Chani recently blogged about How to Not be a Rockstar. It's excellent, give it a look. And her piece got me thinking about how we are always being tempted, by social pressure, by advertising, by the oppressive side of our culture, to worry about the surface of reality, instead of engaging with actual life.
Often, parents have taught us to be obedient and pleasant, rather than capable and independent. That's easy to understand; they get kudos for having obedient and pleasant children, and disapproval for raising kids who rock the boat, are messy, creative, loud or otherwise 'out of the norm.' Also, obedient and pleasant children are easier! So most of us have that early training to overcome. There is nothing wrong with being pleasant, but knowing how to do stuff, and not being afraid to do it, are what is needed to build a life.
In school, most of us have teachers who carry on with that program, and try to help us get good grades, and pass tests. How many of us are lucky enough to have teachers who challenge us to learn, who whet our curiosity, and then teach us how to find our own answers? Of course schools are established to enculturate children, and to pass along the basic canons of knowledge. Should the good school, the excellent teachers stop there, or use that as the foundation for life-long learning? I have nothing against good grades, and passing tests, but those are merely the appearance of learning. What good does it do to have good grades, if you haven't really mastered the material? If you've only been exposed to what's on the test; and don't know or don't take the time to learn more?
What is taught in home and school is only part of the problem facing children and teenagers. School social systems are often so toxic to kids that they learn to hide their true selves, rather than learning who they are, what they want, and what sort of people suit them as friends, lovers and collaborators. Aren't these the keys to a happy, successful life? Or do we really want to produce cogs which fit into society's machine, producing the same old stuff?
I think this weakness, this worship of the shallow in our culture is what has fueled the growth of both art and FOSS communities. We humans long to produce work that improves the world, and collaborate with people who share our values. In FOSS communities there are a multitude of ways to create cool stuff, whether we love coding or art, design or making great UI, writing or making websites. I think everyone who contributes is not only 'scratching their itch,' but also making the world a better place, and changing our culture for the better at the same time.