Schooling’s True Believers

The moral argument, mentioned recently here and at Darwin Catholic, that seems most to shape True Believers in our schools: My friends and I are good people; we do X; therefore, X can’t be bad. In addition to employing grossly invalid logic, this line of thought is a drug used to suppress both our ability to assess ourselves (what did those dead white guys say? Know thyself? Waaaaay to much work!) but also provides a nice blind from reality: the people with the nicest slogans and most fervent concern for humanity are often the ones who end up shooting and starving defenseless peasants for failure to get in line fast enough, or just because, like some clueless tourist wandering onto a movie set mid-shoot, they are cluttering up their betters’ Utopian vision.

Among the required but missing terms in this pseudo-argument is the premise: Good people can’t do bad things. It’s possible that the foundationally unaware might even believe this. For example, think about the sense of abandonment children of divorce feel. Applying this rule would mean either Mom and Dad are evil, OR it’s not evil to inflict gross, crippling misery on one’s own children. Most kids, it seems, oscillate between these poles, or pick one parent as the good guy and one as the bad guy, which then, paradoxically, allows them to go with the ‘divorce isn’t so bad’ line – for the good parent. I’ve seen cases where one parent initiates the divorce, then withholds affection and otherwise tortures her own children unless they will say it’s no big deal. The kids then have to choose: if I want to hang with both my parents, I have to pretend everything is fine half the time or I’ll get emotionally beat up; if I don’t go along, I’ll effectively get cut out of one of my parent’s lives. I’ve seen kids in the same family choose differently – now, we’ve added destruction of sibling relationships to the mix.*

So, we hear the horror stories, the extreme cases: about the prison camp guard who gave candy the the Jewish kids on their way to the gas chambers, the no doubt upstanding Phoenician mothers who threw their own living children into the fire, people on a subway standing by while a man is knifed to death, doctors doing the unspeakable to babies days before their birth – all no doubt perfectly nice people, people you could have over for dinner or a beer, who might hang out at your church or Rotary Club. Monsters, it seem, most often look a lot like the guy in the mirror. Monsters often are the guy in the mirror.

The Milgram experiments are the classic revelation: almost everybody will do almost anything if people in authority are telling them to do it. Your prison camp boss, the priest of Baal, the crowd on the subway, the ascendent ‘lump of tissue’ crowd – they command or model behavior, and almost all of us almost all the time ask only how high we should jump.

A nagging question for me, after years of studying the issue, is how any remotely intelligent and honest person could teach in the compulsory schools. How do they convince themselves that what they are doing is teaching, if they themselves have ever learned anything in their lives? Every year, thousands and thousands of 6 year olds show up to first grade already able to read; every year, thousands and thousands of 10 year olds are shamed because they can’t. If schools were both necessary and worked, neither of those groups would exist.

Rather than recognize the absurdity of lumping all these individual kids together, kids with different talents and interests and maturity, the teacher dutifully prepares *a* lesson plan for all of them! The ones who can read and the ones who have no interest in reading all get the same pablum spooned out in the same predigested bits, a stone guarantee that almost all of them will be bored or stressed or shamed – and this is good practice!  This is education! That reading can be mastered by most kids in a few weeks if and when they are interested is irrelevant – they MUST stay with their class and in their grade! Their whining and complaining and acting up is *their* problem, not the logical consequence of subjecting a healthy kid to heavy-handed manipulation and control.

Then, teachers complain that they spend all their time and energy on discipline, as if they are not the causes of the problem. You mean, kids don’t want to sit and stand and run around on command? The kids who know how to read and the kids with no interest are a problem because they don’t want to hear the teacher try to teach a room full of kids as if all are at the same exact point? John Taylor Gatto mentioned that the hardest kids to control in the classroom were those who were unconditionally loved at home – if mom and dad aren’t in on the browbeating, kids who don’t see the point don’t feel the need to kowtow.

Nice people can do bad things. Most teachers are perfectly nice within normal parameters. The mistake is thinking that what they are doing can’t be bad, because they are nice. Nope, doesn’t follow. Horrors are inflicted on kids, who at best suffer in quiet desperation, by the nice lady or man who is schooling them. Some act up. The most unfortunate get with the program.

* As always, Chesterton can be counted on to set things right: “There are many who will smile at the saying; but it is profoundly true to say that the glad good news brought by the Gospel was the news of original sin.” The world is good – we are good – as any look around will tell you. BUT we are also capable of the greatest ugliness and evil – as any look aroud will also reveal. It is good to know that we are good but broken, so that we can be appropriately wary of other and diligently wary of ourselves.

 

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

15 thoughts on “Schooling’s True Believers”

  1. Then, teachers complain that they spend all their time and energy on discipline, as if they are not the causes of the problem. You mean, kids don’t want to sit and stand and run around on command? The kids who know how to read and the kids with no interest are a problem because they don’t want to hear the teacher try to teach a room full of kids as if all are at the same exact point? John Taylor Gatto mentioned that the hardest kids to control in the classroom were those who were unconditionally loved at home – if mom and dad aren’t in on the browbeating, kids who don’t see the point don’t feel the need to kowtow.

    I don’t think this is an entirely correct understanding of the issue of discipline, though it is on the right track.

    You say that teachers are the *causes* of the problem, but this is unfair to most teachers. How much choice do you think teachers have?

    My uncle is a teacher. When there are students who are not interested in learning and making it harder for the other students to learn, he removes them from the classroom. This sounds wrong when you hear it like this, but in context it makes absolutely perfect sense for all the reasons you stated: If they have no interest in being there and are making things more difficult for the people who are there, what’s the point in keeping them in the classroom? To make you feel better?

    Well, there is an answer to that: The point is to keep you from getting fired for sending people to the office too often.

    Do you see the issue? Teachers come in, normally, trying to help. The problem is, how are you supposed to do it? Ultimately my idea was to come in and say, “Even if there are a ton of problems, I WON’T be one of them.” But there’s only so much you can do.

    1. I think you are failing to recognize the nature of the beast: teachers are *selected* for their willingness to conform to the goals of the bureaucracy. If you were really willing to stand up and oppose the violence being done to the minds and souls of the kids, you wouldn’t be able to get a job as a teacher. Thus, your uncle can go just so far, and no farther; a John Taylor Gatto can do things behind the administrations back, until they catch him at it. In the end, the Administrators always win – Pounelle’s Iron Law.

      So you can go in with the best intentions. Maybe, just maybe, if you were way outside the loop in some rural area of distant suburb, you might even get away with teaching kids something good. But the loopholes are being closed every day.

  2. The general point is that it’s natural to try and find specific people to blame, but right now we’ve made things much more complicated than they should be; the government has done an excellent job hiding the proper people to blame for this behind a virtually impenetrable bureaucracy.

    1. There comes a point where ‘I’m just following orders’ is not a sufficient excuse.

      What happens if people stop playing along? In our case, none of my kids attended a day of K-12 school, nor took a single class they didn’t want to take. No reading, writing, arithmetic, nothing. 4 attended or are attending college, the 5th is 11 years old.

      But, one might say, what about those poor inner city kids, who don’t have a mom and a dad who will see to it that they learn what they need to learn? Well, what about them? We’ve been schooling them, and their parents, and their grandparents, for generations. Brave souls from outside their area parachute in to teach them. Well? How has that worked? A definition of insanity, after all, is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.

      Until we stop pretending that school is the answer, no improvement will take place.

    1. Compulsory graded classroom schools are objectively immoral. Here’s an actual teacher with decades of experience making the same point: https://www.educationrevolution.org/blog/i-quit-i-think/

      But for the individual teacher, I have no doubt people go into it with the best intentions, so that they themselves may not be subjectively doing evil. But once a teacher becomes aware of what’s really going on, then personal moral responsibility starts to kick in.

      Example: if you were a Sicilian immigrant arriving in New York in 1850, the Tammany Hall machine would take care of you – find you a place to sleep, maybe help get you a job. At first, you’d be simply grateful – you’re new to the country, the other Sicilians in New York all support Tammany. But once you become aware that their power comes through extortion, graft and intimidation, you start to become less innocent. And, just like school teachers, you’d start thinking: this is the way things are, they are taking care of my people, what else am I supposed to do?

      So in no sense are teachers in an easy spot – it’s tough, all of society has been shaped by school, everybody’s gut-level reaction to teachers in general is basically benign, Facing reality is painful. Yet the schools are destroying generations of people – not just the ones it fails, but most specifically the ones who succeed!

      I write these things mostly in the service of truth. But I also hope maybe a few people might read them and say No to schools.

  3. Ugh. The “Good Person” ™ heresy. Chesteron’s right as usual. Reject (or forget) the doctrine of original sin, and you’re ultimately left with either Gnosticism or nihilism.

  4. I think you’re all misunderstanding me.

    This has nothing to do with the “God Person” heresy, or having good intentions, or anything like that. This is people who go into the system intending to help, realizing it sucks, and then also realizing that they have no choice if they’re going to teach.

    Most teachers hate the system. But what do you think will happen if the teachers who hate it leave? They’ll be replaced by teachers who don’t. It’s not a matter of “everybody needs to just leave”, because not “everybody” thinks that’s a good idea – even though they should.

    The best teacher I ever had was nearly fired the year after I took his class, because he didn’t “play by the rules”. He only stayed on when the mother of a struggling student wrote in demanding that he stay. I learned later that in the years after the students grew to hate him (after he started teaching like a typical teacher), and he eventually left for another school.

    What teachers are doing, or what the really good ones are doing, is trying to stretch the rules as much as they can without being fired. Otherwise they’ll be replaced by crap teachers who think the system works.

    I oppose government mandated education, and if I end up having kids they’ll either be homeschooled or sent to a good Catholic school. But I also think that teachers who try to be a light in the darkness of a bad system should be commended.

    1. “Most teachers hate the system. But what do you think will happen if the teachers who hate it leave? They’ll be replaced by teachers who don’t. It’s not a matter of “everybody needs to just leave”, because not “everybody” thinks that’s a good idea – even though they should.”

      Or we might have to shut the schools down, return the responsibility for education of children to their parents and local community. We’d have to stop pretending that school is going to solve things like destruction of the family, drug abuse, and cultural poverty.

      Millions of Americans, including all the people who fought in the Revolution and wrote the Constitution, and more than half the population in general until well into the 20th century, were educated *some other way*, typically in a one room school house run and staffed by farmers, or in a religious school. Well? What’s wrong with that?

      There are plenty of good things to do with a desire to teach that don’t involve subjectin gthem to factory schooling.

  5. …And it’s also a matter of by the time the teachers realize how many problems the system has had they’ve just gone and paid thousands of dollars to get certified to teach. So now you’re there…what, you’re just going to quit?

    Maybe more people should opt out (like I probably will, by the way) beforehand, but once you’re there your choice is to go into twice as much or more debt as previously or to work in the system as best you can to help as many people as you can.

    1. School debt is related but separate issue – related, in that it’s the next step in the process of making us into manageable sheep and is the logical result of years of thought-destroying schooling – but, once you’ve gone down that path, nothing says you have to continue the mistake by becoming a teacher, or repeat the broken process to start another career.

  6. “Every year, thousands and thousands of 6 year olds show up to first grade already able to read; every year, thousands and thousands of 10 year olds are shamed because they can’t. If schools were both necessary and worked, neither of those groups would exist.”

    Is there no excluded middle, then? No 6-year-olds who show up to first grade with absent or substandard reading skills, but who do acquire acceptably competent literacy by 10? I don’t doubt that the current model is gravely flawed, but I have to admit that my first impulse is to object that if it really wasn’t working at all then it wouldn’t, well, work — it would have collapsed en masse. Yet clearly a significant proportion of people still manage to go through the system and emerge with something resembling a viable knowledge base.

    I will admit, as I have previously in this combox, to operating on outdated and possibly inapplicable perspective (I graduated secondary school in 1989, and was in a Catholic system for all of it), but what you describe just doesn’t seem to match my own experiences, either as a student myself or what I have seen at one remove in my mother’s career as an elementary school teacher. When we talk of “horrors” being inflicted, what, exactly and specifically, is happening to these students, and what other education model — given that any organization staffed by human beings will inevitably contain rings of mutually protective incompetents — would prevent those things happening?

    1. I don’t doubt that the current model is gravely flawed, but I have to admit that my first impulse is to object that if it really wasn’t working at all then it wouldn’t, well, work — it would have collapsed en masse. Yet clearly a significant proportion of people still manage to go through the system and emerge with something resembling a viable knowledge base.

      There’s a difference between having a “viable knowledge base” as you put it, and demonstrating knowledge in the classical and Scholastic sense. Generations of people in the post-modern West have lacked the latter for centuries.

      The current model has been wildly successful, by the way; why would it collapse when it has helped to render so many people into mindless drones? What do you think the people who put the current model in place want their poor students to do? Think? No, send your kids to be “educated” at these “schools” (including the universities that I hope Mr. Moore isn’t sending his kids to), and they too will learn how to center their entire existences around finding a job, and, once they secure such a job, center their entire existences around a vapid pursuit of material pleasures and luxury; while those who know what they are doing* continue to subvert Western civilization.

      * Maybe they don’t know what they are doing — our battle isn’t against men, after all — but the effects are still disastrous.

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