Our Place In The World

For the 30th blog post, we’ve got a new name. Welcome to The Unrealized Republic. For the bulk of 2016, we’ve explored some exciting and controversial topics in public education, and looked into some ways that Maine could be a steward in the realm of public education. With its isolated northeast corner location of the country, its modest population of 1.2 million, its economic diversity, its unpredictable politics, its unique economy, and its varied geography, Maine ought to be a playground for learning at every level. There is no reason to believe that this state cannot and should not be a worldwide leader in teaching and learning innovation, and success in academic achievement.

We have not finished that conversation; in The Unrealized Republic, we will continue down that path, but we also have more territory to explore. The state of Maine has a great deal of untapped potential for greatness, beyond the world of public and private education. What are the things that make a place great? We can’t just stick up a big open for business flag on the interstate and expect patrons to flood through the door. What are the things that attract not just tourists seeking a great view of the ocean, but seekers of cultural enrichment and environmental immersion?

In every town and city where I have worked or lived, I have seen wonderful communities and features that are not fully exposed or realized.

And then there is our place in the world. The Unrealized Republic is not just about Maine, its schools, its people, its communities, but also our surroundings beyond our borders as seen from within. We have a unique perspective of the rest of the country, and beyond. When I leave Maine, I am always taken aback by how different the rest of the country is, with its dense, urban centers, its billboards, its busier coastlines, faster drivers, denser vegetation, flatter valleys, more predictable weather patterns, warmer temps, greater ethnic diversity, and fewer horridly designed intersections, all dependent upon where I am, of course. And if one takes a ferry out to one of our islands, we have a view of the mainland, something like the perspective of an outsider, and we can contemplate our place in the world from just afar, our inner GPS sent slightly off kilter, if only for a short time.

An adaptation of Barry Commoner’s Laws of Ecology contain the sentences, I am part of the environment, and, Everything is connected to everything else. That’s why I changed the name of the blog at this juncture. We’ve been talking about schools and we won’t stop doing that, but schools are just the tip of the iceberg. Those are the learning institutions we set up for our children, but we have a lot to learn in all other venues as well.

I am part of the environment has hidden truths. We think of our environment as our surroundings, namely our natural surroundings. When politicians and activists refer to “the” environment, we often think of clean air and rivers. But our environment is more like a multidimensional continuum, expanding outward from the center of our very being.   So when we talk about a “healthy environment,” we are also talking about our own bodies. It is contradictory to preach about clean air and water if we ingest pollutants into the most central and important part of our environment: ourselves. I am part of the environment means our hearts, our lungs, our brains.

The Unrealized Republic is written from the perspective of an environmentalist, but we won’t be talking any more about forests and rivers and clean air than we will be talking about schools, community, physical health, economic health and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And we’ll talk about Maine, but also the rest of the world from our unique perspective here in the northeastern quadrant.

Please write comments, visit the Facebook page, and bookmark this blog so you can continue to be part of the conversation.

James Tatum Gale

About James Tatum Gale

I have been a teacher in Maine schools for twelve years, and a writer and musician since childhood. I acquired a Master's degree in Teaching from USM, and a Certificate in Math Leadership from UMF. My undergraduate degree is in Philosophy with a concentration in Comparative Religion from the University of Maine (1994). I live with my wife, Erin, and my dog, Sally, in Bowdoinham.