“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” – H.G. Wells, 1920
“Give me a child for his first seven years and I’ll give you the man.” – Quote attributed to the Jesuits
“All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” – Aristotle
“A recently reprinted memoir by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) has footnotes explaining what words like ‘arraigned,’ ‘curried’ and ‘exculpate’ meant, and explaining who Job was. In other words, this man who was born a slave and never went to school educated himself to the point where his words now have to be explained to today’s expensively under-educated generation.
“There is really nothing very mysterious about why our public schools are failures. When you select the poorest quality college students to be public school teachers, give them iron-clad tenure, a captive audience, and pay them according to seniority rather than performance, why should the results be surprising?
“Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity.
“In a democracy, we have always had to worry about the ignorance of the uneducated. Today we have to worry about the ignorance of people with college degrees.” – Thomas Sowell
“It is only from a special point of view that ‘education’ is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it’s a good one. The pay isn’t high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is pretty good…in fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it.”—Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian.
This essay started out as a philippic against a group of teachers and their self-righteous, self-congratulatory story of manipulating a bunch of eight year-old kids and indoctrinating them into socialism using “Social Justice!” as their battle-cry.
It got a little complicated. Then it got a lot more complicated. And the process repeated a few more times.
The essay initially began thus:
Orwell wrote in his dystopian masterwork 1984: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face— forever.” It was appropriate for that novel, and his prediction has been extrapolated by others to our modern world, but I think that vision is wrong. In the West, it won’t be a government stormtrooper’s jackboot stamping on a human face, it will be an underpaid government nanny wrapping us in swaddling, wiping our faces and changing our diapers. Badly. With disinterest.
Until the money runs out.
It ran on a couple (OK, a few) thousand words, and then I set it aside to simmer, so to speak. In the mean time, my copy of Jonah Goldberg’s best-seller Liberal Fascism came in, and I was between (non-fiction) books at the time, so I started reading it.
Here’s one of the first things I ran across in it (a previous “Quote of the Day” here, as a matter of fact):
For generations our primary vision of a dystopian future has been that of Orwell’s 1984. This was a fundamentally “masculine” nightmare of fascist brutality. But with the demise of the Soviet Union and the vanishing memory of the great twentieth-century fascist and communist dictatorships, the nightmare vision of 1984 is slowly fading away. In its place, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is emerging as the more prophetic book. As we unravel the human genome and master the ability to make people happy with televised entertainment and psychoactive drugs, politics is increasingly a vehicle for delivering prepackaged joy. America’s political system used to be about the pursuit of happiness. Now more and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered.
OK. Stop the presses.
From the time I began writing this piece there has been an almost daily deluge of blog posts, editorials, or news stories that I have earmarked “Use in the education piece.” Little did I know then, for example, that we’d have evidence of “Two Minute Hates” in kindergartens! This has been going on since March. I feel like I’ve been drinking from a fire hose. But here we go on my latest attempt. If I don’t do it now, I’ll be overwhelmed!
My initial reaction? RCOB. Now surprisingly enough, I don’t have this reaction often. The last time also involved the education of young children so perhaps this indicates a trend, but I knew I needed to let this one sit a bit and ferment before I attempted to write about it. I forwarded the link to a couple of people. I printed out the piece for a couple more to read. Then I asked them what their opinions were, just to gauge if my reaction was… excessive.
One of the people I sent it to was Sarah, “Stickwick Stapers” (now Doctor Stapers) of Carnaby Fudge. Sarah has, in comments here and in her own posts, related the tales of her upbringing by parents who could have been stereotypical members of the Left, up to and including their move to Canada to get away from Imperial Capitalist Amerikkka. At some point, her father had an epiphany and abandoned socialism. Here’s his response to the article, from which I took the title of this essay:
My God! The George Orwell Daycare Center.
The kids wanted to play with Lego, and were doing fine, but they get 5 months of communist reeducation and groupthink. When the commies do this sort of thing with cows and chickens instead of Legos, they kill tens of millions of people. The next step would have been Lego-Siberia concentration camps for all the little unrepentant individualists.
OK, there’s one vote for “not excessive”! And the rest were about the same.
So, if you’re interested in the topic, get yourself a beverage and a snack, settle in, and read the rest of another patented, rambling überpost™©®.
It has been my position for some time that the disaster that is America’s public education system is not an accident. I have on numerous occasions quoted something that Connie du Toit wrote quite a while back:
The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, “it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy.”
He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, “You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.”
I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.
Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.
The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.
“Slight correction, however. That Dewey quote cannot be verified. It was used once (I believe) by The Skinny One, but no other source/attribution can be found.
Dewey did design the schools for the USSR, however, and wrote many essays about that experience. (The USSR later threw out his design because his model/approach turned out thugs and gangsters. Surprise, surprise. It is still the model we use today.)
Regardless, I am of the carefully considered opinion that both our media and our educational system have been largely taken over by people who are acolytes of the Holy Grail that Socialism promised, and who put themselves in those positions in the belief that it is up to them to help create the New Men that Socialism cannot succeed without. Our schools, especially, have become centers for the teaching of collectivism, “identity politics,” and for want of a better term, “rage against the machine.”
And to some extent, it has worked.
To a larger extent, it has not.
What has resulted are the unintended consequences of declining standards, high dropout rates, functional illiteracy and innumeracy, almost no general knowledge of geography, history, or civics, and nearly complete ignorance of science – both general and applied.
Schools should be the foundry through which the raw material of our youth is run, coming out the other end with strong and tempered minds well prepared for the world. The ore hasn’t changed, but the ratio of dross to valuable product has grown precipitously.
Less than half of the nearly 1,100 students who entered ninth grade at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California in 2001 graduated with that class in 2005:
For students at Birmingham, the act of dropping out was generally the last twist in a long downward spiral. Sometimes it began as early as elementary school. Year after year, students were allowed to fail upward, promoted despite a trail of Ds and Fs.
“Here you can get straight Fs,” said Barbara Mezo, a teacher at Mulholland Middle School, which sends students to Birmingham, “and the best they can do is keep you out of eighth-grade graduation ceremony.”
Then came high school, where credits were granted only for passing grades. Failing students found themselves on a treadmill, never reaching their goal of 230 credits for graduation. And with an increased focus on improving student performance, schools have little incentive to keep those who fail.
RTWT. It’ll take a while.
75% of the graduates of the Dallas school systems who are headed for Dallas-area community colleges “can’t read above an 8th grade level, and others can’t add or subtract.”
Many kids in the LA school system don’t get to graduate, not just the ones attending Birmingham High:
When the Los Angeles Board of Education approved tougher graduation requirements that went into effect in 2003, the intention was to give kids a better education and groom more graduates for college and high-level jobs. For the first time, students had to pass a year of algebra and a year of geometry or an equivalent class to earn diplomas. The policy was born of a worthy goal but has proved disastrous for students unprepared to meet the new demands. In the fall of 2004, 48,000 ninth-graders took beginning algebra; 44% flunked, nearly twice the failure rate as in English. Seventeen percent finished with Ds. In all, the district that semester handed out Ds and Fs to 29,000 beginning algebra students — enough to fill eight high schools the size of Birmingham. Among those who repeated the class in the spring, nearly three-quarters flunked again.
Read that whole piece, too. (I’m not a fan of the LA Dog Trainer but these are good in-depth pieces.)
30% of students in the Tucson school districts fail basic subjects, but 90% are promoted to the next grade anyway. Plus, investigation suggests that up to a quarter of the students receiving passing grades should not be. (For the innumerate out there, that’s possibly over half, in total.) Nor is this limited to the Southwest.
The AP reports:
More than 50 percent of students at four-year schools and more than 75 percent at two-year colleges lacked the skills to perform complex literacy tasks. That means they could not interpret a table about exercise and blood pressure, understand the arguments of newspaper editorials, compare credit card offers with different interest rates and annual fees or summarize results of a survey about parental involvement in school.
College students. The “successful” end product of our primary and secondary education systems. The 50-60% or so who actually get a high school diploma or GED.
According to a 2007 study cited by Harvard professor of economics Greg Mankiw:
After adjusting for multiple sources of bias and differences in sample construction, we establish that (1) the U.S. high school graduation rate peaked at around 80 percent in the late 1960s and then declined by 4-5 percentage points; (2) the actual high school graduation rate is substantially lower than the 88 percent estimate of the status completion rate issued by the NCIS [National Center for Educational Statistics]; (3) about 65 percent of blacks and Hispanics leave school with a high school diploma, and minority graduation rates are still substantially below the rates for non-Hispanic whites. In fact, we find no evidence of convergence in minority-majority graduation rates over the past 35 years….A significant portion of the convergence reported in the official statistics is due to black males obtaining GED credentials in prison.
The question left unanswered there is how many of those students, graduates or dropouts, are functionally illiterate and/or innumerate? Because it appears that a significant chunk of the ones who think they have a shot at college really shouldn’t be racking up the student loans. They should be the ones unable to give you correct change at McDonalds.
And that leaves the dropouts… where, exactly?
I believe there has been little meaningful opposition to this decline in part because our elected officials like it when the electorate is ignorant and thus either apathetic or easily manipulated. Moreover, the teacher’s unions have become an almost immovable voting block constantly demanding more pay, better benefits, and reduced accountability. Also, we are entering our fifth or sixth generation of this indoctrination so many (by now perhaps most) parents don’t know enough to question it. For too many, school has become tax-payer provided day-care, warehousing kids for much of the day while parents try to earn a living. Homework? Many parents can’t help – the school systems have changed the way they teach “language arts” and mathematics so much, they can’t understand the instructions – and the children have to do it per the procedure or it doesn’t count! (Ask me how I know.) This joke goes back several years now:
In 1960: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is four fifths the price. What is his profit?
In 1970: (traditional math): A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 80% of the price. What is his profit in dollars?
In 1970: (new math): A logger exchanges set L of lumber for set M of money. The cardinality of set M is 100 and each element is worth $1. Make 100 dots representing the elements of set M. The set C of costs contains 20 fewer points than set M. Represent set C as a subset of set M, and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set P of profits?
In 1980: A logger sells a truckload of wood for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
In 1990: (Outcome-Based Education): By cutting down beautiful forest trees, a logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class discussion: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel?
In 2000: A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $120. How does Arthur Andersen determine that his profit margin is $60?
In 2010: El hachero vende un camion carga por $100. La cuesta de productiones…
For the few who know better and protest? There are still private schools and homeschooling, but few can afford either without major lifestyle changes even fewer are willing to make. There are charter schools, but those vary vastly in quality and availability, and there is active resistance against all of the above by the State and the teacher’s unions (please watch the entire video). The latest example of this resistance was the recent California Court of Appeals ruling that made home schooling illegal if the instructor was not an accredited teacher – a more stringent requirement than Charter schools there have to live up to.
I’m not making a claim of an active “communist conspiracy.” These people don’t have monthly meetings to plan the next step in Lenin’s Great Plan. It just requires social utopists to go into certain fields and then act to influence others, and they have done just that. Worse, I think that today most of the “true believers” don’t even understand what it is that they’re advocating. They want to teach “fairness,” and “self-esteem,” “social justice,” and “awareness” etc. Who could be against that? They know all the buzzwords, but they don’t have a coherent philosophy behind it – not even the flawed one of socialism. They are themselves part of socialism’s failed outcome, acting as sand in the gears of the education system and our nation. Here’s an example from the piece on requiring algebra for graduation:
Although experts widely agree that algebra sharpens young minds, some object to making it a graduation requirement. “If you want to believe you’re for standards, you’re going to make kids take algebra. It has that ring of authenticity,” said Robert Balfanz, an associate research scientist with the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “But you’re not really thinking through the implications. There may be no good reason why algebra is essential for all high school students.”
In a piece I linked to in an earlier post, an opposing argument is made:
Even if you accept the argument that geometry in general, and proofs in particular, are unnecessary for students to learn, at least algebra should be taught properly, since algebra is the common language of, and gateway to, all of higher math. The absence of clear explanation and logical development left students I later tutored in algebra as lost as my geometry student. Their textbooks (and, probably, their teachers too) encouraged them to use a graphing calculator. Operations with algebraic fractions, like a¼b + c¼d, were given little attention, to say nothing of quadratic equations, once the pinnacle of any first-year algebra course. Instead, the quadratic formula is presented for the students to memorize and apply—if it is even mentioned at all.
Barry Garelick has an excellent point. Algebra is indeed the gateway to all higher maths, and it does sharpen young minds – when taught properly. And given Garelick’s experience it doesn’t seem surprising that algebra is being so poorly taught in the LA school system (and elsewhere). (Somebody bring back Jaime Escalante!)
The frustrating part for the real True Believers, however, must be the same thing that confounded Marx and Lenin – the proletariat won’t rise up against the bourgeoisie, being too distracted themselves with the base acquisition of material wealth and mindless entertainment. (You know, widescreen HDTVs that proliferate in homes all across America for example, upon which the children of the proles play HALO2 on their X-Boxes and watch Jackass (Unrated) in full 1080p and 7+1 channel Dolby.) It’s tough to motivate the proletariat toward social justice when that will prevent them from watching Lost, Tivo or no Tivo.
Why We Banned Legos is just another strut supporting my belief – and it’s a BIG, loadbearing one. If you haven’t read it, I strongly suggest you do. I’m just going to excerpt one small part (throwing away literally thousands of words I’ve already written in favor of this
sixth seventh eighth rewrite):
A group of about eight children conceived and launched Legotown. Other children were eager to join the project, but as the city grew — and space and raw materials became more precious — the builders began excluding other children.
Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.
(Emphasis mine.) I bet they did. Spontaneous capitalism! Imagine the horror! Why, unchecked, they might grow up to drive SUVs, eat as much as they want, and keep their thermostats at 72º year-round!
If people are free to do as they wish, they are almost certain not to do as we wish. That is why Utopian planners end up as despots, whether at the national level or at the level of the local ‘redevelopment’ agency. —Thomas Sowell
A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it … gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. – Milton Friedman
The left is not interested in education, they are interested only in indoctrination. – Zendo Deb
That does seem to me to be a fair assessment of the “teachers” in Why We Banned Legos. It also seems to be the mindset of the instructors in the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American/Raza Studies program, which targets somewhat older students. It also appears to be something that the San Francisco school system is ramping up.
Recently I was accused: “You aggressively advocate an “alternative” education to the “socialist crap” being taught in our “collapsing” schools and yet it is clear to me that what you really desire is dissemination of propaganda….”
Now to be fair, pretty much all early education is and must be indoctrination. The questions are, what should be taught, and why?
It is not generally realized that education can never be more than indoctrination with theories and ideas already developed. Education, whatever benefits it may confer, is transmissive of traditional doctrines and valuations; it is by necessity conservative. It produces imitation and routine, not improvement and progress. Innovators and creative geniuses cannot be reared in schools. They are precisely the men who defy what the school has taught them. – Ludwig von Mises, Human Action pg. 314
Well, yes and no. Yes, early education is indoctrination with theories and ideas already developed. No, those theories and ideas are not necessarily “conservative” (see above). But in either case it is almost absolutely true that innovation and creative genius are not served by traditional schooling, and most especially public schooling. But I believe what is happening now is that students in the system are being indoctrinated, but some in socialism and some in the traditional values that schools have taught for decades (as demonstrated in the earlier piece on Nina Burleigh and her 5 year-old son). Those who receive the traditional version the social utopists then shatter like someone telling an eight year-old that Santa isn’t real just for the shock effect. Of course, they still hide their own uncomfortable truths.
“The reason this country continues its drift toward socialism and big nanny government is because too many people vote in the expectation of getting something for nothing, not because they have a concern for what is good for the country… If children were forced to learn about the Constitution, about how government works, about how this nation came into being, about taxes and about how government forever threatens the cause of liberty perhaps we wouldn’t see so many foolish ideas coming out of the mouths of silly old men.” — Lyn Nofziger
Perhaps not. But it would be nice, if they taught those things, to also teach about how the native Indian populations were treated, how different immigrant populations were treated, and how these behaviors (and others) compared to the actions of other nations around the world during the same periods – and why. But the evidence suggest that they do not even teach much of the basics. My daughter graduated from a Tucson Unified School District high school in 1997. She just recently earned a 2-year Associates degree in business. I had her take the American Civics Literacy Quiz. She got 16 correct answers out of 60, and admitting to guessing at many of those. My wife, who was born in Okinawa, came to the U.S. at age 9 and hasn’t been a student since graduating from high school early in 1976 took it and got 29 correct. According to the ISI, the average score for a college senior is barely over 50%. (For the record, I missed four, but I’m largely self-taught.)
Yet I think commenter “Mastiff” hits close to the mark:
If the non-socialist end of the political spectrum cannot create a political philosophy that is both good theory and emotionally appealing, we’re doomed.
Any political philosophy that is not self-reinforcing is by definition not the best political philosophy. Libertarianism (with a small “l”) features a stoic acceptance of individual risk (i.e. the lack of government intervention) for the sake of long-term freedom and prosperity–yet takes no measures to ensure that the society educates its young to maintain that acceptance of risk. The equilibrium, if it ever exists in the first place, is unstable and will collapse.
This aside from the fact that libertarianism is emotionally cold and unfulfilling to most people, who have not trained themselves to consider lack of outside restraint to be worth cherishing.
And that is part of the education I think our kids ought to be receiving, but the state doesn’t teach it. That leaves it to the parents… who by now are almost all products of state education systems. “Any political philosophy that is not self-reinforcing is by definition not the best political philosophy.” I believe the “best political philosophy” already exists and has for centuries, yet it isn’t necessarily “not self-reinforcing,” that philosophy has been deliberately displaced.
My accuser also said:
(Y)ou want schools to turn children into your type of drone. Do you know the one I am talking about? The kind that believe that we are in Iraq to protect our nation. The kind that think that the free market is something to be worshiped. The kind that believe that sick people…that poor people are only that way because they are weak and didn’t take responsibility for themselves.
Well, having them understand that they are expected to be responsible for themselves would be a nice start… But no, that’s not what I want. I want our children to grow up into adults with a good grounding in history, a thorough understanding of governments (ours and others) and the ability to reason from the facts. But indoctrination does go on. Interestingly enough, in that California decision essentially outlawing homeschooling the judge declared:
A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.
Of course, the question of what “good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare” means has changed a bit over the last, oh, fifty or sixty years – especially in California. That may explain why California Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) wants to repeal the law that allows “teachers and other public employees to be fired for being members of the Communist Party.” You know, the kind of employees that find the “class-based capitalist society” “unjust and oppressive,” and who define “the public welfare” a lot differently (at a minimum) than I do. But the bill does more than merely protect them from firing. According to Cryptic Subterranian the text of the bill states:
This bill would delete provisions that prohibit a teacher giving instruction in a school or on property belonging to an agency included in the public school system from teaching communism with the intent to indoctrinate or to inculcate in the mind of any pupil a preference for communism. The bill would also delete provisions that a teacher may be dismissed from employment if he or she teaches communism in that way.
Somehow I get the feeling that the judge in the case didn’t intend that kind of indoctrination.
And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps. – H.L. Mencken
Then again, maybe he did.
Berkeley Liberals and Falwell actually agree much more closely with each other than either does with me.
Both believe in using the power of the state to “do good” by directly interfering in the lives of citizens and applying legal sanctions to those who don’t live good lives. They disagree about what that means, of course, but both are strongly illiberal in believing in active government interventionism in our lives in ways which go well beyond the minimum needed to keep us safe and free. Falwell would use the law to punish immoral behavior (according to his morality) which would include such things as recriminalizing homosexuality and recriminalizing pornography.
And the Berkeley Liberals also want to use the power of the state to do good, only what they wish to ban is much deeper, for they want to infringe my freedom of thought and of expression much more profoundly.
Equally, both of them wish to use the power of government to deeply indoctrinate the citizenry, especially the schools. Falwell wants the schools to teach Christianity; the Berkeley Liberals want to use it to indoctrinate children with their own version of “right thinking”. – Steven Den Beste, Liberal Conservatism
Some time back I wrote a piece specifically on the topic of indoctrination. I will quote again the words of economist, humorist, and very early “neo-con” Leo Rosten from an interview with Eric Sevareid from August 24, 1975:
We’re practically using the colleges as a dump into which to put youngsters we do not know what to do with. There are today 45 million people between the age of roughly 7 and 24. Their parents don’t know what to do with them. They want them to go to college and they often think that they’re being trained for jobs. But they’re not getting training for useful employment.
Someone has said that education is what remains after everything you’ve learned is forgotten. The purpose of educating young people is not only to illuminate their spirit and enrich their memory bank but to teach them the pleasures of thinking and reading. How do you use the mind? As a teacher, I always was astonished by the number of people in the classroom who wanted to learn as against those who just wanted to pass. I took pride in my ability to communicate. Generally “communicate” meant one thing. Now the young think “communicate” means “Agree with me!”
The student rebellions of the 1960’s exposed the fact that our entire educational system has forgotten the most important thing it can do prior to college: indoctrinate. I believe in the indoctrination of moral values. There’s a lot to be said for being good and kind and decent. You owe a duty to those who have taken care of you. You owe a duty to whatever it is that God or fate gave you – to use your brain or your heart. It’s senseless to whine, to blame society for every grievance, or to assume that the presence of a hammer means you have to go out to smash things.
The young want everything. They think they can get everything swiftly and painlessly. They are far too confident. They don’t know what their problems are, not really. They talk too much. They demand too much. Their ideas have not been tempered by the hard facts of reality. They’re idealists, but they don’t sense that it’s the easiest thing in the world to be an idealist. It doesn’t take any brains. This was said by Aristotle 2300 years ago. Mencken once said that an idealist is someone who, upon observing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, assumes that it will also make better soup.
And now those young people he was talking about are probably parents and possibly grandparents themselves.
The first question I have is “When should we begin teaching our children philosophy?” Followed by “Which philosophy should we be teaching?” In another comment my one self-described Jewish reader noted:
In a more positive light, education is a powerful tool to make society better—and the most durable sociopolitical systems (such as traditional Judaism) place a tremendous emphasis on rigorous education, according to a particular program of morality meant to deliberately affect the behavior of the student.
I worry about America most of all because our education program does not know what it wants to achieve.
I’m not sure that’s really the case. I think there’s a conflict between two rival philosophies that appears to the uninvolved as dithering and indecision. There are essentially only two in conflict here as I have noted before: Locke and his descendants versus Rousseau and his branch. Socialism/Communism is the outgrowth of Rousseau’s concept of “the social contract.” America is the outgrowth of Locke’s “life, liberty, property.”
“The monstrous evils of the twentieth century have shown us that the greediest money grubbers are gentle doves compared with money-hating wolves like Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, who in less than three decades killed or maimed nearly a hundred million men, women, and children and brought untold suffering to a large portion of mankind.” – Eric Hoffer, True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
For me the choice is simple and obvious. I’m an engineer, I like what works. Teach the successful one. Point out its flaws and foibles, by all means – engineers love to change things – but don’t chuck it all out the window because it seems “unjust and oppressive.” If history proves nothing else, it proves that all government is unjust and oppressive, but our class-based capitalistic society has resulted in a system where “the poorest 10% of the U.S. population was still wealthier than two-thirds of the rest of the world.“ (Apparently that’s because we don’t share well.)
But of course, that’s not what is happening, because the people we entrust with educating our children mostly follow Rousseau, and not Locke.
My accuser proclaimed to me: “I don’t really have a belief system, other than my belief in Christ.” He very well might believe that, but he’d be wrong.
In 1974 Ayn Rand gave a speech to the graduating class at West Point entitled “Philosophy: Who Needs It?” Here’s a pertinent excerpt:
You might claim – as most people do – that you have never been influenced by philosophy. I will ask you to check that claim. Have you ever thought or said the following? “Don’t be so sure – nobody can be certain of anything.” You got that notion from David Hume (and many, many others), even though you might never have heard of him. Or: “This may be good in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice.” You got that from Plato. Or: “That was a rotten thing to do, but it’s only human, nobody is perfect in this world.” You got that from Augustine. Or: “It may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” You got it from William James. Or: “I couldn’t help it! Nobody can help anything he does.” You got it from Hegel. Or: “I can’t prove it, but I feel it’s true.” You got it from Kant. Or: “It’s logical, but logic has nothing to do with reality.” You got it from Kant. Or: “It’s evil because it’s selfish.” You got it from Kant. Have you heard the modern activist say: “Act first, think afterward”? They got it from John Dewey.
Some people might answer: “Sure, I’ve said those things at different times, but I don’t have to believe that stuff all the time. It may have been true yesterday, but it’s not true today.” They got it from Hegel. They might say: “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” They got it from a very little mind, Emerson. They might say: “But can’t one compromise and borrow different ideas from different philosophies according to the expediency of the moment?” They got it from Richard Nixon – who got it from William James.
You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experiences, your knowledge into abstract ideas, i.e., into principle. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false, whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions – or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, context and consequences you do not know, notions which, more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato if you knew.
As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation – or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.
Your subconscious is like a computer – more complex a computer than men can build – and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don’t reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance – and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted.
Everybody has a philosophy, a belief system. Everybody. Some are just more jumbled, flawed, self-contradictory, and useless than others. Balls and chains, instead of wings.
Our school systems are churning out tens of thousands of ignorant students filled with self-doubt rather than knowledge and understanding, and they’ve been doing it for literally decades. Knowing this makes the current race for the office of President of the United States much more understandable.
The relative, diminishing hardships of everyday existence, together with more extensive academic instruction, has laid a foundation of knowledge for most people that is less tested by experience and affirmed more by internal feelings and passions. More people may be better educated these days, but they are also more insulated and more naive. —Richard Reay, letter to the Wall Street Journal, published 6 August 2003.
Except the evidence seems to indicate that people are not “better educated these days” than they were in the past – but “more insulated and more naive,” “affirmed more by internal feelings and passions”? Absolutely.
My sister was studying for a high school civics exam the other night and had to ask me what rights were protected under the 1st Amendment. She got “speech” and “press” but not freedom of religion, assembly, and right to petition.
Apparently they (very briefly) studied the 15th, 19th, and 26th (voting rights) amendments and a handful of others but didn’t even focus on the 1st ten in the BOR. She had no idea what the 3rd, 9th, or 10th were (although most schools generally ignore those as much as they do the 2nd) What was probably even more astounding is she couldn’t even name a single sitting Supreme Court Justice. I even gave her hints, I.E. “name the black guy” or “Name a woman” but she didn’t have a clue. Then again, in my Con Law Commerce Clause class we were asked to name the sitting justices on the final and a good portion of the class couldn’t do it. That’s disgusting considering we studied Con Law the entire semester.
This is in an Honors Level Junior year Civics class and my sister is a bright girl. Apparently they now combine Civics and Econ into one class and Civics gets the shaft most of the year. When the Constitution and the principles and fundamentals surrounding it are never taught or merely glossed over it’s not surprising that people eagerly vote for hope, change, and socialism.
Oh, and she uses the same textbook I used in high school. Those books were quite a few years old when I took the class. Another Gun Blog – “And I Wonder Why Young People Vote Liberal…”
The first and so far only comment is priceless.
One more excerpt from Legos:
Children absorb political, social, and economic worldviews from an early age. Those worldviews show up in their play, which is the terrain that young children use to make meaning about their world and to test and solidify their understandings. We believe that educators have a responsibility to pay close attention to the themes, theories, and values that children use to anchor their play. Then we can interact with those worldviews, using play to instill the values of equality and democracy.
But not meritocracy and capitalism. In short, these teachers did what Antonio Gramsci advocated from his prison cell – they used education to try to make little Marxists, because they will not form “naturally.” But individualist meritocratic capitalists can, and we can’t have that!
Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.
History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition. – Milton Friedman
Complete equality isn’t compatible with democracy, but it is agreeable to totalitarianism. After all the only way to ensure the equality of the slothful, the inept and the immoral is to suppress everyone else. – Iain Benson
A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both. – Milton Friedman
If a consensus of the majority is all it takes to determine what is right, then having and controlling information becomes extraordinarily important. – Masamune Shirow
It is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people. -James Madison
So yes, I believe Lyn Nofziger is right – we are drifting into socialism because that’s what our children have been learning in school – in greater or lesser amounts – since the turn of the previous Century. There has also been a nearly complete collapse of education in many places, mostly inner-city schools, aided and abetted by teacher’s unions and the federal Department of Education. In my opinion, that collapse is the understandable outcome of a philosophy that doesn’t work crashing into the real world.
But with a cockroach resiliency it just shakes itself off and charges on.
You want to know why so many people vote “Liberal”? George Orwell Daycare Centers that begin in kindergarten and go through High School. They don’t know any better because no one has taught them.
Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been found that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery. — Benjamin Disraeli, found at Ninth Stage
Further suggested reading (that I couldn’t work into this post):
The Diplomad: About Those “Highly Educated Voters”
Parental Involvement Strongly Impacts Student Achievement (From the Dept. of “DUH!”)
Locke and Rousseau: Early Childhood Education (a PDF file)
A Modest Proposal for Saving Our Schools by Tom McClintock (who is running for the House of Representatives, BTW.)
And, from America’s petri dish:
UPDATE: The original JSKit/Echo comment thread for this post is available due to the herculean efforts of reader John Hardin, here.