be steered anymore. A moderate inflation sustains healthy growth, without overheating (with hot air!) the economy. Negative inflation and the people have to swim for it in a sinking economy!
Then there was the villain, Destroyer Depression!! Oh, and his smaller brother, Gunboat Recession; both were a constant threat on the high seas, with the sinister Destroyer being feared by all the other maritime folk. A certain ‘gunboat diplomacy’ via the shot-across-the-bows method by Gunboat Recession was however sometimes found necessary (‘The recession we had to have.’)
A mystery ship, the Golden Galleon, represented that vital, stabilizing factor of economic life, the Gold Reserve. This ghostly vessel would appear out of the mist when needed, and vanish again when the threat to the country’s prosperity has passed.
The Interest Liner took people on trips round the island. (A further article on Mer Economica can be found in my book Magic Mangrove Seed); when interest rates were high, she stood right out of the water – when love, she almost sank with the overcrowding of eager borrowers! One could actually reverse this, with frantic booking of passages being the case by investors when rates were high!
Profit and Loss were a Racing Yacht and Submarine respectively. Too much profit – that which by definition must be exploitative – and the billowing spinnaker tore off altogether – probably sending the greedy usurer to prison, or disrepute at least. The depths of despair attendant on the appearance of Loss Submarine speak for themselves!
They also speak of lack of wisdom in financial matters; of bankruptcy and penury. Poverty-mentality was dealt with as well. Confidence, that enigmatic – nay metaphysical – element in the economic equation was envisioned as a soaring Seaplane. This could lift off, gaining altitude to gain a broad view of the whole economic seascape. With confidence Seaplane aloft, all other things being equal, the economic life will be healthy and the people prosperous. If Seaplane is grounded (oceaned?) by bad weather or some other confidence-eroding factor, widespread contraction occurs – all vessels head for shelter!
The 11th Economy Ship was the Resources Barge; that which was loaded – or not – with the natural gifts of the land and sea of the given region. Japan’s barge is of course almost empty; Australia’s, with its rich mineral, timber and other resources, is always down to the plimsol line!
Then why is Japan richer than Australia? Because of the all-important ‘value-added’ element – we destroy our ageless forests to supply the woodchips at throw-away prices; they make them into expensive furniture. Sometimes a country has resources by doesn’t exploit them – hidden diamond or oil deposits for instance. Then some use them differently from a more simplistic view, say in exploiting the said old-growth forest, not for chips, but as a tourist magnet!
Secretary noticed lots of ancillary images in the colorful main lesson books, those which described rather the conditions which affected the various ships. One of these was the Shark Rock of Unemployment; another the Sandbar of Overproduction – how about the Whirlpool of Deficit? There were positive features as well, like the foamy Way of Good Judgement (decisions, counseling); the Paradise Isle of Ethics…!
There were also four skippers indicting the four basis economic states; these are like the 4 temperaments in a curious way – boom/choleric; unstable/sanguine; steady/phlegmatic; crash/melancholic! The modern equivalent of the old Riverboat Gamblers, those who play the stock market, and hence influence economic life for everyone, know those four terms, and their attendant psychological states, all too well!
“What’s that drawing young man?” Secretary enquired kindly of a boy who was deeply engrossed with his colored pencils.
“Um – that’s the Lost-at-Sea raft; that man on it, the one in torn old clothes, thinks he can live outside the economic life of his country. He doesn’t like it much does he?! If he doesn’t get rescued soon…!”
“That’s funny, none of the other children have that one?”
“No, fiduciary said that we should make up some of our own boats for this money stuff – things we think of ourselves…er, creative input I think he calls it.”
Later in the staffroom Fiduciary’s questioning look begged a response of the now beaming Secretary “Ho don’t worry; there’ll be paeans of praise for the school in general, and the teaching of the – real – facts of life in particular. Those children certainly won’t go into the world as economic illiterates.
By the way, could you visit our teachers college and show the students some of these imaginative approaches – maybe a demonstration lesson with Class 12 as well? Mind you, they should have had this lesson in Class 7, but it’s never too late to start! By the Way, I thought you might like to read an article I had published recently on similar matters – I didn’t get to be Secretary to the Prime Minister for nothing you know.”
6 Decades of Boom & Bust!
I put down my newspaper with some puzzlement; in an article in the financial pages, the 1990s are, as usual, described as being dire days indeed. The gloom of recession and unemployment hangs over the Australian community like a shroud.
Unlike the post-war boom years of the 1940s, went on the article, where a limitless optimism had everyone working and laughing together in their new-found prosperity. Hang on? I was there!
I don’t remember any limitless optimism in the late ‘40s, I do remember being a child in a working-class family where it was a battle of long hours and low pay to put every meal on the table. I remember going to the shop with those tiny ration coupons to by tea and butter – and when the butter ran out, eating dripping sandwiches!
Maybe they got it wrong about the ‘40s, imagining that everyone owned a new Holden – a gleaming symbol of ‘limitless optimism’ – the country rode home on the Holden’ back you might say. But there is no equivocation about the 1950s, o sir – the ‘50s were really boom times – according to today’s commentators. Except nobody told me.
I went to school barefoot because we couldn’t afford shoes. The tabloids were our toilet paper – a before-it-tie recycling program. And still, right through the ‘50s, this family could not afford one of the increasingly expensive Holdens – Australia’s ‘family’ car. The ‘50s was the decade when the country rode home on the sheep’s back – we must have blinked and missed it.
The slightest hint that the ‘50s were less than boom dissipates with the 1960s. Now that, according to our warmly reminiscing finance reporters, was a real double-happy Boom! – one which rode home on the minerals’ back.
As a young man in the ‘60s, I was paid only six pounds a week, enough to rent a small, shared room and half-ways feed myself. I would walk miles home just to save the sixpenny tram fare. “Where is all this mineral wealth?” I would ask as I fell exhausted on to my horsehair pallet!
Later in the ‘60s, raising a young family, I was too busy getting a modest fibro cottage together to even ask the question. But there was a small sign of boom, at last we owned a car. Well, sort of a car; it was a little ‘tin lizzie’, a 1948 Ford Anglia. What joy to fold own the top, put the baby’s basket in the back seat and, when we could afford the petrol, go for a Sunday drive. Then somebody stole it!
How come today’s boom advocates don’t remember that these were stringent times of credit squeeze and low wages – of Ming economics! Perhaps grazers and mineral corporations were raking it in, but we saw precious little of it. In fact, in spite of working had right through the ‘60s, I still had to supplement my family’s diet by trapping rabbits and growing vegetables.
Ah, the mega – ‘70s; now the country moves into top boom gear. Finally we get our Holden – okay, it’s ten years old by now, but it goes well, like the economy. We elect a reform government – apparently we can now afford it, and the largess fairly flows – home on Gough’s back!
Sounds phony? Well it is, you see, being in the writing game, I can remember the tone of the financial comment right through the decades. Also time did journalist or paper policy admit that the country was luxuriating in a boon. Happy stories don’t sell newspapers.
Malcolm’s Maxim, that in the ‘70s, ‘life wasn’t meant to be easy’, stands in contradiction to rosy but blurred perceptions today of the good times. But there was butter and toilet paper for all, so things must have been improving.
The boom years promulgators wax positively euphoric when describing the pursuit-mode of the 1980s. there was money everywhere; deferential bank managers would stuff it into your pockets as you left the office with yet another high-interest loan – my pockets as usual remained empty. It was the pig’s back we rode home on in the ‘80s – the Age of Greed.
With an early-decade recession and high inflation, the situation for working class Australia has a distinctive ‘banana republic’ feel. How is it that the very same commentators who today refer to the boom of the ‘80s, at the time pronounced the country to be on the brink of bankruptcy? These are the same sages who today pummel us with the unrelenting propaganda that we are yet again in economic dire straits – darker and more storm-tossed than ever!
So here’s a prediction from a fiscal mug – these same people, in the next decade, the first of the third millennium, whilst bewailing the economic woes of the country, will wistfully refer to the ‘boom’ years of the ‘90s – see if they don’t.
We perpetually live in two illusions, supported by money-persons everywhere; one, that the past was always boom – and two, that the present is always bust.
A council in a Sydney suburb tried to virtually give away a whole lot of houses form flood-prone land they were reclaiming. There were no takers, so these perfectly sound structures were bulldozed. What I would have given for one of those in the ‘60s, when I was cobbling my own ‘dream home’ together. It seems that a young family today, in this darkest economic hour, couldn’t exist in less than your 3 B.R. – BK. VNR. – DBL. GRG. Home.
So, who’s back are we riding home on in the ‘90s? The tourists I suppose, but not being a travel agent, I’ll miss out again. It looks as if the boom view of the 1990s – by the impoverished 2010s! – is going to be correct, these are the good times. How come they don’t feel like it?