[3/7/17] Instead of teaching lessons based on the tried and true — the results of thousands of years of trial and error — schools adhere to the latest whims and fads, damaging youth.
“You must never let schooling interfere with education,” warned 19th-century novelist Grant Allen. Since then, the interference has become profound enough that we could wonder if no formal education is preferable to today’s miseducation. An uninformed person desiring your good health may not treat you; the misinformed physician will mistreat you. In fact, he will violate the Hippocratic Oath with passion, inspired by the conviction that he’s answering a high calling.
By the November 2020 election, approximately 10 million Americans will have died; mostly older, they’re a demographic that generally votes for conservatives. They will be perhaps more than replaced, though, by approximately 16 million young people who will turn 18 between now and then. Yet these new voters won’t fill their elders’ shoes: They’ll disproportionately cast ballots for hardcore statists, perhaps being the most “liberal” group of 18-year-olds in American history.
While much of their malformation is due to popular culture and poor parenting, another factor is something Abraham Lincoln addressed when saying, “The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow.” Many think of education as being just about the three r’s, which today, lamentably, have become racism, relativism, and revisionism. Yet whatever form the r’s take, education could never be limited to them — man’s nature precludes that.
As philosopher G.K. Chesterton put it, “In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.” Man is a creature who believes — things. He is a moral being in the sense that, whether he’s an absolutist or relativist, he will adopt certain moral positions as his own. And when they are important enough to him, he will express them, often passionately, and may even try to impose them.
Of course, we all know those lukewarm types who, for their principles, wouldn’t fall on a sword if it were made by Nerf. Yet they’re the benchwarmers. The passionate carry the day even if they be few; they shape social codes, traditions, and laws — and curricula.
Today we don’t much have the imposition of morality, but the imposition of immorality. The symptoms are plain and all around us. Proving George Orwell’s observation that there “are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them,” academia now breeds sheer lunacy. “White privilege theory” is all the rage on campuses today, and in 2015 we learned of a course at Arizona State University concerning the “Problem of Whiteness.” This almost sounds sane, too, relative to what I described in the 2013 New American essay “Diploma Disaster?” To wit: “As the Young America’s Foundation pointed out in ‘The Dirty Dozen: America’s Most Bizarre and Politically Correct College Courses’ (12/9/2006), academia has descended into course offerings such as ‘The Phallus,’ ‘Queer Musicology,’ ‘Border Crossings, Borderlands: Transnational Feminist Perspectives on Immigration,’ ‘Whiteness: The Other Side of Racism,’ ‘Native American Feminisms,’ ‘Sex Change City: Theorizing History in Genderqueer San Francisco,’ and ‘Lesbian Pulp Fiction,’ just to name a handful. So maybe Johnny can’t read, but he’s fine with that. He knows that language is a white male homophobic social construct, anyway.”
With these institutions of lower learning disgorging our schoolteachers and curriculum models, it’s no surprise this has filtered down to primary and secondary education. In 2013, Portland, Oregon, school principal Verenice Gutierrez warned that talking about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich could be a “racist” act because, as she rhetorically asked, “What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Then there was the other ridiculous question, “Is white bread more racist than whole wheat?” This, actually, was a quip by College Fix editor Nathan Harden, making fun of Gutierrez. Yet this illustrates our cultural decline: It’s sometimes hard to distinguish between jokes — and the teaching philosophy of walking, talking embodiments of jokes masquerading as educators.
A less funny but every bit as faddish obsession is the so-called “transgender” movement, which I’ve dubbed the Made-up Sexual Status (MUSS) agenda. I won’t dissect it here soup to nuttiness, partially because I’ve done it to death on these pages before, but mainly because this essay deals with larger issues of which it’s merely a symptom. As you likely know, however — since we’ve all been bludgeoned with the MUSS agenda these last several years — the idea is that a person can identify as being male, female, or one of scores of other “genders” and dress accordingly, as takes his fancy. And we’re not to call him a fancy boy, but are to blithely accept his whims.
Yet there is no good science behind this agenda. There are no physiological markers a doctor can identify to indicate that at work truly is a biological phenomenon and not a purely psychological one, that what needs alteration is the given patient’s body and not, as we rubes would assume, his mind. Nonetheless, the agenda has entered schools, with educators sometimes allowing students to use the bathroom of their choice and giving them “sensitivity training” (mis)informing that a MUSS is legitimate.
This is illustrative of something Chesterton quite picturesquely noted in his 1910 book What’s Wrong With the World:
The trouble in too many of our modern schools is that the State, being controlled so specially by the few, allows cranks and experiments to go straight to the schoolroom when they have never passed through the Parliament, the public house, the private house, the church, or the marketplace. Obviously, it ought to be the oldest things that are taught to the youngest people; the assured and experienced truths that are put first to the baby. But in a school to-day the baby has to submit to a system that is younger than himself. The flopping infant of four actually has more experience, and has weathered the world longer, than the dogma to which he is made to submit. Many a school boasts of having the last ideas in education, when it has not even the first idea.
Tragically, these “last ideas,” if not rejected, can author our Republic’s last chapter. Moreover, “since the private schools have basically copied the public schools … only with a higher tuition,” to quote educator and writer Dale Ahlquist, we must ask (and answer) a question: What is the root cause of our schooling problem?
If we were teaching nutrition, we’d relate the laws of the field as best we understood them. Imagine, however, we began falling victim to the notion there essentially were no such rules, that it all was relative. What would then become our yardstick for formulating curriculum?
Of course, if there were no principles behind the matter, there would be nothing to teach. It would then be not like trying to instruct as to why asparagus is better (health-wise) than ice cream, but why one flavor ice cream is better than another; the latter is a matter of taste, not truth, and no one need be schooled in what to like (though tyrants may disagree).
Yet now imagine that, as is typical, people haven’t thought matters through carefully enough to grasp the implications of their nutritional relativism. Moreover, already having established schools of nutrition and instinctively believing the field “should be taught,” they continue plodding along, driven by cultural habit. Again, what would be their yardstick for devising curriculum?