Kudos to The Sun and Arnie Cooper for the excellent interview with David Korten [“Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” September 2007]. Korten penetrates to the core of our self-destructive culture and offers a plausible plan for ameliorating and ultimately overcoming it. To a seventy-two-year-old who has been disillusioned and pessimistic since retirement, Korten brought real hope and reawakened my willingness to get going again.
David Korten is right to say that the competitive dominator model permeates every level of American society. As a teacher, I can speak for its presence in the schools. From prekindergarten through college, our children are bombarded with high-stakes tests that supposedly will enable them to better compete in a global marketplace. Their brains are measured using benchmark assessments, end-of-grade tests, graduation exams, and a host of standardized tests to see if they are worthy of advancement, or if they should be relegated to the back burner. My job is to make sure I am “teaching to the test.”
Politicians and journalists argue that testing will make students work harder to get ahead. I think the real reason for testing may be to keep down as many students as possible and maintain the current system of domination, which treats the lower classes only as voracious consumers.
Like David Korten I have believed for years that humans’ strongest behavioral predisposition is toward cooperation — which also gives us the longest-lasting contentment. Yes, we have a propensity for violence and competition, but I think it’s our cooperative impulse that has enabled us to survive — and thrive — as a species.
Let’s form our future societies as Korten urges, by placing a premium on cooperation rather than competition. Let’s value community, not commercialism; conservation, not consumption; caring and compassion, not command and control. And let’s spread the word that cooperation brings the greatest satisfaction. If enough of us wake up to the rewards of cooperative living, we might be able to pull off Korten’s “Great Turning” before it’s too late.