Speaking of stating the obvious: we rely more and more on schools and science the more our culture dies. This is a mistake, as explained below.
What’s slightly less obvious: the success of schools and science (however that success is defined) is a result of a successful culture. What obscures this truth is the sometimes silent, sometimes shouted from the rooftops claim that, somehow, successful schooling *results* in good culture and good science.
To quote Shrek: Yea, likes that’s gonna happen.
If you find the above assertions incoherent or even blasphemous, recall that there’s a huge array of interests and individuals who’s livelihood depends on schools holding a sacred spot in our society – these people have pretty much pushed the rational opponents of schooling (e.g., Orestes Brownson) off the public stage entirely. and we can’t entirely discount the presence of a Stockholm Syndrome – having been prisoners of schools for well over a decade, we cut deals to save our psyches. The upshot: posing the perfectly reasonable question of what, exactly, school is good for is far more emotional for most people than can be explained by the question itself.
Let’s say you start with culture instead. For an extreme Catholic example, look at St. John Bosco – he worked with abandoned and orphaned boys. The very first thing he did was create a culture – he knew that there was no point in trying to start a school until the boys belonged to something, felt affection and obligation to something. So, he and his brother teachers first and foremost treated the boys with respect – no bullying, no making them receive the Sacraments for their own good, no harsh discipline. Next, Bosco and Co provided a vivid, constant example of what a meaningful adult life was like – they were happy, hard-working, intimately involved in the lives of others, caring for the weak. It is within this context that ‘schooling’ took place. The primary material goal of Bosco’s education was to get the boys a job – again, a job is just one important way we have a meaningful roll in our culture. Only as a secondary goal were academics pursued.
To recap: Bosco, a great lover of children and famous for his ability to connect with them, knew that the major lack in the lives of these boys was family – the smallest unit of culture – and that that lacuna must first be filled before any other progress can be made. Because the boys lacked families, they also lacked any means for joining adult culture – namely, they couldn’t get a job, which meant they couldn’t get married and raise a family (couldn’t, as it were, attain FNG status! See, it’s all connected!). So Bosco worked to reconnect the circle that was broken for these boys – by becoming family for them, by helping them get a job, he enabled them to join that great interlocking chain of family circles we call a culture.
Science, in the context of culture, is just another useful craft. The mythology tries to convince us that great scientists are some sort of James Dean style outcasts, operating on the fringes of culture and fighting off culture’s ignorance in order to lead us, kicking and screaming, into the future. This is historically utter nonsense, but hey, who learns history any more?
QED: School and Science succeed because of culture.